Center for Science & Health Professions

Initial plans have been submitted for the proposed Center for Science & Health Professions. The new center will incorporate many energy saving construction techniques while adhering to established aesthetic campus standards. Dr. Robert Ivany, president of the University of St. Thomas states that “We hope the proposed school of nursing will become a model for others to follow.” To learn more about how you can help support the school of nursing at the Center for Science & Health Professions or to make a contribution just click on the following link. (Make a gift to the Nursing Program online)


A message from our president Dr. Robert Ivany

I would like to share with you our plan to bring a top rated school of nursing program to the University of St. Thomas. While I recognize the tremendous benefit having a school of nursing here on campus will be to the University of St. Thomas, it is the city of Houston and our great citizens that stand to gain the most. Unlike traditional school of nursing programs, our vision is to incorporate a spiritual dimension to our program that we feel will set us apart from other institutions offering nursing programs. We hope that our program will be a model for others to follow as we move forward in our efforts to attract the best and brightest candidates for the school of nursing. Together with your generous support we know that we will reach our goal of providing nursing candidates a unique environment to become the future healthcare professionals of this great city.

On behalf of everyone at the University of St. Thomas thank you for helping us take another step in providing quality educational programs that continue to enrich the lives of the people of our great city.

Robert Ivany

President, University of St. Thomas

Our Nursing Advisory Council

(Standing Left to Right) Sheridan Williams /Dr. Robert Ivany (President, University of St. Thomas – Houston)

Beth Papasakelariou (Committee Co-Chair) / Dr. Cristo Papasakelariou (Committee Co-Chair)

Nursing Advisory Chairpersons

Our nursing program is proud to have as its chairpersons Beth (Anton) Papasakelariou, a distinguished nursing alumna of the University of St. Thomas and, Dr. Cristo Papasakelariou, a nationally recognized board certified gynecologist and obstetrician.

Beth, who graduated from the University of St. Thomas School of Nursing in 1980, recently graduated from the University of Houston Law Center and is an attorney as well as a registered nurse. She is co-chairing the University of St. Thomas Nursing Advisory Council with her husband, physician Dr. Cristo Papasakelariou, director of gynecologic surgery at St. Joseph Medical Center.

Beth has been active among the UST nursing alumni since 1980, and she had always hoped that the School of Nursing at St. Thomas would reopen. She was working toward her law degree when UST President Dr. Robert Ivany approached her to chair the Nursing Advisory Council. Despite her demanding academic schedule, she instantly agreed, and asked her husband to join the efforts.

“Once you are a nurse, you never stop being a nurse,” Beth said. “Being a nurse was part of my identity, whether I was employed in nursing or not. At UST, I developed problem-solving and critical thinking skills. The nursing education I received at St. Thomas has stayed with me through my life, and I apply those skills every day. I know that the grounding in liberal arts that I got at St. Thomas made me a better nurse.”

– Beth (Anton) Papasakelariou


“Having the strong background in philosophy, theology, and the humanities along with the hard sciences gave me a better understanding of the whole person. It is really important for health care professionals to care for the whole person – the physical, spiritual and emotional aspects of the person. Nurses are on the forefront of patient care. You have to be a strong patient advocate to help patients and their families navigate the often confusing health care system.”

“Reopening this Nursing School meets a need that is very important not only to me as a physician, but to society in general,” he said. “We need to have qualified individuals to help us with medical care.

There is no question that everybody respects and appreciates nurses. The problem is we need to have more nurses to appreciate.”

– Dr. Cristo Papasakelariou


Nursing Advisory Council Member: Sheridan Williams

Nursing advisory council member and civic leader Sheridan Williams lends her support to the reopening of the School of Nursing because she is committed to the growth of our great city. “Houston is a big city with many needs. The school of nursing will provide much needed nursing students to fill the need of our expanding medical centers here in Houston. With the generous support of our community we will be able to provide a place where students can grow in knowledge and in faith.”

– Sheridan

Dr. Poldi Tshirch, Director of Nursing Program

Dr. Poldi Tschirch, Director of Nursing Program Development, assists the University of St. Thomas in re-establishing the School of Nursing.  Dr. Tschirch came to UST from the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, where she has held leadership roles in the School of Nursing, The Telehealth Center and as Director of Nursing Informatics for UTMB Hospitals and Clinics Nursing Department.

Hiring Tschirch as director was part of the University’s first phase of the three-phase startup that includes plans to raise $20 million to build and endow the School, prepare for accreditation and begin faculty and student recruitment. In phases two and three, the University plans to enroll the first class of nursing students by 2012, and hopes to dedicate a permanent life sciences facility on campus.

Tschirch earned a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Salve Regina College in Newport, Rhode Island in 1974, a Master of Science in Nursing from the University of Texas School of Nursing in Galveston in 1983 and a Ph.D. from the University of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences in 1992.

“I believe that University leaders have made a wise choice in electing to reopen the nursing program at this time. The current nursing shortage, both nationally and in Texas, is expected to increase significantly by 2020 unless the capacity of the nursing education system to produce the graduates needed for the nursing workforce is increased.  The University provides many advantages that specifically address this demand – its fine reputation, the quality of its original nursing program, the support of its outstanding and loyal nursing alumni, excellent faculty and visionary leadership. The program has received enthusiastic support from hospital and nursing leaders in the Texas Medical Center and will be welcomed by the health professions community.”

Dr. Poldi Tshirch

Director of Nursing Program, University of St. Thomas – Houston

A Former Graduate of the Nursing Program

Evonne Cummings ’79

Evonne Cummings will never forget the day she skipped Father Jack Hanna’s Spanish class. Inevitably, she had to face the music when she ran into Fr. Hanna on campus later that day. She never skipped a class again.

Cummings, who graduated from the University of St. Thomas School of Nursing in 1979, recalled the small class sizes and committed instructors at UST created an environment which left no room for wallflowers with lackluster academic performance. Cummings has worked in the nursing field for 30 years, and currently serves as an instructor of nursing at Prairie View A&M University College of Nursing located in the Texas Medical Center in Houston.

“I was really impressed that I would be in a class where my instructors would actually know my name, and they would know when I wasn’t fulfilling my potential,” Cummings said. “At St. Thomas, there is a greater accountability that you don’t find at other schools.”

“In my experience, many nurses don’t always see the importance of integrity, ethics, values, morals,” Cummings said.  “Those ideals and expectations were understood at St. Thomas, and they were embedded in the curriculum. I think a program that emphasizes those values is needed again.”

Working in nursing education, Cummings has a first-hand experience with the shortage of nurses. She explained that nursing schools are limiting their admissions because there is not enough faculty to teach the next generation of nurses.  The nursing faculty shortage exists because baby boomers are retiring, and experienced nurses are taking on other expanded roles in favor of teaching.

“Houston needs the University of St. Thomas School of Nursing to increase the number of nurses, and to produce nurses who have strong, liberal arts backgrounds, critical thinking skills, clinical training as well as values of integrity and ethics and common courtesy and manners,” Cummings said. “UST taught me that it’s not enough to know the scientific rationales, you have to have heart.”

A Former Graduate of the Nursing Program


“A University of St. Thomas nursing diploma delivered the competitive edge in nursing job interviews. When employers saw I graduated from St. Thomas, there was a pause and a silent acknowledgement that I had gone to the best nursing program,” Montondon said. “Without discussing it, they knew I had been better trained than most other job candidates. The University of St. Thomas School of Nursing had an incredible reputation. I have no doubt I got a great job right out of college because I carried a UST degree.

There is a need for good nurses out there, and there is a need for nurses who are trained with the kind of values and skills that UST is known for providing,”

-Mark Montondon

  • July 2018
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