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Miracles and Milestones Describe UST’s 75 Years


Miracles and milestones describe UST’s 75 years since 1947, when the University of St. Thomas opened the doors of Link Lee Mansion, the sole building housing the University, and welcomed its inaugural class of just 57 students. Each year, we celebrate Founders’ Day in honor of those students, faculty, administrators, benefactors, and, of course, the Basilian Fathers, who took a risk and said “Yes!” to the upstart-but-promising University of St. Thomas.

To commemorate our 75th Anniversary, Founders’ Day 2022 extended celebrations to a full week, Founders’ Week, recognizing multiple Milestones & Miracles. Among them, the Rising Stars Internship Program, Giving Day and the Carol & Odis Peavy School of Nursing.

Inaugural Rising Stars Open House and Evening Cookout: Huge Success

The remarkable success of the Rising Stars Internship Program was marked on April 26 by the Inaugural Rising Stars Open House and Evening Cookout. Participants celebrated in the new Rising Stars Lounge inside the former Black Lab Pub. The evening was a vibrant coming together of the program’s primarily first-generation students, their families and the corporate sponsors who make their life-changing stories possible. 

“It was a special night,” UST Director of Corporate Relations Mallory Peterson ’11 said. “We took advantage of the opportunity to thank our generous corporate sponsors and gave them a chance to get to know our deserving students.” 

How Rising Stars Works 

The proven program places qualified students in paid internships with sponsor companies where they work throughout the academic year. Not only do the students earn funds to help offset the cost of tuition, but the work experience and personal connections they gain are priceless.

The Rising Stars Model & Bragging Rights

When Rising Stars launched three years ago, it served five students. By fall of 2021, the number had swelled to 100 and almost one-third made the Dean’s List. With a top-notch record for success, this bold program is charging ahead to serve more students who would otherwise have limited access to educational excellence. 

“We aim to add another 75 students and more than 45 new corporate sponsors and community partners,” Peterson said. 

To learn more about this extraordinary program, contact Mallory Peterson at

Boundless Generosity: Giving Day 2022

Founders’ Week also brought together cheerful givers comprised of students, faculty, staff, alumni, parents and friends for UST’s 4th annual Giving Day. On April 28, the 24-hour challenge to impact the lives of the University’s students brought in more than $100,000 to support 27 causes on campus. 

Director of Stewardship and Annual Giving Jacquelyn Olexa, MLA ’15, said, “The generosity of our community is something to celebrate, and it’s been a privilege to witness the culture of philanthropy spread through campus as a result of Giving Day over the past four years.” 

Irresistible Attractions

Giving Day fun popped up on the inviting Campus Life Mall with a festival of food trucks, games and giveaways. “It may have looked like all fun and games, but students are understanding the importance of paying it forward in meaningful ways,” Olexa said. 

Donation Destinations & Smart Incentives 

Contributions supported established scholarships for schools, centers, departments, as well as other campus initiatives.

Adding muscle to the giving power were matching grants like the $25,000 match from the PJ Moran Foundation. And the Scholarship Power Hour was a favorite, matching all gifts to scholarships dollar for dollar.

After the food trucks had gone and the dunk tank was drained, the spirit of generosity and community that filled our campus remained. Once again, our UST family banded together to impact students and programs in need.

PSON’S Growth to Reduce a Critical Shortage

Founders’ Week would not have been complete without recognizing the 10th anniversary of UST’s reestablished, award-winning School of Nursing. In one short decade, the Carol and Odis Peavy School of Nursing (PSON) has reflected incredible foresight and grown with undeniable strength.

A Healthcare Program to Solve a Problem

Committed to reducing a critical shortage of nurses and supported by the Peavy’s very generous initial donations of $2.5 million, the University recruited Dr. Poldi Tschirch to lead and build PSON. Despite almost overwhelming challenges at times, she tirelessly built the school. And they (the students) did come. The first 29 were admitted in fall 2011 to earn their traditional BSN (Bachelor of Science in Nursing). By the spring 2022 session, nearly 500 students were enrolled to become competent, compassionate caregivers.

What PSON Built in 10 Short Years

Before Dean Tschirch retired in 2021, the robust school would occupy its own handsome home within the Center for Science and Health Professions and have six $2 million faculty chair endowments. 

Degree offerings include: 

  • Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN)
  • Accelerated BSN (ABSN)
  • Master of Science in Nursing (MSN)
  • RN-to-MSN 
  • Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP)
  • Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP) 

Preparing Future Leaders

UST is full of gratitude to the Peavy and Van Deventer families, as well as all of UST’s supporters through the ages, and into the future, for their vision and faith in things yet seen.   

About the Author — Jamie Roark

Jamie RoarkJamie Roark is an experienced, Houston-based content creator & communications skills coach. Through her company, Simply Communicate USA, she especially enjoys helping Higher Education and healthcare organizations to tell stories that inform and influence.

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