UST Alumni Board President Frances Escriva Reflects on UST Experience
Frances Escriva was content and comfortable as a student at
St. John Fisher College in Rochester, New York until she met a visiting professor from a fellow Basilian school, the University of St. Thomas. Dr. Rolande Leguillon sparked Escriva’s interest in a college, in a city, in a state in which Escriva had never set foot.
“I started showing up early to class just to hear Madame Leguillon talk about the University of St. Thomas,” Escriva said. “I said when they start exchanging students instead of exchanging professors, I would be the first to sign up.”
She transferred to UST and never looked back. Now 30 years later, Escriva, who earned both a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science in 1978 and a Master of Business Administration in 2000 from UST, has been named president of the University of St. Thomas Alumni Association Board of Directors. In her professional life, Escriva serves as the controller for Mid-South Telecommunications Company.
Kelli Kickerillo will serve as vice president of the Alumni Association Board; Stephanie Dedeaux was named treasurer; Burney Hebinck will be parliamentarian and Lisbet Newton is secretary.
Kia Wissmiller, director of major constituents, welcomed Escriva to the board and praised her continued dedication to the University.
“Frances has a tremendous work ethic and has been very active with the Alumni Association for years. It will be a privilege to work with her and the Alumni Association Board of Directors under her leadership,” Wissmiller said
When she returns to campus, Escriva says she frequently feels the same welcome she felt when three UST students greeted her the first day she stepped off the airplane from New York. Many of her professors are still teaching and still recognize her – including Dr. Leguillon – of course.
“The faculty members at UST are really top notch,” she said. “They really want their students to succeed, not just academically, but in life. There are quite a few professors teaching that were here when I was a student, and I think that speaks well of a University.”
Escriva was the first of her family to fall in love with UST, but soon other family members followed. Her sister Maggie Escriva also earned a degree from UST in 1985, and her other sister Angela Escriva, is now an instructor of Spanish at UST.
Just as she led her family to UST, as Alumni Association Board President, Escriva aims to bring more alumni back to the campus and get them more involved in the University. She and her husband Joseph McKay, are sponsoring the October 29 Alumni Social Night at the Black Labrador, 4100 Montrose Blvd. This event will also serve as a class of 1978 reunion, the 30th anniversary of their graduation.
“A lot of people haven’t visited campus in a long time, and a lot has changed,” Escriva said. “It’s so beautiful. Alumni should see what St. Thomas has done and how it has grown. I think people will want to be a part of it again. It’s not just about fundraising and events, it’s also about getting people to be a part of the St. Thomas family again.”
Escriva applauds the Alumni Board for working to endow the alumni scholarship and said she is very proud of their accomplishments working together. In the spring of 2007, the Alumni Board voted to increase the amount of the Alumni Scholarship. The Alumni Scholarship, considered a priority function of the Alumni Board, is awarded each spring to a returning UST student. Escriva plans to continue on that positive upswing, and hopes to generate more creative fundraising ideas. She would also like to encourage class agents to be more active.
“When I was a student here, UST was not very well known,” she said. “I would go home to New York and talk about St. Thomas and people would think I was talking about the Virgin Islands. I’m glad we aren’t the best kept secret anymore. I want to share this school with other people.”
She said alumni are in a unique position to serve as spokespersons to spread the word about UST throughout the community. With so many different ways to get involved – be it alumni social events, sports events, the mentoring program, the fall fashion show, the Alumni Volunteer Corps, lectures and guest speakers – there is something for everyone.
“With our busy careers, families and commitments, it’s easy to put UST on the backburner, but you want your degree to mean something. That reciprocity is important. We need to do something and give something back to make it sure your degree and those of others continues to count in the community. This University teaches us all about being well-rounded people who care about others. This University teaches us to give back to others.”