EVERY Thomasian must contribute to the betterment of the University and prevent “institutional sclerosis” from setting in, Quadricentennial UST Rector Fr. Rolando V. de la Rosa, O.P. said during his installation last June 10.

The comebacking rector said inititiative, co-responsibility and accountability are needed to overcome the “organizational malady” of passing the buck to the one who’s on top.

“Looking back, I realize that what hindered me from what I was supposed to do as rector (in 1990-1998) was the fact that everyone seemed to follow the old army game,” De la Rosa said in his inaugural address at the UST Santisimo Rosario Parish Church. “If an official or employee did not want to take responsibility for, or bear the consequence of, decisions which he should make, he pushes these up to the one on top . . . The result is what I may term as institutional sclerosis.”

De la Rosa ended his speech by calling for help:

“Help me, so that I can say to my successor: ‘I hand over to you a UST that is more socially significant, economically stable, academically prestigious, and more globally recognized than the one over which I had the honor to preside.’”

Earlier, Archbishop Edward Joseph Adams, the apostolic nuncio to the Philippines, concelebrated with some 50 Dominican priests the Misa de Apertura, the traditional Mass that opens a new academic year for UST, and asked for prayers for the new rector magnificus.

“We need faith in the academe,” Adams said in his homily. ““We are here to pray for this University, and in particular, we pray for the new rector, Father Rolando de la Rosa, who will lead UST.”

Following the Mass, the installation ceremonies took place.

After the reading of the papal bull from the Vatican’s Sacred Congregation for Catholic Education and Seminaries that confirmed De la Rosa’s election as rector, Prior Provincial Fr. Quirico Pedregosa, O.P. of the Philippine Dominican Province administered the solemn oath of office for De la Rosa. He and Commissioner Nona Ricafort of the Commission on Higher Education (Ched) later assisted De la Rosa in wearing the rector’s medallion.

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New Excecutive Vice Rector Fr. Pablo Tiong, O.P. and Vice-Rector for Academic Affairs Prof. Clarita Carillo then handed over the maces to De la Rosa to symbolize both his spiritual and academic authority over the Pontifical University.

In his acceptance speech, which became the traditional discurso de apertura or lecture to open the new academic year, De la Rosa paid tribute to UST’s longevity and history of excellence.

“Despite several colonial battles, two World Wars, countless calamities, economic and political disasters, UST did not only survive, it has prevailed,” De la Rosa said. “The University has evolved into something its founder never dreamt of.”

The Rector added that despite its spectacular growth and development, UST “remains faithful to its identity as a Catholic University.”

Its association with the Catholic Church is what drives UST to strive for excellence, De la Rosa pointed out.

He said UST has been declared by the Ched as “the private school with the most number of Centers of Excellence and Centers of Development.”

De la Rosa added that based on the study, “Philippine Higher Education in the 21st Century: Toward Excellence and Equity,” UST is the top private university in the country offering “excellent” education, according to several embassies mainly of western states.

“It is amazing how UST could maintain such a high standard of education considering that it is not a state university like UP that receives immense subsidy from the government,” De la Rosa said. “UST’s tuition is relatively lower than that of elitist schools patronized by rich Filipinos.”

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He expressed thanks to his predecessors, Fr. Tamerlane Lana, O.P. and Fr. Ernesto Arceo, O.P., “for their generosity and their previous accomplishments.”

He also expressed his thanks to his siblings and foster parents, Bernie and Gloria Pamintuan.

Alumni tribute

De la Rosa paid tribute to UST alumni who “embody the struggle for truth and beauty” of UST.

He particularly made mention of the Thomasian martyrs of the Spanish civil war who were beatified last October 28.

“Throughout its 400 years of existence, the University has produced not only four presidents of the country (at least the better ones), legal luminaries, excellent political leaders, oustanding academicians, model professionals, exemplary bishops, religious and priests, but also national heroes and canonized saints,” the Rector said. “Are we not fortunate to belong to such a circle by simply being called Thomasians?”

De la Rosa also made special mention of the Varsitarian, “to whom I have a special affinity.” The Rector is one of the illustrious alumni of the Varsitarian, having been Witness (or religion) editor of the UST student paper in the late 1970’s.

Alumni support

Because of the University’s quadricentennial anniversary in 2011, alumni enthusiasm and support have been building up, the Rector said.

He said that last May, the UST Medical Alumni Association in America, “the strongest and most highly organized Filipino organization in the United States,” pledged $1 million for the construction of the Thomasian Alumni Center.

“The center will enshrine the outstanding achievements of our alumni for the past 400 years,” De la Rosa said. “It will also serve as the focal point of unity of our alumni here and abroad.”

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The Rector called for alumni support “to help the University perform its avowed mission and vision.”

Old and trusted hand

Meanwhile, Ricafort expressed confidence that under De la Rosa,UST would continue its progress.

“UST is actually very lucky to have a former Ched commissioner as (its) rector, especially a hard-working and experienced leader like Father De la Rosa,” she told the Varsitarian.

Pedregosa shared the same belief and expressed hope that De la Rosa would be able to pilot the hospital’s redevelopment, which had led to the resignation of Father Arceo and key leaders of UST last September.

“I hope that he would foster greater unity among all the administrators and that he would lead the redevelopment of the hospital,” Pedregosa told the Varsitarian. “I think he has gained a lot of experience and wisdom for all these years when he was out.”

Isidora Lee, executive assistant to the chief financial officer of the UST Hospital, believed that De la Rosa’s installation indicated “a very opportune time as we rebuild the UST Hospital.”

De la Rosa was named acting rector last September after Dominican Master General Fr. Carlos Azpiroz-Costa accepted the resignations of Arceo and two other top Filipino Dominicans over disagreements on how best to go about the redevelopment of the UST Hospital.

De la Rosa was later elected to a full term last October. The Vatican confirmation of his election came last April.

Even before the confirmation, De la Rosa had formed a special committee, headed by Fr. Arthur Dingel, O.P., to review the hospital’s redevelopment plan. Nikki Q. Angulo and Danielle Clara P. Dandan

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