University of St. Thomas Magazine Fall/Winter 2020

fall, barely a year will have gone by since the NCAA approved St. Thomas’ waiver request to bypass D-II.

• Starting the first bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering at a private college/university in Minnesota in 1998 • Opening a law school in 2001 • Evolving the Engineering Department into the School of Engineering in 2004 • Opening Dougherty Family College in 2017 • Launching the Morrison Family College of Health in 2019

And yet, a key theme mentioned amid the swirl of media stories following the July announcement was that this move comes at “the right time.” That may not be nearly as crazy as it sounds. In many ways the shift falls neatly in line with St. Thomas’ long history of entrepreneurial evolution.

“We’ve been on, and will always be on, a journey,” Executive Vice President and Provost Richard Plumb said. “We won’t ever not be.” Fitting the plan Gaining a bigger picture perspective on St. Thomas’ long-term trajectory requires looking back at the last 50 years. In 1970, when the university constructed the O’Shaughnessy Educational Center, it kicked off a series of projects and program additions that shaped St. Thomas into the institution it is today.

Vice President and Director of Athletics Phil Esten led a virtual press conference in July announcing that the NCAA approved St. Thomas' waiver to move directly from Division III to Division I, joining the Summit League for most sports and the Pioneer Football League. Photo by Mark Brown.

And that’s not even mentioning the 27 new buildings and 38 acquired properties during that 50-year time period. (Read more on Page 28 about St. Thomas' physical transformation.) “When you look back at the evolution of our school over the last 40 or 50 years, it’s been very entrepreneurial in spirit,” Esten told Axios in July. “Whether that’s going coed, moving from college to university, expanding to a second campus or adding a law school.”

Those advancements include: • Starting an MBA program in 1974 • Becoming coed in 1977 • Signing an affiliation agreement with The Saint Paul Seminary/Archdiocese in 1987 • Transitioning from a college to a university in 1990 • Opening the Minneapolis campus in 1992

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