St. Thomas decides to discontinue December commencement ceremonies

The University of St. Thomas has decided to no longer hold commencement exercises in December. The graduation ceremony that was held at the St. Paul RiverCentre on Dec. 18, 2009, was the last one that will be held at the end of fall semester.

As recently as 2003, St. Thomas held three commencement exercises annually, in May, July and December. The summer commencement was discontinued primarily because of the small number of participants.

May commencement ceremonies will occur as they typically have at St. Thomas with separate ceremonies scheduled for undergraduate and graduate students. The School of Law and the Opus College of Business will continue to hold individual ceremonies for graduate students.

Holding commencement only once a year won't affect a St. Thomas student's ability to receive his or her diploma at the end of either fall semester or summer session. Those students who have successfully completed their coursework and have met the criteria for their degree program in December or at the end of summer session will be able to request a diploma as they always have.

All students who have completed their degree program at the end of summer session or at the end of fall semester will be invited to participate in the May ceremony.

Dr. Susan Huber, executive vice president and chief academic officer, said that several factors contributed to the decision to no longer hold December exercises.

  • The December ceremony, held just a few days before Christmas, often was eclipsed by the holiday season. It occurs at a time when students and their families, faculty and staff are extraordinarily busy.
  • An increasing number of colleges and universities have chosen to hold only one commencement ceremony a year. Typically there are far fewer graduates in December than in May. This is certainly the case at St. Thomas.
  • This change will eliminate the scheduling challenge faced by the university on years when Labor Day falls further into September, and it will also ease the budget.
Sister Andrea Lee

Sister Andrea Lee

Due to construction on the St. Paul campus, the spring 2010 commencement ceremony will be held at the downtown Minneapolis Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome. The commencement Mass will be held at the Basilica of St. Mary, also in Minneapolis. A final decision is pending, but it is expected that the ceremony will return to the O'Shaughnessy Stadium on the St. Paul campus in May 2011.  More information about the May 2010 ceremonies can be found here.

Last December, Sister Andrea Lee, I.H.M., president of St. Catherine University, received an honorary doctorate and gave the commencement address at the 3 p.m. ceremony for undergraduates. You can view her address here.

Sister Sally Furay and Father Dennis Dease

Sister Sally Furay and Father Dennis Dease

Sister Sally Furay, R.S.C.J., former provost of the University of San Diego, former member of the St. Thomas Board of Trustees, and current member of the Board of Governors of the St. Thomas School of Law, received an honorary doctorate and gave the commencement address at the 7 p.m. ceremony for graduate students. You can view her address here.