Regis Awards Lydia Peña Honorary Doctorate
(Editor’s Note: Below are the Rev. John Fitzgibbons’s commencement remarks.)
In rare occasions, the Regis University Board of Trustees authorizes the awarding of honorary degrees to individuals who have led lives of distinguished service and professional achievement.
Today, we honor someone whose tireless dedication to her life’s work — as an educator, author, artist and community leader — has been impressive by the sheer scope of work and the number of people she has helped during her many years of service.
Sister Lydia Peña, SL, Ph.D., graduated from Loretto Heights College — now at the heart of Regis University’s Rueckert Hartman College for Health Professions — with a bachelor of science in 1955. She soon entered the Sisters of Loretto in Kentucky, where she made her vows and began a life of service focused on education.
Sister Lydia earned two master’s — in education and art history — before receiving her doctorate in art history from the Union Institute and University in Cincinnati, Ohio.
The Sisters of Loretto Community is well-known for its good works steeped in peace and justice, and Sister Lydia has long been a hardworking extension of this mission.
She has made lasting contributions to the worlds of art, education, philanthropy, disability rights, healthcare and religious life. For 60 years Sister Lydia has served the people of Colorado and the Catholic community.
Her contributions to Catholic education include respected positions at three Catholic institutions in Denver: at St. Mary’s Academy, our own Loretto Heights College and Regis University, where she served both as faculty teaching art history courses and focused on fundraising for scholarships.
Sister Lydia’s scholarship is recognized in the field of art history; she has authored dozens of articles and presentations; she has escorted many students and adults on tours of the world’s greatest houses of art in Europe, Japan, Mexico, Africa and Central America.
Her work has been recognized by many
Sister Lydia’s work has been recognized by many. She is in the Colorado Women’s Hall of Fame and has been designated a Girl Scouts Mile Hi Council Woman of Distinction. She received Regis University’s Civis Princeps award in 2007. (The Sisters of Loretto also received the Civis Princeps award from Regis University — in 2012.)
Her community leadership includes chairing the Commission on Cultural Affairs for the City and County of Denver and chairing the Women’s Foundation of Colorado. Sister Lydia is a founding member of the Rose Community Foundation and served on the board of Rocky Mountain PBS. She is an honorary trustee of the Women’s Forum of Colorado. Sister Lydia was a member of the Blue Ribbon Committee for the Design of the Denver International Airport, and she served on the airport’s Steering Committee of Art.
Finally, for more than 30 years Sister Lydia has made her home at the Bridge Community, the only Catholic group home for women in the state of Colorado that provides a stable and supportive community for women with developmental disabilities.
In recognition of all of this work for so many people throughout decades of service, the Board of Trustees of Regis University, by virtue of the authority vested in it, does hereby confer on Sister Lydia Peña the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa, with all the rights, privileges and honors thereunto appertaining. In testimony thereof, we have affixed our signatures to this document and have certified it with the University seal. Conferred at Regis University, Denver, Colorado, in the month of May in the year of our Lord, two-thousand and nineteen.