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Army Surgeon Sister Dede Speaks at Graduation

A U.S. Army colonel, doctor and sister of Little Workers of the Sacred Hearts, Sister Deirdre “Dede” Mary Byrne, POSC, will address the 2012 University of St. Thomas graduating class at the 62nd Commencement Ceremony beginning at 10 a.m. Saturday, May 12 at Reliant Arena, One Reliant Park.

The ceremony will celebrate the achievements of 323 undergraduates and 747 graduate students. Commencement will be preceded by a Baccalaureate Mass at 6:30 p.m. on Friday, May 11 at the Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart, 1111 Saint Joseph Pkwy. The celebrant is the Very Rev. George Smith, CSB, superior general of the Congregation of St. Basil.

Sister DedeSister Dede integrates the roles of colonel, doctor and sister into a life of prayer, service, healing and compassion as she follows the calling she heard from a young age: to serve God and heal the poor.

A graduate of Georgetown University Medical School, Sister Dede trained in Family Practice at the U.S. Army hospital at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, followed by a general surgery internship and a residence at Georgetown University Hospital. She has served the U.S. Army in Egypt and Korea.

In 2001, after caring for the wounded on Sept. 11, Sister Dede discovered the religious community she was searching for, the Little Workers of the Sacred Hearts. She established the Medical Missionary branch of the order in 2002, and made her first vows in 2004.

During Commencement, Sister Dede will speak about “Living God’s Plan” and how she came to know her calling while serving as a surgeon in the U.S. Army.

UST President Dr. Robert Ivany said in her many roles, Sister Dede has dedicated her life to others.

“We are fortunate to have such an impressive and talented, yet humble role model for our students,” Ivany said. “She has given of herself in many different ways to many different groups of men and women in many parts of the world.”

The University will bestow an honorary doctorate to Sister Dede for her service to the country, God and mankind.

Rev. Robert Crooker, CSBThe Rev. Robert Crooker, CSB, will also receive an honorary doctorate for his lifelong support of the University and Catholic higher education. Father Crooker is a 1945 graduate of St. Thomas High School and was ordained in 1953. He holds a degree in canon law from Gregorian University in Rome. Father Crooker joined the University of St. Thomas theology faculty in 1980, and he served as Vice President of Finance from 1984 to 1986. He is currently a member of the Board of Directors.

Nicole HicklFor the first time, two graduating communication majors, Nicole Hickl and Priyam Shah, will present a joint commencement speech, “Moment for Life.” Hickl and Shah opted to present a speech together because they wanted to share similar messages about perseverance and because of their friendship formed at St. Thomas.

Hickl was a conditionally admitted student, but she made a concerted effort to do well in college.

“I think whenever you fail or are not as good at something, it pushes you to do better,” Hickl said. “I saw college as my second chance. College erases what I did in high school, and I really took the opportunity.”

Priyam ShahFor Shah, it took some time to apply the same focus to school, while she worked during the first two years of college, in part striving for autonomy from her family.

“The first two years of college, I was a rebel,” she said. “I wanted my independence.”

Now, Shah says she and her mother have a better relationship than ever. As a surprise to her mother, she is keeping her role as student commencement speaker a secret.

Shah is applying to medical school this summer, and Hickl recently accepted a position as a weekend anchor and reporter at KAVU in Victoria, Texas.

Frances EscrivaThe Vincent J. Guinan Distinguished Alumni Award will be presented to Frances Escriva, class of 1978. Escriva, the chief financial officer of Mid-South Telecommunications Company, is a former member of the UST Board of Directors. She served on the Alumni Association Board of Directors from 2003-2010, and was president from 2008-2010. Escriva has served on reunion and homecoming committees, as well as the Alumni Memorial Mass committee, working to engage other alumni in the University.

She has been a class agent for her class and currently mentors a senior as part of the UST Insights Alumni Mentoring Students program. She volunteers with organizations like The Gathering Place, which serves the mentally ill, and she is a Basilian Lay Associate, a lay person dedicated to prayer and service for the benefit of the Basilian Fathers.

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Watch it on the Web
For those who cannot attend the Commencement Ceremony in person, the event will be streamed live on the Web. Visit the UST home page at during the ceremony for a link to the live Ustream video.