LIKE a true steward of Christ, this Dominican priest instilled discipline in countless individuals enough to leave a legacy of academic excellence in the University.

Frederick Fermin, O.P., the second Filipino rector of the University of Santo Tomas, succumbed to old age last Oct. 27 at the Baguio General Hospital and Medical Center, Baguio City. He was 90 years old.

In his homily during the funeral mass for Fermin last Oct. 29 at the Santisimo Rosario Parish Church, UST Rector Herminio Dagohoy, O.P. praised his predecessor for his exemplary service to the University.

Dagohoy said that Fermin was a firm, but gentle man.

"Fermin was a man who had a sense of justice tempered with compassion and generosity,” Dagohoy said.

Fermin served as rector of the University from 1978 to 1982, succeeding Leonardo Legaspi O.P., the first Filipino rector of UST who became archbishop of Caceres, Naga and president of the Catholic Bishop's Conference of the Philippines.

According to Central Seminary Rector Quirico Pedregosa, O.P., Fermin managed to nurture countless individuals under his influence.

"He has a heart of a Filipino who learned to love the University he served," Pedregosa said.

Hailed from Nijmegen, Netherlands, Fermin came to the Philippines in 1962 and became a Filipino citizen through naturalization in 1976.

Before his entry to priesthood, Fermin was a United Nations diplomat in Indonesia. He was also the Dutch ambassador to Hongkong and was a Calvinist Protestant. He was converted to Catholicism when he joined the liturgical celebrations of the Dominicans in a chapel in Hongkong.

Fermin joined the Dominican order in 1954 before taking up Philosophy in Rosaryhill, Hongkong from 1955 to 1958. He took up Theology in the Pontifical University of Saint Thomas Aquinas, also known as the Angelicum in Rome from 1958 to 1960.

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Prior to his post as UST rector, the naturalized Filipino served as dean of the Faculty of Arts and Letters from 1972 to 1976. He also served as regent of the Faculty of Civil Law.

Piedad Guinto-Rosales, assistant dean of the Faculty of Arts and Letters during Fermin’s term as dean, described Fermin as a straightforward yet gentle man.

“He was respected by his students because he knew how to listen to them,” Rosales said.

‘Road to an exemplary education’

During his term as rector, Fermin was known for his establishment of the Department of Languages, which took charge of Filipino, English, French, German, and Nihongo.

In 1978 to 1979, Fermin introduced a Bachelor of Arts in Translation program which envisioned to train students in translating classical and technical literature from English to Filipino, and vice versa. However, this program eventually phased out due to lack of enrollment and funding.

Fermin also opened a Master of Arts in Oriental Religions and Culture program in the Faculty of Sacred Theology and Graduate School in on the same year.

In his 1978 to 1979 Rector's Report, Fermin said that the course aimed "to study the roots and the present development of oriental religions and cultures, to enter into dialogue with other cultures in order to preserve what is good in each Christian ideals, and to adjust the liturgy of local churches according to native cultural elements."

Upon the end of his term as UST Rector, Fermin served as professor in the Faculty of Sacred Theology before assuming the post as rector of the Central Seminary from 1988 to 2000.

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Rodel Aligan, O.P., dean of the Faculty of Sacred Theology and Fermin's former assistant in the Central Seminary, said that Fermin gave importance to the intellectual life and mission of the Dominican order.

“Most of the priests here in the University were previously under his guidance. Many people remember him for his wisdom during his administration,” Aligan said.

The cremated remains of Fermin were placed at the Sanctuario de Santo Domingo in Quezon City after the funeral mass which was was concelebrated by Dumaguete Bishop Julio Cortes and Gerard Timoner, III, O.P., UST vice chancellor and newly appointed member of the Theological Commission, as well as other Dominican priests. Marie Danielle L. Macalino

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