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May 2019 Commencement Speakers and Honorees

Archishop Gintaras Grušas headshot

Archishop Gintaras Grušas of Lithuania, will present the keynote address at the 2019 University of St. Thomas (UST) Commencement at 1 p.m. on Saturday, May 18, 2019, at the Smart Financial Centre, 18111 Lexington Blvd, Sugar Land, TX 77479.

UST will grant degrees to 855 students, including 333 undergraduates and 522 graduate students. This year’s graduating class includes the first Ed.D cohort.

The Archbishop’s speech is themed, “I Know Well the Plans I have for You” (Jer. 29:11) and will focus on what the future holds for us in times of uncertainty, turbulent world politics, war, instability, economic uncertainty, self-interest among global leaders, and even a questionable future for our planet. He will discuss God’s plan for each of us, and the role we can play with the talents we have been given.

Archbishop Grušas

Archbishop Grušas was born in Washington D.C. in 1961. He attended the University of California at Los Angeles, earning a BS degree in Mathematics/Computer Science. He spent five years working for IBM before becoming a pastor.

Archbishop Grušas is an alumnus of the Pontifical University of Saint Thomas Aquinas, Angelicum in Rome where he earned a Bachelor of Sacred Theology in 1994 and was ordained a priest. He then served as secretary-general of the Lithuanian Episcopal Conference until 1997 and from 2001-2003 was rector of the seminary in Vilnius. He earned a Licentiate of Canon Law in 1999 and a Doctorate of Canon Law in 2001 from Pontifical University of Saint Thomas Aquinas, Angelicum.

In 2010, he was appointed Military Ordinary by Pope Benedict XVI and was consecrated bishop.

Honorary Doctorates

Headshot of Rev. George Smith, CSB and former General Superior of the Congregation of St. Basil.UST will present an honorary doctorate (honoris causa, Latin for the sake of honor) to Archbishop Grušas and to Rev. George Smith, CSB, former UST board member and past General Superior of the Congregation of St Basil (Basilian Fathers).

Born in Toronto, Canada, Fr. Smith holds degrees from McGill University, the University of St. Michael’s College and the University of Toronto. Since 1993, he has served on the governing boards of eight universities and colleges. He currently serves as Interim Dean of the Faculty of Theology of St. Paul’s University on Ottawa.

Anthony Pizzitola ‘73, MBA ‘82: Distinguished Alumni of the Year Award

Anthony Pizzitola headshotThe University of St. Thomas Alumni Association will present Anthony Pizzitola ‘73, MBA ‘82 with the 2019 Rev. Vincent J. Guinan, CSB, distinguished Alumni of the Year Award. This award recognizes outstanding contributions to the University and society through professional and personal excellence and community involvement.

For nearly 50 years, the former president of the UST Alumni Association has served UST in a variety of ways, starting as editor of the Summa yearbook, selling ads to inspire publication. He offers his expertise to UST students, such as organizing an MBA seminar presented by Disaster Recovery Institute International. He also served as Chapel of St. Basil sacristan for eight years, among many other involvements.

Pizzitola’s lucrative and rewarding career spans from construction to facilities operations and maintenance to emergency planning and disaster recovery for companies like Taco Bell, YUM! Brands and ExxonMobil. For his work with ExxonMobil, he was named the 2017 International Planner of the Year from Disaster Recovery Institute International.

Pizzitola’s unique hobbies include collecting historical autographs from Saint Teresa of Calcutta and Astronaut Neil Armstrong.

Graduate Elena Dang ‘19 to speak on “Be Bold: Have Goals”

Elena Dang poses in a lab, making a C with her right hand fingers.Elena Dang’s address “Be Bold: Have Goals” will focus on life goals.

The daughter of Vietnamese boat people, Dang made the most of her college career. She was a member of the American Chemical Society and Student Activities Board, and served as a STEM peer mentor, Presidential Ambassador, Vice Chair of the 2018 Celt Orientation, resident assistant and freshman symposium mentor. During her senior year, Dang’s mentor was UST First Lady Melynda Ludwick, a pharmacist who provided her with valuable career counseling and guidance on applying to and selecting a pharmacy school.

Dang is graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry and a minor in Biology on the Pre-Pharmacy Track. She will attend the University Of Texas College Of Pharmacy in Austin and then plans to pursue a specialized degree in pharmacogenomics, a new field that combines pharmacology and genomics to develop drugs tailored to patients’ genetic makeup. Her goal is to come back to Houston to conduct research in the Texas Medical Center.