April 29, 2013
The Rev. Dennis Dease, retiring president of the University of St. Thomas, will deliver the Saint John's University commencement address at 2 p.m. Sunday, May 12, in Saint John's Abbey and University Church.
Dease will receive an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree.
John Loonan, a graduating economics major from Shakopee, Minn., will be the student commencement speaker, as selected by the Saint John's senior class.
The 2013 Saint John's graduating class includes 409 undergraduate men and 24 School of Theology•Seminary graduates. When combined with the College of Saint Benedict's 514 graduates, this year's undergraduate graduating class is 923.
The 14th president of St. Thomas, Dease began his presidency on July 1, 1991, and will retire on June 30.
Dease earned a bachelor's degree in Latin and philosophy from the Saint Paul Seminary in 1965, a master's degree in counseling psychology from St. Thomas in 1972, a master of divinity degree from the Saint Paul Seminary in 1973, and a doctorate in systematic theology from The Catholic University of America in 1978. He was ordained a priest in 1969.
He was associate pastor at the Church of St. John the Evangelist in Hopkins, Minn.; taught theology at St. Thomas and served as spiritual director and dean of formation at the Saint Paul Seminary. From 1985-91, he was rector of the Basilica of St. Mary in Minneapolis. He is a tenured faculty member at the Saint Paul Seminary School of Divinity and has been a member of the St. Thomas Board of Trustees since 1982.
Under Dease's leadership, St. Thomas has continued its growth in programs and facilities, adding eight major buildings to its St. Paul campus and establishing a Minneapolis campus of four buildings for its Opus College of Business; Schulze School of Entrepreneurship; College of Education, Leadership and Counseling; and School of Law. He also established nationally recognized Centers for Catholic Studies and Irish Studies. He opened a residential campus in Rome and semester-abroad programs in Rome for Catholic studies majors and in London for business majors. In addition, he established a number of faculty and student exchange programs with universities throughout the world, including a 2000 University of Havana covenant which was celebrated by a series of baseball games played in Cuba and in the Twin Cities. The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business accredited St. Thomas' business programs in 2011, and now all of the university's major graduate programs have national or international accreditation from their professional associations.
He is active philanthropically in Armenia, serving on the Cafesjian Family Foundation board and in Uganda, where he is president of the board of directors of Hope Medical Clinics.
The National Catholic Education Association in 2008 conferred its highest honor, the St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Award, on Dease for his lifelong contributions as a Catholic educator.