Video by Briggs LeSavage and Hannah Anderson
After more than two decades of serving the St. Thomas community as president, the Rev. Dennis Dease announced his retirement, effective following the 2012-2013 academic year.
The Rev. Dennis Dease announced his retirement Thursday, May 10. (Courtesy of St. Thomas)
Dease, who will turn 70 next May, addressed the St. Thomas faculty at its annual spring meeting Thursday, May 10, in the O’Shaughnessy Educational Center auditorium.
“I would also like to take this opportunity to thank you for the splendid work you have done in creating a university that has truly, and this is no exaggeration, gotten better every year,” Dease said. “No college president could ask for a better community of scholars and teachers and colleagues with which to work. It has been my privilege and truly a joy for me to have had the singular honor of working with this faculty and my gratitude runs deep; please know that.”
Dease announced that a search committee led by trustee John Morrison will begin looking for a new president immediately. He said three faculty members would be involved in the search, and a search firm has been retained. He added that he would not play a role in the search for a new president. The faculty gave him a standing ovation at the conclusion of his speech.
“I hope to remain a part of the university’s life in some small fashion after I retire as president,” he said. “The trustees have kindly asked me to continue to play some kind of role, which as of yet is undetermined.”
In his retirement, Dease said he also hopes to pursue some efforts that have been close to his heart including a hospital and clinic in Uganda and projects in Armenia and Cuba.
“He has left a legacy that is really unparalleled,” said Sue Huber, executive vice president for academic affairs.
Some students were surprised by the announcement. “I found out on Facebook,” said sophomore Carissa Van Slooten. “I was shocked. It didn’t seem like he was going to retire any time soon.”
Junior Matt Keliher said, “He served 22 long, dedicated years and I think his legacy will really be appreciated by future students.”
Junior Mike Mengler said Dease had a huge impact on campus and it may be time for the university to turn to a fresh face. “I think it could be a good thing because the campus could use an administrator with a more solid connection with the youth of today,” Mengler said.
Dease, who joked that his announcement was not a well-kept secret, became the university’s 14th president on July 1, 1991, when he took over for Monsignor Terrence Murphy, who served St. Thomas for 50 years, including 25 as president. Previously, Dease had served as a faculty member and a trustee.
During Dease’s presidency, St. Thomas has raised nearly three-quarters of a billion dollars, completing a successful $260 million capital campaign in 2001 and is finishing a $500 million campaign this fall. Many buildings, including the brand-new Anderson Student Center, were opened; a school of law was started and several colleges were created all while the campus became more international in many respects.
For a look at Dease’s legacy, click here.
Terese Quarberg contributed to this story.
Briggs LeSavage can be reached at email@example.com.