Many commencement speeches are given by prominent members of a university, but for St. John’s University’s parting speech, an iconic Tommie will take the podium.
St. Thomas President the Rev. Dennis Dease will give St. John’s undergraduate commencement speech May 12 in Collegeville, Minn. He will also receive an honorary doctor of humane letters degree from the St. John’s.
Michael Hemmesch, St. John’s director of media relations, said the school chose Dease as its commencement speaker to honor his 22 years of service to Catholic higher education. Hemmesch said St. John’s former president, Dietrich Reinhart, received an honorary degree from St. Thomas after his death, and St. John’s will now be returning the gesture for Dease’s retirement.
Doug Hennes, vice president of university and government relations, said he heard the speech that Dease will be making and thinks it is “nice.”
“He tells a couple of stories about his encounters with Johnnies over the years. It’s a fun speech. It’s a good speech,” Hennes said. “He talks about mission issues and how we’re very similar in a lot of respects, how much he admires St. John’s and things like that.”
Hemmesch said references to the rivalry between the schools from either Dease or St. John’s president Michael Hemesath at the commencement is something “to be expected,” but doesn’t think it will take away from the important occasion.
“I don’t think (the rivalry) changes at all the importance of the day in terms of commencement, and the fact that both St. John’s and St. Thomas are two very fine Catholic institutions of higher education,” Hemmesch said.
St. Thomas students are not so concerned about Dease speaking at their rival school. Sophomore Alex Timmers said it shows how other schools value Dease’s contributions.
“I think it’s good that Father Dease is speaking at St. John’s commencement,” Timmers said. “Even though they’re our rival school, it’s nice to see him getting recognized for all the positive contributions he has made.”
Freshman Ryan Bohnenstingel said the invitation for Dease to speak shows how much respect other people have for him.
“He has such a positive influence here at St. Thomas and obviously other schools have the
upmost respect for him as well,” Bohnenstingel said.
Hemmesch said he has not heard any St. John’s students talking about the rivalry.
“Personally, I have not heard much either way about that decision,” Hemmesch said.
For Timmers, the honor of Dease speaking at St. John’s trumps any rivalry that exists between the schools.
“I don’t think it will play a role in the rivalry as much, the rivalry will always be what it is and I think this is just more of an individual honor for him (Dease),” Timmers said.
Hemmesch said no matter who is speaking, the day is sure to be one to remember.
“It’s going to be a wonderful day for everyone involved,” Hemmesch said.