WASHINGTON DC - In a rare honor, Maryland is issuing starting next month commemorative vehicle tags celebrating the 400th anniversary of the University of Santo Tomas (UST) in Manila.
This is the first of its kind in the United States, according Greg Abella (Class 69, AB Journalism), president of the Potomac, Maryland-based UST Alumni Association in America (USTAAA).
They are now working for similar commemorative plates to be issued by the respective transportation departments of Washington DC and the Commonwealth of Virginia.
The Maryland commemorative tag was designed by Amy Quinto (Class 74, Fine Arts). It features the Quadricentennial celebration logo with the theme “Unending Grace” as well as the name and initials of Asia’s oldest existing university.
The founding of UST predates America’s oldest university, Harvard, which was established 25 years later in 1636.
Pope Benedict XVI declared January 2011 to January 2012 as UST’s jubilee year.
Throughout its history, UST has always held a special place among Popes and Spanish monarchs. Pope Innocent X elevated it into a university in 1645; Queen Isabella II decreed in 1865 that it should manage all schools in the Philippines and hence all diplomas had to be approved by UST professors; Pope Leo XIII made it only the 2nd “Pontifical University” in the world in 1902; and it’s the only place in predominantly Catholic Philippines where Masses were held by both Pope Paul VI in 1970 and John Paul II in 1981 and 1995.
The USTAAA was established only last year, partly out of the desire of school alumnae to join the Quadricentennial celebration even if they are in the US.
Couple Dr. Rey Llacer (Class 58, Medicine) and fellow doctor and wife Zorayda (Class 61, Medicine) formed the interim committee in July that eventually led to the election of its maiden set of officers in November.
There are hundreds of UST alumnae spread out in the DC-Virginia-Maryland and reaching them is a challenge. They have not even started counting old schoolmates in adjacent regions like New Jersey, Connecticut or the Carolinas.
The group’s vice president, Grace Valera (Class 83, AB Asian Studies) said they hope the commemorative tags will drum up the interest of US-based UST alumnae as they’re seen on the roads.