Hundreds of people were on hand on Friday to help St. Thomas celebrate the official dedication of Dougherty Family College, its new two-year college that launched this fall. Offering an Associate of Arts degree in the liberal arts, Dougherty Family College is dedicated to offering a rigorous, affordable, dynamic, two-year college experience for students who face some, or several, of the many obstacles accessing and succeeding within higher education.
The entire inaugural class, faculty, staff, students, benefactors and friends of the university joined President Julie Sullivan, the Dougherty family and others on the Minneapolis campus to celebrate the momentous achievement of a new college.
"Here's a university that has a mission, and here's a community that has a need. How can we bring them together?" Sullivan said of the question in her early time at St. Thomas, when she formulated a vision for DFC based on addressing our community's continuing prosperity gaps and the emerging need for people with four-year degrees in Minnesota. "Sometime in the first month of my time here I was having lunch with a good friend and mentor. He asked, 'What’s your dream?' ... I looked around and pointed to the downtown skyline. 'See all these big buildings? My dream is that 20 years from now they will be filled with Tommies and those Tommies will represent the demographics of this state.' So that’s the story of the seed. What has grown from that is far beyond what I imagined."
Dean Alvin Abraham also spoke, thanking the many benefactors on hand and articulating the goals of this first, and every subsequent, class of Dougherty Family College students.
"We have an incredible group of students here, many who wouldn’t be entering college at all because of financial limitations or life circumstances. They’re motivated to be here, and even more importantly, they’re highly committed to obtaining their four-year degree," he said. "Our commitment is to support them every step of the way, preparing them to become sought-after, skilled professionals who possess well-developed characters."
The 107 students of the first class of Dougherty received a standing ovation at the event, an acknowledgement of their historic accomplishment.
"This is exactly what our state needs," said Sen. Amy Klobuchar at the dedication ceremony. "This is what our economy needs right now. We need a workforce to fill these jobs. … We have not only job openings in the Twin Cities, but in greater Minnesota. … We have a big need for four year degrees."
Klobuchar cited her own family's background as an example of the path the Dougherty Family College helps provide: her grandfather's lifelong work in the mines of Minnesota, saving up to send her father and uncle to a two-year college that launched their careers and, eventually, Klobuchar's, too.
"You never know what a young person is going to do or what their potential is. You never know unless you give them a chance," Klobuchar said, citing former Vice President Walter Mondale.
Archbishop Bernard Hebda blessed the college, connecting the mission of Dougherty Family College to the founding goals of his predecessor, Archbishop John Ireland, when St. Thomas began in 1885.
"This new college has the same fundamental goal as its predecessor institution: to give promising students an education and the opportunity to reach their dreams," Hebda said.