St. Thomas University celebrates 20th anniversary of President Casale’s tenure

 

It has been exactly 20 years since Monsignor Franklyn M. Casale has assumed the presidency of St. Thomas University. Moving here in 1994 from his native New Jersey, he is now the longest serving college or university president in Florida.

A leader’s real impact, of course, is measured in achievements, not years, and Monsignor Casale’s achievements extend beyond increasing enrollment, expanding the academic programs, adding the buildings that house them, acquiring major gifts, and fostering important research.

Tucked away on a 140-acre campus just off the Palmetto in Miami Gardens, the only Archdiocesan University in the Southeast has become a key player in the global human rights movement. Consistent with the social justice mission of the Catholic Church, Monsignor Casale extended St. Thomas’ focus from the campus to the surrounding community and the world at large.

Under his leadership, the Law School’s signature Master of Laws and Doctoral programs in Intercultural Human Rights were created. Featuring scholars from Oxford, Yale and other centers of academic excellence, as well as key instructors from respected NGOs such as Human Rights Watch, the program has by now trained and graduated over 300 budding leaders from over 75 countries since its inception in 2001.

They are “warriors for dignity” fighting the good fight against the ills of society in all four corners of the Earth. A good number of them teach human rights law in universities around the world: from Cornell to Madrid, to Hong Kong, Kosovo, Addis Ababa, and the United Nations University. One of the program’s directors now serves on the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.

Monsignor Casale has driven and supported many other initiatives in the field of human rights, foremost in the field of human trafficking. He convened, in 2004, the workshop leading to the influential Miami Declaration of Principles against Human Trafficking and the establishment of a Human Trafficking Academy funded by the U.S. Department of Justice.

The country and the world have witnessed President Casale in action. Congress did when he testified before the House of Representatives, recommending substantial changes in our laws combating trafficking in persons, and he has presented key lectures at human rights conferences and interdisciplinary workshops on several continents — work leading, most recently, to the formulation of the 2013 Siena Principles on Human Trafficking and Public Health.

None of which means that, on any particular day, you wouldn’t find Monsignor Casale eating breakfast with students in the University cafeteria, attending meetings of this committee or that, or patting a campus worker on the back for a job well done. A strong leader who has solidified every aspect of the University, he is, nonetheless, a vivacious, personable and humble man.

Nor does the school’s presence on the world stage mean that it has overlooked the community. Indeed, the University’s involvement in global affairs grows out of its intense community involvement.

The late Monsignor Bryan Walsh, who conceived and conducted Operation Pedro Pan which brought over 14,000 community members here from Castro’s Cuba in the 1960’s, was a key participant in the founding of St. Thomas’ Human Rights Institute.

Under the steady guidance of President Casale, this Institute now serves thousands of migrants annually, mainly those from Cuba and Haiti. Through a new Center for Community Engagement, St. ThomasUniversity serves Haiti’s poorest regions on site via fair trade coffee, solar energy, and Haitian artisan initiatives.

Environmental sustainability, criminal justice and proper care for the elderly remain key concerns of the School of Law, supported by the Monsignor as much as the tradition of symposia exploring and promoting the rights of indigenous peoples around the world.

Monsignor Casale has been a good shepherd to his community. With gratitude for all you have done, and are yet to do, South Florida wishes you a Happy 20th Anniversary, Monsignor!

Professor Siegfried Wiessner is the senior member of St. Thomas University’s law faculty and Director of its Graduate Program in Intercultural Human Rights. Email: swiessner@stu.edu

Read more From Our Inbox stories from the Miami Herald

  • French food on a slippery slope

    Before my first visit to France, around 45 years ago, I was told that you couldn’t find bad food there if you tried. I was of limited experience, so even a hot dog jammed into a baguette bore witness to that “fact.”

  • Even when the VA does act, it still fails our veterans

    Jymm’s preferred attire is a skin-tight Minnie Mouse T-shirt with bright pink windbreaker pants. Even when not sporting his outfit of choice, he dons short shorts and shirts with holes in them, because that’s what he finds most comfortable. His Santa Monica apartment was furnished with broken chairs and tables he dug out of dumpsters. He held onto his favorite old drinking glass long after it broke. Jymm is a Vietnam veteran (who holds two Purple Hearts), and he’s definitely a character. But he’s never hurt himself or anyone else.

  • Moon landing 45 years ago brought us together

    It was, after all, only a boot-crunching dust. You wouldn’t think the sight would affect so many or change so much.

Miami Herald

Join the
Discussion

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category