Webster Celebrates College Chess Title, As New Hire Pays Off
by Alan Greenblatt
April 08, 2013 3:39 PM
If there’s no such thing as bad publicity, how much is good publicity worth? Webster University wants to find out.
Last year, the university didn’t have a chess team. On Sunday, its team took home the national college championship, the President’s Cup, after winning what is often called the “Final Four” of chess.
Webster, which is located just outside of St. Louis, picked up its team nearly intact last year from Texas Tech. The university hired coach Susan Polgar, who had won two straight championships in Texas, and the whole team came along with her.
Webster’s chess team includes eight grandmasters. It’s become instantly so dominant that two of its squads qualified for the chess Final Four, although only one was allowed to play.
When it comes to winning championships, Polgar and her players “have been there, individually and collectively,” Webster provost Julian Schuster said Monday at a campus rally celebrating the team’s victory.
“Let us thank them for what they’ve done for us,” Schuster said. “For the first time in the almost 100-year history of our university, we are the national champion.”
Webster, which is now private and non-denominational, was founded as a Catholic women’s college and has become known over the years for its performing arts programs and its business school. Its main campus is in the St. Louis suburb of Webster Groves, but Webster boasts almost 100 satellite campuses around the world.
Schuster said in an interview that chess was part of his upbringing in Yugoslavia and that his primary goal in bringing Polgar to Webster was incorporating the game into the intellectual life of the university.
Still, he added, “there’s no doubt” that their victory is good news for the university.
At the celebration, members of Webster’s media relations team counted reporters in attendance, noting that the weekend tournament had garnered the university national attention (including from NPR).
“The Washington Post was the big one,” said Patrick Giblin, Webster’s director of public relations, referring to a that ran Saturday.