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Local News

University of St. Francis president speaks in support of 'Dreamers'

JOLIET – University of St. Francis President Arvid Johnson said the university will remain committed to “Dreamers” and other first-generation college students Thursday during an Ambassador Day speech.

Johnson described a university with assets at an “all-time high” and expanding in Joliet during his speech to community leaders and alumni.

The gathering for the speech applauded when Johnson described a welcoming environment for children of undocumented immigrants who face an uncertain future amid plans to phase out the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program that has provided protection from deportation.

“Many of our students are also Dreamers,” he said. “Regardless of what takes place in Washington, our commitment will not change to these students. Our doors will remain open to our brothers and sisters, and the opportunities that they pursue here will still be available.”

After the audience applauded the remarks, Johnson said, “We ask you to continue to pray for them in the coming months.”

Johnson said Dreamers are part of a student body that is 40 percent minority and includes many who are the first in their family to go to college.

“I’m proud to say that 64 percent of our freshmen students are first-generation college students,” he said.

He said 80 percent of USF undergraduates are “enrolled in majors that lead to a helping profession.”

Johnson touched on numerous topics, including the university’s financial condition, new construction and student athletics, saying:

• Net assets of the university at $50 million are an “all-time high”;

• The LaVerne & Dorothy Brown Science Hall is scheduled to open in February and “is the first new construction on our main campus in a generation”;

• Eleven of the 22 athletic teams advanced to national tournaments in the 2016-2017 academic year, and, “five of our coaches were named coaches of the year in their sports.”

Attendees at the Ambassador Day speech included Joliet Mayor Bob O’Dekirk, Will County Executive Larry Walsh and several other elected officials, including two state legislators who are USF alumni, Sen. Pat McGuire,
D-Joliet, and Rep. Natalie Manley,

They included leaders and representatives from social service agencies with relationships with USF.

Lynnette Doherty, development manager at the Will-Grundy Medical Clinic, said USF nursing students volunteer at the clinic.

“They’re very involved,” Doherty said. “The students dedicate a lot of their time to the clinic.”

Sister Mary Jean Morris, a USF graduate from the Class of 1965 and a member of the Sisters of St. Francis of Mary Immaculate, the Joliet-based congregation that founded the college, said she was “very happy that it’s doing so well.”

“I’m impressed with the call to service, the call to excellence, and the call for diversity,” Morris said.

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