CEDAR FALLS - When Stephen Koschal handed his red leather-bound Bible to a University of Northern Iowa staff member Tuesday, he didn't know what expect.
The Miami man has been collecting autographs of movers and shakers on the book's front flap for decades, nearly as long as he's admired the Dalai Lama.
But asking a Buddhist monk to sign a Roman Catholic Bible?
"It's not his religion, you know," Koschal, said with a shrug. "But his holiness saw that eight people who have held the office of U.S. president have signed it, and he thought, well, that's a nice group to be with."
A few months back, the Florida man e-mailed his request to Kristi Marchesani, UNI's assistant director of admissions and international relations. She forwarded the note to a member of the Dalai Lama's staff in New York. Before the monk's keynote address, a university employee found Koschal in the crowd and delivered his bible to the spiritual leader.
After the speech, in which the Dalai Lama affirmed his respect for all world religions, Koschal learned the leader had fulfilled his wish. The monk used a blue pen to scrawl out a message in Tibetan alongside John Hancocks from Harry Truman and Gerald Ford.
For Koschal, who traveled to Cedar Falls with his girlfriend Patricia Claren, the autograph stands out from the rest.
"What I like about him is he's not political," he said. "The others, some I like, some I don't."
The Dalai Lama's Tuesday speech revealed the man behind the monk, Koschal said.
"The Dalai Lama's a real person," the retiree said. "He made you laugh. He giggled himself. He connected with everybody."
"How can you not respect that?"