UST confers Dean Emeritus title upon Prof. Lilian Sison

In recognition of her excellent and pioneering leadership, exemplary scholarship, meaningful and dedicated 54 years of untarnished service to the University, the University of Santo Tomas honored Prof. Lilian J. Sison, Ph.D., with the title Dean Emeritus on November 13, 2023 at the Dr. Robert Sy Grand Ballroom of the Bl. Buenaventura García Paredes O.P. Building.

“Today’s recognition ceremony does not only acknowledge past accomplishments. It is a moment of grace to inspire, encourage, and motivate all of us witnessing this solemn event, underscoring the enduring impact one person can have on higher education. Today, we celebrate a leader whose influence transcends the confines of our institution, leaving a profound mark on students, academic and support staff, and the broader academic community,” said the Vice Rector for Academic Affairs Prof. Cheryl R. Peralta, DrPH.

            UST Graduate School Dean Prof. Michael Anthony Vasco, Ph.D., who previously served as the GS faculty secretary under then-GS Dean Sison, commended Dr. Sison’s impeccable eye for detail. “[She] demanded high-quality outputs from coworkers but also enabled them to learn how to meet those standards through her sincere mentorship and her efficient, accurate, and decisive judgment and actions. All these were tempered by foresight, calculated risk, innovation, insight, and wisdom.”

Dean Sison has served the University in many administrative positions for over 42 years, beginning as the Faculty Secretary of the Graduate School from 1981 to 1987. She has also been the Director for Faculty Evaluation and Development from 1987 to 2000, the Assistant to the Rector for Academic Affairs and Research from 1990 to 1995, and the Assistant to the Rector for Academic Affairs from 1995 to 2000.

From 2000, she spent 13 years as Dean of the UST Graduate School, where she spearheaded the restructuring of curricula to make graduate programs more research-intensive with the introduction of mandatory courses in the Research Colloquium for theses and dissertations, the expansion of graduate program offerings, and the establishment of the extension centers in the Graduate School, such as the Psychotrauma Clinic, the Center for Conservation of Cultural Property and Environment in the Tropics, and the Center for Continuing Professional Education and Development.

Through her visionary leadership, she reformed instructional standards, such as reducing class size, furthering the training of academic staff on pedagogy and the writing of learning materials, conducting management workshops for academic officials, supervising the implementation of faculty classification and promotions, and much more. All these efforts bore fruit as it improved the quality perception of UST, and during her term, the University was ranked among the top tier universities in the ASIAWEEK survey regarding the top universities in Asia.

In addition to her academic work, Dr. Sison engaged in faith-based advocacies during her term as Secretary-General of Religions for Peace (RfP), Philippines and Chair of the Asia Pacific Women of Faith Network. She organized multi-faith action programs and capacity building projects on mental health and trauma healing for women groups, the internally displaced youth and the armed forces of the Philippines in the conflict areas of Central Mindanao, child protection programs in partnership with faith–based communities, and inter-faith forums and conferences at the national and international levels. Dr. Sison was the only Woman of Faith selected by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines and the Vatican for the Meeting of Pope Francis with Religious Leaders during the 2015 Papal Visit.

UST Rector Very Rev. Fr. Richard G. Ang, O.P., Ph.D., praised her “relentless determination and fruitful action,” and acknowledged the honoree as an “intellectual powerhouse who keeps pushing the boundaries of thought and assisting others to reach their full potential” and as “someone whose actions align with her deeply held values.”

As the Founding Director of the Office of International Relations and Programs (OIRP) since 2013, Dr. Sison is “an architect and weaver of sustainable collaborations who is instrumental in building alliances and networks for the University. She expanded the influence and reach of the University globally through an intensive campaign of pursuing international alliances, partnerships, and networks,” said Fr. Ang. Through these efforts, UST achieved a rating of five stars in Internationalization given by Quacquarelli-Symonds.

            In her message, Dean Sison reflected on her wholehearted service to UST and shared her deepest gratitude to those she has worked with, including the Dominican Fathers, most especially the Rectors and top administrators for their trust and confidence in her abilities, as well as their spiritual gifts, to the academic and non-academic staff in the offices she was assigned, her fellow administrators and kindred spirits, the Office of International Relations and Programs, her colleagues and students in the Chemistry department, and most importantly, her family, to whom she dedicated this honor.

            Her service was a “joyful professional journey that gave me varied experiences. I have traveled far and wide, from the gilded steps leading to the Clementine Hall of the Vatican to the halls of the International Court of Justice and to many others. I ate with soldiers and rebels at their barracks, slept next to displaced women and children in Mindanao. I have shaken hands with Popes, Cardinals, Prime Ministers, Presidents, First Ladies, Queens, Princesses and Nobel Laureates. I was in constant interaction with visionary leaders in education, in high-level meetings at the international and local levels. The sum of these many experiences have shaped my character, the values I espouse, and my disposition in life,” said Dean Sison.

“Fifty-four years of professional journey at UST was a joyful experience inspired by my family and the patronage of the Blessed Mother. If I were to look back in time, and meet my 20-year-old self. What advice would I give her? I was an average student who did not graduate with Latin honors, and yet today, I am receiving this honor. So what can I tell you 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.’”

“When the time comes that I will be knocking on the door of St. Peter, and he would ask me, ‘What did you do with the talents God gave you?’ I would just show him my [Dean Emeritus] medal,” Dean Sison concluded.

The title of Dean Emeritus is bestowed upon deans who have devoted a minimum of nine cumulative years to an academic unit. Dean Sison is the latest to join UST’s roster of Dean Emeriti, which includes Dr. Magdalena Alonso-Villaba, Dr. Norma Lerma, Dr. Amado Dimayuga, Dr. Carmen Kanapi, and Dr. Lourdes Custodio.

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