University of Mary 63rd Commencement Ceremonies are April 27

Graduates switching their tastles

Bishop Kagan and Dale Ahlquist to receive honorary doctorate degrees, Bishop Vetter to give commencement speech

2024 Graduates

BISMARCK, ND — On Saturday, April 27, the University of Mary will award degrees to 1059 graduates at its 2024 commencement. The ceremony begins at 2:30 p.m. in the Bismarck Event Center, Seventh Street and Front Avenue, Bismarck.

Founded and sponsored by the Benedictine Sisters of Annunciation Monastery of Bismarck, the University of Mary will award 584 bachelor’s degrees, 334 master’s degrees and 141 doctoral degrees. These students come from 45 states representing 14 countries.

Sixty-seven received the summa cum laude designation, 92 earned magna cum laude designation and 152 students received the cum laude designation. Additionally, 21 students have earned the Certified Schafer Leader designation from the Harold Schafer Emerging Leaders Academy, and 79 students are recognized as Year-Round Campus graduates for fulfilling their degree in 2.5 years.

The 2024 commencement is a ceremony of firsts for Mary: the first students to earn certificates in sacred music; the first students graduating with a Master of Science in Bioethics who went through the new undergraduate concentration; and the first graduate from the new Saint Teresa of Calcutta Community for Mothers.

Honorary Doctorate Degree Recipients

— The Most Reverend David Dennis Kagan, D.D., P.A., J.C.L.

— Dale Curtis Ahlquist, M.A.

Bishop David Kagan was born in Waukegan, Illinois, on November 9, 1949, and grew up in Spring Grove. He holds a BA in Philosophy from Loras College in Dubuque, Iowa, as well as an STB, an MA in Sacred Theology, and a licentiate in Canon Law, all from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. Bishop Kagan was ordained to the priesthood in 1975. He served the Diocese of Rockford, Illinois, in several parishes, both as associate pastor and pastor. He has served as chaplain for Maria Linden and for the Poor Clare Colettines in Rockford. He has been director of the Office of Communication and of Vianney Oaks Retirement Home. 
Bishop Kagan was named a Prelate of Honor of His Holiness and received the title of monsignor in 1994. He was admitted to the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem as a Knight Commander in 1995. In July 2011, he was invested in the Ferraiolo of a Prelate to signify his elevation to the title of Protonotary Apostolic Supernumerary of the Supreme Pontiff, which is the highest level of honor for a monsignor. 
Bishop Kagan became the seventh Bishop of Bismarck in 2011. In 2012, Pope Benedict XVI named Bishop Kagan apostolic administrator of the Diocese of Fargo. Bishop Kagan began a three-year term on the Board of Governors in St. Louis, Missouri, in 2014. He also currently serves as a member of the Bishops’ Committee for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs and the Bishop’s representative to the Roman Catholic-Evangelical Dialogue. 

Dale Ahlquist is president of the Society of Gilbert Keith Chesterton, creator and host of the EWTN series “G.K. Chesterton: The Apostle of Common Sense,” and Publisher of Gilbert Magazine. He is the author of six books and has edited fourteen. He is a Senior Fellow of the Chesterton Library at London and has been called “probably the greatest living authority on the life and work of G.K. Chesterton.”

Mr. Ahlquist has given more than 900 lectures at universities, conferences, and other institutions, including Yale, Columbia, Cornell, Notre Dame, Oxford, the Vatican Forum in Rome, and the House of Lords in London.

He is also the co-founder of Chesterton Academy, a top-rated Catholic classical high school in Hopkins, Minnesota, which is the flagship of the growing Chesterton Schools Network. This network includes nearly 60 high schools in the U.S., Canada, Italy, Iraq, and Sierra Leone.

Commencement Speaker
— The Most Reverend Bishop Austin Vetter

Bishop Austin Vetter was born in Linton, N.D., on September 13, 1967. After graduation, he attended North Dakota State University and Cardinal Muench Seminary in Fargo, N.D. After receiving his Bachelor of Arts Degree in Philosophy, he studied at the Pontifical North American College and the University of St. Thomas Aquinas in Rome, Italy. 

Bishop Vetter was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Bismarck in 1993. His first assignment was serving as Parochial Vicar at the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit and he taught religion at St. Mary’s Central High School in Bismarck from 1994 to 1999. In North Dakota, he served as pastor of St. Martin’s Catholic Church in Center, St. Patrick’s Church in Dickinson, St. Leo the Great in Minot, and as Rector of the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit in Bismarck.

From 2004 to 2007, he was an adjunct faculty member for the Institute for Priestly Formation at Creighton University in Omaha, Neb. In the Diocese of Bismarck, he served on the Presbyteral Council, Priest Personnel Board. He was Vicar for the Permanent Diaconate, Master of Ceremonies to the Bishop, and Director of Continuing Education of the Clergy. He served as Director of Spiritual Formation at the Pontifical North American College in Rome, Italy, from July 2012 through June 2018 and most recently as Rector of the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit in Bismarck.

In 2019, he was announced as Pope Francis’ choice to serve as Bishop of the Diocese of Helena. He was ordained and installed as Helena’s 11th Bishop by Archbishop Alexander Sample, Archbishop of Portland, on November 20, 2019.

The 2024 University of Mary graduation ceremonies can be viewed through live streaming at:


Anyone who wishes to learn more about the University of Mary can do so at or by contacting an admissions representative at, or by calling (701) 355-8030. The University of Mary is one of only 15 Recommended Cardinal Newman Society Residential Colleges and Universities in the US.

About the University of Mary: True to its motto “lumen vitae”—The Light of Life—the University of Mary offers education for the whole of life through cutting-edge professional programs and graduate programs animated by moral courage and leadership in chosen professions and service to the community. A private, co-educational Catholic institution, the University of Mary welcomes students of all faiths and backgrounds.

A Christian, Catholic, Benedictine institution founded in 1959 by the Benedictine Sisters of Annunciation Monastery, Mary offers nearly 60 bachelor’s, 18 master’s, and five doctoral programs—in Business Administration, Education, Nursing Practice, Occupational Therapy and Physical Therapy. The 20-sport Athletic Department adheres to its Greatness Through Virtue mission under the governance of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), American Collegiate Hockey Association (ACHA), and the USA College Clay Target League. With more than 3,800 students, Mary has locations in North Dakota, Montana, Arizona, Rome, Italy, as well as vibrant online offerings.