Free spirits, super planners, sports fanatics, trailblazers, Olympians, scientists, and singers. Every graduating class is unique, and the class of 2019 is no exception.
The University of Saint Mary bid farewell to 426 graduates this May—each one now empowered with the mission and values Saint Mary has instilled in its graduates for nearly 100 years. A philosophy built atop community, respect, justice, and excellence; one that calls us all to believe in our power to make the world a better place.
Target Set on Physical Therapy: Lydia Paterson
Aiming for the stars—and she’s among them. Not only does Lydia Paterson reign as the youngest American Olympic pistol shooter in history, she earned a seat in our highly-competitive Stefani Doctor of Physical Therapy Program.
“I’ve had my sights set on physical therapy for a while, and I can’t think of a better place to pursue my dream,” said Paterson. “Physical therapy merges my two passions—sport and health—so, it just seemed like a natural fit for me. It’s what gave me the opportunity to pursue the sport I love, while maintaining my physical health.”
Lydia Paterson, a biology major and a STEM scholar,* competed at the Summer Olympics in Rio for 10m Air Pistol. She also took the U.S. Junior National Championship title; she competed at an elite-level with some of the best in her sport for four years; and she still holds the Junior National Record for women’s pistol shooters—scoring 388/400 points (the world record stands at 393/400).
Reflecting on her time at the Games, Paterson said, “I can’t begin to describe what it felt like to represent the United States of America. It was an experience of a lifetime—one that I’ll never forget.”
Paterson retired from international competition following the Olympics, but she continues to train and compete on the local stage. In all this, somehow she still found the perfect balance between studying and shooting, maintaining a 4.0 GPA while at Saint Mary.
“School will always be number one for me,” she said. “I love competing—and always will—but making good grades are my top priority. When I know I’ve done my best in a class, studying, or on an assignment, I can then fully focus on improving in my sport.”
Chemical Greatness: Juan Tirado-Garcia
You may remember hearing about Juan Tirado-Garcia—he made his mark here at Saint Mary. He was the first of his eight brothers and sisters to not only graduate high school, but graduate from college, too. And he didn’t just “make it” to Commencement Day. Tirado-Garcia set himself apart as a leader, a scholar, and an athlete.
Tirado-Garcia earned the top student service honor—the Mother Mary Ancilla Award for Service—along with the prestigious Student Leader of the Year award and the Chase Student Award in Biology.
And if those incredible honors don’t say enough about his involvement and dedication, he also earned a spot on the coveted University of Saint Mary Dean’s List every semester, while serving his fellow students as president of the Student Government Association. He was active in campus ministry and held a seat as a STEM Scholar, and he competed with our Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference championship men’s cross country and track & field teams … amongst other things.
“My parents always thought I had too much on my plate, but I told them that this is the only thing that will help me stand out for graduate school,” explained Tirado-Garcia.
And he was right. Tirado-Garcia, a biology and chemistry double major, earned acceptance into top-tier prestigious research programs (in pursuit of his Ph.D.) at the University of Kansas in their Department of Chemistry and at the University of Oregon in their Institute of Molecular Biology.
“Saint Mary believed in me, and though I put in the work, faculty did everything they could to make sure my dream of earning a Ph.D. would come true,” assured Tirado-Garcia.
After wrestling with the big decision for months, Tirado-Garcia decided the Institute of Molecular Biology is the one. In August, he’ll head for Eugene—and without a doubt, he’ll create a lasting legacy for himself there, too.