University of Mary holds 50th commencementOn May 1, the University of Mary held its 50th commencement. A total of 929 degrees were awarded in the historic ceremony at the Bismarck Civic Center.
On May 1, the University of Mary held its 50th commencement. A total of 929 degrees were awarded in the historic ceremony at the Bismarck Civic Center.
It marked the second time the number of degrees granted by America’s Leadership University in a given year has passed the 900 mark since it graduated its first class in 1960.
In graduation-related events, the University of Mary Alumni Association recognized this year’s nominees for the Outstanding Senior Award at the annual President’s Breakfast. Area nominees for 2010 Outstanding Senior are: Kirsten Burgard and Stacy Schaffer, both Wishek, N.D., and Daniel Wikenheiser, Linton, N.D.
Sister Thomas Welder, OSB, is the University of Mary 2010 Honorary Doctorate recipient and commencement speaker.
As president of the University of Mary from 1978-2009, Thomas guided the school to growth.
Born Diane Welder on April 27, 1940, to Sebastian and Mary Ann Welder, in Linton, Thomas moved with her family from the Napoleon, N.D., area to Bismarck when she was 2. There she attended Cathedral Elementary School and St. Mary’s Central High School. After graduating from St. Mary’s in 1958, she enrolled at the College of St. Benedict in St. Joseph, Minn.; there as a freshman, she discovered her vocation. Returning home in 1959, she entered the Benedictine community of the Sisters of Annunciation Monastery. After completing her bachelor’s degree in music at the College of St. Scholastica in 1963, she became Mary College’s choir director. In 1968, she was awarded the Master of Music degree from Northwestern University. She went on to chair Mary College’s Humanities Division and serve as director of deferred giving. Ten years later, she was appointed Mary’s fifth president.
Under her leadership, the school achieved university status; added undergraduate and graduate programs, including a doctorate in physical therapy, created on-site and online adult learning programs; more than doubled the number of its facilities; moved to NCAA Division. II; and more than tripled enrollment.
A self-described “practical woman,” she servies on numerous boards and is active in community, state and national professional, civic and religious organizations.
Thomas’ many honors included: the 1998 GNDA Educator Award, the 2002 Greater North Dakotan Award, and the 2007 Missouri Slope Areawide united Way Lifetime of Caring Award. In May 2004, she was presented with North Dakota’s highest honor, the Theodore Roosevelt Rough Rider Award. Following her retirement in June 2009, she was made an honorary alumna of the University of Mary and named president emerita.
She spoke to the graduates of 2010 on servant leadership and the transformative role of Benedictine values in daily living.