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STU holds official conferral of degree for 91-year-old grandmother 33-years after earning her Master Degree

Contact: Donna Schultz
St. Thomas University Media Relations
(O) 305.474.6588 | (C) 786.390.4688
dschultz@stu.edu

Miami Gardens, FL (August 28, 2021)– Former Miami, FL resident, Patricia Cantwell graduated St. Thomas University (STU) in 1988 with a Master in Health Management degree. Due to a family emergency, she could not participate in the official conferral of degree graduation ceremony at that time. Recently, Cantwell’s family contacted STU to ask for an official letter to recognize her graduation.

STU Provost and Chief Academic Officer Dr. Jeremy Moreland and STU Dean of Academic Programs Dr. Luis C. Fernandez-Torres recognized the opportunity to do more. The pair arranged to send Cantwell official Master Degree regalia, graduation cap and gown, issued a new diploma, and coordinated the virtual conferral of degree ceremony.

“When Mrs. Cantwell’s daughter called my assistant Estela San Miguel to request the letter, I told her we can do more than that,” Dean Fernandez-Torres stated. “I shared the idea with Provost Moreland, called our Registrar’s office, and we quickly developed the plan that culminated in the virtual conferral. At St. Thomas University we live the magical college experience, and we wanted to deliver it to Mrs. Cantwell.”

“We were honored and privileged to be part of her family’s celebration,” Dr. Moreland stated. “We welcome the chance to celebrate our alumni any chance we get. And this was, undoubtedly, a very special opportunity.”

Born in Auckland, New Zealand, Patricia married Ronald Cantwell in 1955. They, along with their five children, immigrated to the United States in 1968.

Patricia began her nursing career as a nursing assistant at the former Cedars at Lebanon Hospital in Miami, FL., and advanced her career to become head nurse of the Coronary Care Unit at Cedars at Lebanon Hospital and then Nurse Manager of Intensive Care Open Heart Unit at Mercy Hospital.

In the late 1980’s, Patricia decided to get her Masters in Health Care Administration to advance her career even further. She attended night classes at St Thomas University to complete her degree balancing a demanding work schedule and running a busy household. She earned her degree in 1988, at 58 years old.

“I was not able to go to graduation in 1988, which I later regretted. For St. Thomas University to coordinate with my family to have a private graduation for me brought me nearly to tears,” Patricia Cantwell stated. “Having the MHM assisted me in being hired to be the Nurse Manager of the ICU/Open Heart unit at Mercy Hospital, a position I held for five years until my retirement in 1993. I shall always be grateful to STU, for helping mature students return to the classroom by having off campus venues for lectures.”

Patricia participated in the virtual Conferral of Degree ceremony at the home of one of her daughters in Atlanta, GA., and witnessed by her husband Ronald, their children, and grandchildren. Patricia and Ronald relocated to Atlanta five years ago, to be closer to family.


St. Thomas University (STU) is a private, non-profit Catholic institution committed to the academic and professional success of its students who become ethical leaders in our global community. Rich with cultural and international diversity, STU is the only Catholic archdiocesan-sponsored university in Florida.

On our beautiful campus and online, the university’s College of Science, College of Law, College of Business and Biscayne College offer 61 undergraduate, graduate, and post-graduate degree programs.

In 2020, STU launched our Limitless five-year strategic plan, based on the pillars of limitless Devotion, limitless Opportunities, and limitless Results. The plan was conceived to provide students with a magical collegiate experience which incorporates mentoring faculty, character formation activities outside the classroom, and required real-world experience before graduation.

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