Louis Hannegan, Managing Editor
Christus Health CEO Ernie Sadau will give the commencement address at this year’s graduation.
Sadau plans to speak on the future of Catholicism and healthcare in the United States, a country where some see recent regulations as beginning to drive a wedge between the two. Sadau has requested to meet with three students to refine his speech topic further.
Appointed CEO in 2011, Sadau leads one of the top-ten largest Catholic health systems in the United States, with more than 40 hospitals and facilities in seven U.S. states and six states in Mexico. Christus Health has recently consolidated its corporate offices in Irving.
University of Dallas President Thomas Keefe – whose distinct honor it is to invite each year’s commencement speaker – chose to invite Sadau for his leadership in the world of Catholic healthcare.
“I’m very excited about Ernie Sadau. He’s an emerging leader in the Catholic Church, particularly in the area of healthcare,” Keefe said. “Christus Healthcare is dealing on the cutting edge with the federal governments regulations with respect to healthcare and the Catholic faith. So I couldn’t think of anybody who would be more timely than the CEO of the fastest growing healthcare group in the United States.”
Holding a master’s degree in hospital administration from Southwest Texas State University in San Marcos, Texas, and a bachelor’s degree from the University of North Texas, Sadau has devoted his professional life to performing executive work for various Catholic health systems companies since the early 1980s.
Keefe sees Sadau’s leadership in this ever more-challenging field as a prime opportunity both to impart a final bit of education to the class of 2013 and to showcase UD to the broader Dallas-Fort Worth community.
“We try to remember that this is an educational enterprise. A quality educational environment allows you to hear someone who is going to bring added value to your education,” Keefe said. “Catholic and healthcare – I don’t know of any topic that is more timely.”
“We’re going to educate you up until the last minute, until you get your degree,” Keefe said with a smile.
Keefe also sees Sadau’s selection as an opportunity to showcase UD as a “quality academic institution.” According to Keefe, commencement is the highest public relations opportunity for the university and thus an ideal time to market the university as such an institution.
Other figures suggested to Keefe by faculty or students to give the commencement address included Robert P. George, Mary Ann Glendon, Justice Antonin Scalia and Justice Clarence Thomas, whose name has been suggested in past years.
Keefe said that cost and involvement in politics are the main obstacles for speakers like Thomas and Scalia.
“One is cost. In order to bring a national public figure, there are certain costs attendant to it which we try to avoid,” Keefe said when asked about rumors that Thomas supposedly is not allowed to speak at UD.
“Secondly, we have a number of leaders on the board – and count me among them – who try to stay away from political figures. A supreme court justice is a quasi-political figure,” Keefe said. “There is no ideological opposition to Clarence Thomas, Antonin Scalia. If it were possible, we’d certainly welcome the opportunity to bring someone of that stature to the university.”
Keefe said he is looking forward to Sadau’s speech and hopes others will derive similar benefit from what he believes will be an engaging presentation on one of the most timely topics for UD.
“He honors us by agreeing to serve as a commencement speaker. I’m excited about the opportunity.”