Three South Florida Leaders To Be Honored At St. Thomas University May 11th Commencement

May 06, 2013, 17:46 ET from St. Thomas University

MIAMI, May 6, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- St. Thomas University ( will hold its commencement ceremonies Saturday, May 11, 2013 at the Fernandez Family Center for Leadership and Wellness starting at 9:00 a.m. with the School of Law graduation, followed by the general graduation at 1:00 p.m. University President Monsignor Franklyn M. Casale will be presenting honorary doctorate degrees to three individuals who have reflected the university mission of "Developing Leaders for Life" and who have significantly contributed to South Florida through their proven leadership in business, healthcare, religious and public service sectors.


Gregory T. Swienton is the former (newly retired) Executive Chairman of Ryder System, Inc., a FORTUNE 500 transportation and supply chain management solutions company. He chaired Ryder's board of directors since May 2002 and has been a member of the board since June 1999. Mr. Swienton led a transformational change in Ryder's business model, which resulted in significantly improved operational and financial performance, with a $3.5 billion turnaround in free cash flow. Under his leadership, Ryder also achieved a 230% increase in stock value, delivered eight dividend increases and completed more than a dozen successful, immediately accretive acquisitions. Prior to joining the company, he held senior executive positions in global organizations and was the first transportation industry executive to be awarded the National Safety Council's highest honor, The Green Cross for Safety medal. He has been the Chair of St. Thomas University's Board of Trustees. In 2008, his personal service to his church, community and country was recognized by the Catholic Church, which named him to the Pontifical Equestrian Order of Saint Gregory the Great. This honor is one of five orders of knighthood that are conferred by the Pope.

During Swienton's tenure on the St. Thomas University Board as Chairman, the university experienced tremendous expansion. In 2006 the Board of Trustees approved the master plan of the university along with a new strategic plan. The university then raised over $50 million dollars in its first ever Capital Campaign and built or renovated eleven buildings, including the construction of the Carnival Cruise Lines Science and Technology building with the support of both Ryder and his spouse Joanne. The building now houses one of the finest undergraduate programs in the Southeast. Under his tenure the university instituted the Doctorate of Science of Laws, the Doctorate of Practical Theology and the Doctorate of Education as well as many new bachelors and masters degrees. The unduplicated student head count went from 3962 to 5250. Today the institution also went through a significant academic restructuring into five schools and a college and had two successful reaccreditations by the Commission of Colleges and the American Bar Association.

A woman known for her extraordinary work as Chair of the Board of Directors of Mercy Hospital (1986-2004), Chief Executive Officer of Catholic Hospice (2005-2007), and Chancellor for Administration and Chief Operating Officer for the Diocese of Orlando (2007-2010) is another recipient of the Honoris Causa doctorate. Sister Elizabeth Worley, SSJ, a Sister of St. Joseph of St. Augustine, is the Chancellor for Administration and the Chief Operating Officer of the Archdiocese of Miami. Now celebrating her Golden Jubilee as a Sister of St. Joseph, she is the first woman to hold the title of Chancellor. Sister Elizabeth has brought the business experience of Catholic healthcare to develop her new roles. She received the Pro Ecclesia Et Pontifice, awarded by Pope John Paul II, in recognition of a lifetime of faithful service to the Catholic Church.

The Honorable Shirley Gibson, former Mayor of the City of Miami Gardens and a St. Thomas University alumna is the third recipient. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice and a Master of Arts in Pastoral Ministry at St. Thomas. Ms. Gibson successfully led a dedicated group of neighbors in creating the first predominantly African-American municipality in the state of Florida – the City of Miami Gardens – the third largest city in Miami-Dade County. Her diligence, community board leadership, entrepreneurship skills and exemplary community service have earned her numerous awards and honors as well as international recognition in mayors' circles.

Commencement ceremonies will be held at the Fernandez Family Center for Leadership and Wellness. The 62,000 square-foot multipurpose sports arena houses the school's renowned sports administration programs, sports teams, and a state-of-the art fitness and wellness center. Its uniqueness lies in the fusion of games, wellness and community oriented activities with what is considered a distinct sports laboratory for college students interested in management or owning sports facilities or business ventures.

"We are proud to honor these outstanding figures as we graduate the Class of 2013. Their spirit of compassion, business ethics and service make them role models and reinforce our vision of graduating ethical and compassionate future leaders," said University President Monsignor Franklyn M. Casale.

About St. Thomas University
Miami's St. Thomas University is dedicated to its mission of "Developing Leaders for Life." An urban, student-centered, Catholic university with rich cultural and international diversity, St. Thomas University has been developing leaders who contribute to the economic and cultural vitality of the regions they serve for fifty years.  Federally designated as a Hispanic-Serving Institution, the University has earned a reputation for academic excellence and is renowned as an international leader in justice, human rights, sports administration, international business, ministry and sciences. It is one of the few US universities to offer undergraduate scientific research. Programs of study are offered at the undergraduate, graduate and law school levels. For more information, visit or contact Chief Marketing/Communications Officer Marivi Prado,

SOURCE St. Thomas University