On November 24, 2023 (Friday), the University minted its ninth Dean Emeritus in the person of Professor Lilian de Jesus-Sison, PhD, Dean of the Graduate School from 2000-2013 in a solemn conferment ceremony.
The quintessential administrator and Dean of All Seasons
In his address of petition, Graduate School Dean Michael Anthony C. Vasco, PhD, who served as Sison’s first Faculty Secretary at the Graduate School, heaped praises on his former superior, whom he called the “quintessential administrator and Dean of All Seasons.” Recounting the fifty-four years of dedicated service that Sison has been rendering the University, he expressed appreciation at how Sison demanded excellence from those she worked with, but matched such exacting nature with the ability to mentor those under her. Likening the honoree to Britain’s Margaret Thatcher, Vasco said UST produced a chemist administrator, too, in Lilian Sison.
Sison has been a University administrator for 42 straight years, since her first appointment as Faculty Secretary of the Graduate School in 1981. After retirement in 2013, she was asked by then-Rector fr. Herminio V. Dagohoy, O.P., PhD to be the first Director of the Office of International Relations and Programs.
As he granted Dean Vasco’s petition, the Rector, the Very Rev. fr. Richard G. Ang, O.P., PhD called Sison the “best-qualified candidate for Dean Emeritus.” Calling Sison “a lady who gets the job done,” he recognized Sison’s “relentless determination and fruitful action” and how “she made a mark in every assignment that will keep her leadership and management footprint.”
Heaping praises on Sison’s visionary leadership, the Rector said that Sison does not wait for opportunities but rather creates them, evidenced by the many instances in which she pioneered game-changing reforms in the University, from her time in Academic Affairs, to the Graduate School, and now, in Internationalization, which has come out in various rankings agencies as UST’s strongest suit. Her track record in internationalization was foreshadowed by her stint in the Graduate School, where her moves to make courses research-intensive were complemented by opportunities for student exchange and international paper presentations, as well as the acquisition of higher degrees in collaboration with partner universities such as the University of Western Australia. Sison was also relentless in her pursuit of scholarship and funding opportunities for faculty members to earn their degrees abroad, in countries such as Germany (through the DAAD scholarship).
No longer a second-rate university
In her response, Sison looked back at her half-century career in UST, speaking at length about her time in the Graduate School and Academic Affairs, where she was Assistant to the Rector (the post has since been elevated to Vice-Rector level). Sison thanked the University Rectors under whom she served, from the time of the second Filipino Rector, fr. Frederik S. Fermin, O.P., SThD.
Sison credited frs. Norberto M. Castillo, O.P., PhD and Rolando V. de la Rosa, O.P., PhD, SThD for pushing for UST’s research intensification in their own incumbencies. Sison recalled the challenge given to her by 1990s Rector fr. de la Rosa, who wanted to remove the stigma that UST is a second-rate university of the Philippines. The newly minted Dean Emeritus then recounted how her under leadership in the 1990s, the improvement of the faculty profile through the acquisition of higher degrees and the decongestion of classrooms while providing vital resources through the Library and embracing Internet technology. By the time her term ended in the heydays of the 1990s, UST was counted by ASIAWEEK as one of the country’s top-tier universities—which precipitated the moniker “Big 4 Universities” that the University now enjoys.
Diversifying the Graduate School’s offerings
Sison also thanked former Rectors frs. Tamerlane Lana, O.P., de la Rosa, and Herminio V. Dagohoy, O.P., for entrusting to her the stewardship of the Graduate School for 13 years. In her incumbency, she not only upgraded faculty profile and quality by recruiting younger faculty who also had research and/or industry practice, but also ensured a more research-intensive orientation for programs through the introduction of the Research Colloquium requirement. The diversity of programs offered also intensified, with programs on cultural heritage studies, rehabilitation sciences, and curriculum and instruction, among others, opened.
A heart filled with gratitude
Sison expressed profound thanks to the people she worked with, from the Dominican Fathers, co-administrators, faculty members, support staff, and students, as well as those who share her advocacy in Religions for Peace. “Thank you for being kindred spirits,” said Sison. “I am deeply humbled, and I dedicate this honor to my family: my daughter Christine and her husband, Allen; my grandchildren, Ram and Nina; to my sister Cora and brother Jose; and most of all, to the memory of my late husband, Ramon Sison, who did most of the sacrifice when there was conflict between work and family.”
“Fifty-four years of professional journey at UST was a joyful experience inspired by my family and the patronage of the Blessed Mother. So what can I tell you, young Deans, based on my experiences? Believe in yourself. You can do anything if you put hard work into it. Continue reading and learning and be kind to all in manners and action. Finally, heed what St. Paul wrote in his letter to the Romans: ‘Whatever you do, do it for the greater glory of God.’”