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College no longer ‘an ivory tower’

St. Thomas University marks impact, on and off campus, under Msgr. Franklyn Casale

MIAMI GARDENS | During Msgr. Franklyn M. Casale's 24 years at the helm of St. Thomas University, the school has taken strides in several directions — in its classrooms, in the community, even overseas.

Those achievements include its law school and cutting-edge degrees, like cybersecurity and sports management. The university's nursing program has mushroomed, from 18 students in fall 2016 to 84 this past fall. And the Gus Machado School of Business broke ground Jan. 24 for a 45,000-square-foot home.

Dec. 16, 2017

Msgr. Franklyn Casale, president of St. Thomas University, speaks at a graduation ceremony in December 2017.

Photographer: JIM DAVIS | FC

Dec. 16, 2017 JIM DAVIS | FC Msgr. Franklyn Casale, president of St. Thomas University, speaks at a graduation ceremony in December 2017.

In December, STU awarded its first 10 master's degrees in bioethics. The coursework covers matters like cloning, suicide, climate change, stem-cell research and genetically modified foods.

The university is also raising $5 million for the Franklyn M. Casale Honors College, an accelerated study program for the top 10 percent of its students.

One project that didn’t pan out was a proposed merger with Barry University, an Adrian Dominican school in Miami Shores. The two universities began exploring the idea a year and a half ago, then dropped it after nine months.

On that matter, the otherwise talkative monsignor turned away questions. "Let's just say that we decided Miami has great opportunities for two Catholic universities. We have our own plan and direction."

STU's direction has long impelled it to reach beyond its own circles. After Hurricane Maria devastated much of the Caribbean in October, the university provided scholarships for 55 students from Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.

In December 2016, the university's Center for Community Engagement installed solar panels and batteries at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Port-de-Paix, Haiti. The panels power not only the cathedral but houses in the surrounding neighborhood.

A networking breakfast last October hosted anti-terrorism experts — everyone from the Broward Sheriff's Office to the federal Department of Homeland Security — an annual event for STU.

Last summer, 50 high school students from around Miami-Dade County converged on St. Thomas for its MetroTown Summer Camp, designed to infuse them with skills in community ties and cross-cultural teamwork.

"College is not an ivory tower anymore," Msgr. Casale said. "It's more an open space environment. We need to connect with the community and see where the jobs are."

Tying together the many fields of work is a common goal: strengthening people's Catholic identity through the Church's intellectual tradition.

"It is more value-laden than the secular tradition," Msgr. Casale said. "It's not just about how to educate the mind, but how to live as good members of the community. It requires an understanding of who you are, who God is and what gifts you need. It's learning about life and yourself."

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