Honorees To Include Outgoing President, Sister Joan Lescinski, CSJ, PhD
St. Ambrose University will host separate commencement ceremonies for graduate and undergraduate degree recipients at the TaxSlayer Center in Moline, Illinois, on Friday, May 14, and Saturday, May 15.
The two ceremonies will allow the University to celebrate its spring 2021 graduates while following COVID-19 restrictions and safety protocols which include capacity limitations at the TaxSlayer. Both ceremonies are by invitation only and require tickets (free to graduates and up to two guests per graduate).
The graduate hooding and commencement ceremony will begin at 6 p.m. on May 14.
The undergraduate ceremony will begin at 1 p.m. on May 15.
Both commencement ceremonies will available via live-streamed video at www.sau.edu.
The ceremonies will be altered from the traditional format due to COVID-19 protocols; physical distancing and masks will be required.
Contingency plans are in place for an alternate location on campus should the State of Illinois change current COVID-19 policies with further limitations.
The University expects to confer 148 graduate and doctoral degrees at the May 14 ceremony. Michael Puthoff, PT, PhD, the outgoing Dean of Graduate Studies and a professor and Director of the University's Doctor of Physical Therapy program, will address the graduates.
A total of 387 undergraduates are scheduled to earn their bachelor's degrees at the May 15 ceremony. The Rev. George McDaniel '66, PhD, a St. Ambrose Professor Emeritus of History, will address the graduates.
The University will confer three honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degrees at the Saturday event. Among those honorees will be Sister Joan Lescinski, CSJ, PhD, the outgoing SAU President who will participate in her final commencement ceremony; Sister Joan officially will retire Aug. 6.
Sister Joan is concluding 14 years as president of St. Ambrose. She began her teaching career in 1970 and in 1974 started a full-time career in Catholic higher education.
The Most Rev. Thomas Zinkula, JD, JCL, Bishop of the Diocese of Davenport and chair of the St. Ambrose Board of Trustees, said the honor is being conferred upon Sister Joan by the unanimous accord of the Board of Trustees.
"Sister Joan's commitment to St. Ambrose University and to providing an educational experience rooted in faith, the Catholic Intellectual Tradition and Catholic social teachings has been exemplary," Bishop Zinkula said. "As a board, we can think of no one more deserving of this high honor."
Under Sr. Joan's leadership, St. Ambrose University grew its curriculum to include four new graduate degree programs and added numerous forward-thinking undergraduate degrees; vastly expanded its physical footprint with eight new or newly renovated buildings; transformed its Athletics Department with the addition of 13 varsity sports, as well as upgraded facilities that include the St. Vincent's Athletic Complex, the AmbroseDome, and the Wellness and Recreation Center; and grew its endowment by nearly $130 million while doubling the number of endowed scholarships.
"I truly am humbled to be a recipient of this honorary degree, one that has been my pleasure to confer upon so many other distinguished citizens of our community, our world, and, in many cases, committed supporters of a St. Ambrose education," Sister Joan said.
Honorary degrees are also being confirmed on May 15 on Fr. McDaniel and Dimitri Papageorgiou, owner of the area's premier wine and beer distributorship and a foundational sponsor of the St. Ambrose Wine Festival Series.
A native of Washington, Iowa, Fr. McDaniel came to what was then St. Ambrose College in 1963, and earned his bachelor's degree in Philosophy and History in 1966. He was ordained by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Davenport in 1970, and returned to St. Ambrose as Dean of Students in 1974.
He joined the history faculty in 1977, was promoted to the rank of Professor of History in 1993, and served in that role until his retirement in 2007. The award-winning "A Great and Lasting Beginning" was published that year and Fr. McDaniel has remained a presence at the University since, writing monthly Spirit Day history pieces he shares with the campus. He also has been a generous supporter of our capital campaigns, and of student scholarships.
Dimitri Papageorgiou's assistance as a high-level sponsor, an in-kind donor, and a connected member of the vintner community has helped the Wine Festival Series grow from a $25,000-per-year fundraising event to a three-event series that annually raises $100,000 or more in support of SAU student scholarships.
Papageorigiou learned winemaking from his father while growing up in Greece. He came to the U.S. in 1970, and earned business and accounting degrees at Truman State University, where he and his wife, Kathy, met. Dimitri came to the Quad Cities as a comptroller for a local wine and spirits retailer following graduation. He founded Dimitri Wine and Spirits in 1984, and it remains the area's premier distribution company for fine wines and beer.
For additional information, visit sau.edu/commencent