While the future of St. Thomas traditions and activities named for university President the Rev. Dennis Dease remain up in the air, the Dease Scholar Program plans will remain after his retirement in June 2013 as a reminder of the opportunities Dease provided for students.
The Dease Scholars Program was first implemented fall 2004. The scholarship awards full tuition to about 12 incoming freshmen each year, typically minorities who come from inner-city schools and show the kind of dedication and promise the admissions office looks for in incoming students.
Marla Friederichs, associate vice president of enrollment services, said even though Dease won’t be at St. Thomas fall 2013, an unchanged Dease Scholar Program still will.
“There have been no discussions about any changes happening. I’m certainly still looking at finding my 12 Dease Scholarship recipients for next year,” Friederichs said.
However, narrowing down the pool of potential recipients to just 12 is no easy task. Friederichs said she starts with a few hundred possibilities from all of the freshman applications, and then has to find the 12 who she thinks best embody St. Thomas values.
“We pull out somewhere between 300 and 500 students, and I go through each and every one of those and really look at their letters of recommendation and their resumes, what kind of difference have they made at their schools, what their counselors and teachers and everybody say about them, and then how that helps us understand the kind of difference that they would make here,” Friederichs said.
The scholarship program is named after Dease, and Friederichs said it will most likely keep its name after Dease leaves.
“We created a scholarship that would support the goals of Father Dease as a president,” Friederichs said. “He had in his goals and in his heart a passion for underrepresented populations, students coming from the city schools, first generation students, and students that might not otherwise have the opportunity to attend St. Thomas.”
Dease Scholarship Recipient senior Jessica Wilson said the scholarship gave her more opportunities than she would have otherwise had.
“I wasn’t going to go to college, or if I was, I was going to go to community college, and the Dease Scholarship actually awarded me the opportunity to get a better education,” Wilson said. “I wouldn’t be where I’m at today without the scholarship.”
Sophomore Marcus Alipate said he, too, would not be attending St. Thomas if it wasn’t for the Dease Scholarship.
“It’s definitely something that was a big part of my decision to come here,” Alipate said. “I’m just thankful.”
Friederichs said this is the case for many students receiving the Dease Scholarship, and that it has been a great opportunity for a variety of students.
“We have really had a cross section of students that have been awarded this scholarship,” Friederichs said. “I know there’s a sense out there that it’s only students of color that get it, but that not necessarily the case. It’s primarily that, but that’s not the history of the program.”
Wilson said that she’s happy no changes are being made to the program after Dease leaves.
“I’d like to see them continue the scholarship in his (Dease’s) legacy to show what he did for St. Thomas,” Wilson said. “It’s very important for the minority community and for the St. Thomas community to bring in students who may not be able to afford school. It makes it more diverse in the sense of social backgrounds.”
Alipate said he would like to see more students receive the same benefits he has through the Dease Scholar Program.
“It reminds us of why we’re here,” Alipate said. “I think a lot of students have gone on to do great things because they have the motivation of that scholarship.”
Gabrielle Martinson can be reached at email@example.com.