Archbishop John Ireland founded St. Thomas in 1885 to provide local Irish immigrants with a values-based Catholic education. He envisioned a liberal arts education that would prepare graduates to be public intellectuals and leaders in the state and national dialogues of the times.

Our mission is to prepare our students “to think critically, act wisely and work skillfully to advance the common good,” as well as to hold ourselves, as a university, accountable to advancing the common good. What does Ireland’s vision and our mission call us to do today?

Currently, unacceptable prosperity and educational attainment gaps exist in the Twin Cities area. Some students dream of a bachelor’s degree and the career it enables, but lack the academic experience, financial resources or social and parental support to pursue it. At the same time, dire workforce shortages are projected for our state. While many of these future jobs do not require a four-year degree, a large number do. Minnesota ranks 10th in the United States for the percentage of jobs requiring a bachelor’s degree.

An early passion of mine upon arriving in Minnesota was to find a way for St. Thomas to play a role in ensuring that the future leaders occupying the skyscrapers around the Twin Cities would reflect the diversity of our community and would include a large contingent of Tommies. Thus, I could not be more thrilled with the opening of the Dougherty Family College this fall!

At full capacity, the Dougherty Family College will enroll approximately 300 students from diverse and economically disadvantaged backgrounds. They will earn an Associate of Arts degree in the liberal arts and will develop the knowledge and skills they need to move into, and graduate from, a four-year degree program.

Launching and sustaining the Dougherty Family College requires the generosity of donors who believe unequivocally in its value. Mike Dougherty, a St. Thomas alumnus and trustee, his wife, Kathy, and two daughters embody the spirit of this venture. Mike was orphaned at an early age, expelled from Creighton University and drafted into the Army. After the service, St. Thomas gave him a second chance at a college education and he earned his degree here.

Now a successful business executive, Mike speaks from his own experience when he says that “a college degree is one of the best ways to beat poverty. My wife, daughters and I want to give motivated, hardworking students the opportunity to succeed in college, so they can use their talents and support themselves in the future. One day, I believe these students will be giving back to our community.”

I am very grateful to Mike and Kathy Dougherty, and I am touched deeply by the overwhelmingly positive response we have received from alumni and others about the Dougherty Family College. You continue to reach out to us and share on social media how proud you are that St. Thomas is stepping up to play a role in addressing the prosperity gaps and workforce needs in our community. We hope you, too, will help support our Dougherty Family College students with scholarship contributions, mentoring and job opportunities. Together, Tommies are changemakers for the common good.

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