The following note was sent today from Executive Vice President and Provost Richard Plumb, PhD, to St. Thomas faculty and staff.

I write this note to you with equal parts incredible pride and profound sadness. Incredible pride for the strides made in three short years by the Dougherty Family College (DFC), and the important role it has played in St. Thomas’ recent evolution.

For that same reason, it is with profound sadness and regret that I must inform you our esteemed colleague and friend, Alvin Abraham, has chosen for personal reasons to step down from his role as dean and executive director of DFC. Alvin and his family have decided to return to their hometown of Houston, Texas, to be closer to relatives.

While it hurts to see Alvin depart, he leaves DFC in wonderful hands; I am so honored to announce that Dr. Buffy Smith, who has served as DFC’s associate dean of academics and a key member of Alvin’s leadership team from the beginning, has agreed to serve as interim dean as we look for Alvin’s permanent replacement. Buffy is one of the most respected voices in her field of researching how higher education institutions can assist underrepresented students to achieve academic success. Her deep expertise has played a critical role in laying DFC’s educational foundation over the past three years, and we look forward to working more closely with her.

Today, however, is a time to celebrate Alvin and thank him for his leadership.

We often talk of St. Thomas’ transformation from a small, liberal arts college into a comprehensive urban university. That transformation gained unprecedented steam over the last decade as we launched new schools and colleges and built new facilities, and DFC’s founding has been an important hallmark.

When Alvin was introduced as DFC’s founding dean in May 2017, our vision was to increase access to higher education for promising students facing significant financial and systemic barriers to earning a college degree. We knew he was the perfect fit for his willingness to embrace our convictions of academic excellence and personal attention. That dedication helped shape the foundation of DFC today, and the results have been nothing short of inspirational:

  • Internships for every DFC student with some of the biggest names in Minnesota: U.S. Bank, Target, Mayo Clinic, Best Buy, 3M, Delta Air Lines, SPS Commerce, Ryan Companies and others
  • A $6.5 million scholarship gift in 2018 for DFC students looking to continue their education at St. Thomas
  • The awarding of 10 full-tuition scholarships to DFC students in April 2019 to help them work toward four-year degrees at St. Thomas
  • DFC’s very first commencement in May 2019, followed by several of those graduates electing to continue their education at St. Thomas and other local colleges and universities

This coming spring, we look forward to watching DFC’s first cohort of graduates earn their four-year degrees at St. Thomas, and at other institutions. As they receive their degrees, we should all remember and acknowledge the role Alvin has played in making it possible. The work he has done has truly changed lives and helped the university live up to its ideals and mission.

Please join me in wishing Alvin well on this next chapter of his life. We will continue to share updates on a search for his permanent replacement as they are available.

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