Father Dennis Dease will be among five recipients of a St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Award in recognition of his lifelong work as a Catholic educator.

Father Dease to receive National Catholic Educational Association’s highest honor

Father Dennis Dease, president of St. Thomas, will receive the National Catholic Educational Association’s highest honor on Monday, Oct. 6, in Washington, D.C.

Dease will be among five recipients of a St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Award in recognition of his lifelong work as a Catholic educator. The award is named in honor of Seton (1774-1821), regarded by many as the founder of the Catholic school network in the United States. She headed the Sisters of Charity of St. Joseph and established many schools and orphanages along the East Coast.

In choosing Dease for a Seton Award, the NCEA cited the university’s significant transformation during his 17 years as president:

  • New programs in law, entrepreneurship, and mechanical and electrical engineering, and nationally recognized Centers for Catholic Studies and Irish Studies. The university ranks among the top five doctoral universities in the United States in study-abroad participation by undergraduate students, thanks to active January Term programs and semesterlong programs in London, Paris and Rome, where a campus opened in 2000.
  • Establishment of the Murray Institute, a partnership between St. Thomas and the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. The institute has enabled 500 teachers and principals in Catholic elementary and secondary schools to receive graduate degrees at St. Thomas free of tuition since 1993, with fees paid from an endowment that has grown to $12 million.
  • An aggressive building program that has included the development of a downtown Minneapolis campus, where four buildings constructed since 1992 house law, business, education and professional psychology programs. New construction on the St. Paul campus has included a science and engineering center, a business building, two apartment-style residence halls and a child development center, and the university is preparing to build a new student center and new athletic and recreation facilities.
  • Two successful capital campaigns in which $600 million has been raised, including $350 million to date in the $500 million Opening Doors campaign and $250 million in the Ever Press Forward campaign, which concluded in 2001.

Dease has served on the St. Thomas Board of Trustees since 1982. He previously was rector of the Basilica of St Mary in Minneapolis, spiritual director and dean of formation at the St. Paul Seminary, a theology professor at St. Thomas and a religion teacher at St. Thomas Academy.

He has been active in many education organizations and has served on the NCEA board. He is the American representative on the International Federation of Catholic Universities board and a founding member of the Southern Catholic College Board of Trustees in Georgia. He is a past chairman of the national Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities and has served on board committees for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities.

As part of Monday’s event in Washington, the NCEA will award a $1,000 scholarship in Dease’s name to a Catholic school student of his choosing. Dease selected Trinidad Miller, an eighth grader at St. Peter Claver in St. Paul. Miller is described by his teachers as an “excellent student” with “strong leadership qualities” who has received the school’s Random Act of Kindness Award several times.

Dease is one of several individuals closely affiliated with St. Thomas who have won Seton Awards since the program was established in 1991. Others are John Albers, former trustee, 1991; Eugene and Mary Frey, trustee and benefactors, 2007; Barbara Koch, benefactor and wife of former trustee David Koch, 1994; John and Susan Morrison, trustee and benefactors, 2006; Monsignor Terrence Murphy, former president, 1996; Gerald and Henrietta Rauenhorst, trustee and benefactors, 2005; James Renier, trustee emeritus, 1993; and Richard Schulze, trustee, 2002.

Four other Seton awards will go to:

  • Anthony and Susan Giancristofaro of Warren, N.J. They have partnered with a New Jersey diocese to provide scholarships to children who otherwise would not be able to afford a Catholic education.
  • The Virginia Piper Charitable Trust, a private foundation that has invested $31 million this decade in Catholic schools in Phoenix and Maricopa County, Ariz.
  • The Most Rev. Thomas Rodi, archbishop of Mobile, Ala., since April and previously bishop of Biloxi, Miss.
  • The George and Mary Kremer Foundation, which has awarded $25 million in scholarships to 30,000 Catholic school students around the country since 1985.

In addition to the Seton Awards, the NCEA will give its President’s Award to the Bearing Witness Program, which was designed by the Anti-Defamation League of Washington for Catholic teachers so they have a greater knowledge of the Holocaust and anti-Semitism.

The NCEA was founded in 1904 and is the largest private professional association in the world, representing 200,000 educators who serve 7.6 million students in elementary and secondary schools, colleges, universities and seminaries.