Dr. Stella S. Evangelista and Dr. Jose L. Evangelista (both at center) receive plaques from officials at Madonna University.

‘Filipino-American physician couple are Madonna

University’s 2017 commencement speakers,

recipients of honorary doctorate degrees’


Editor, Filipino Star News
(Michigan edition)

As I reported recently in my column (Plain Rice — Filipino Star News, Michigan Edition), I was squirming in shame while I was watching the news on CNN.

The news was about the extremely derogatory remarks made by U.S. officials about President Duterte in connection with President Trump’s invitation to the Philippine President Duterte to visit the White House.

I felt then that the unsavory comments made me lose my pride of being a Filipino.

A few days later on May 13th, however, I regained my sense of Filipino pride.

That was when I attended the graduation ceremonies for students of Madonna University at the Suburban Collection Showplace in Novi, Michigan.

Madonna University is an independent, Catholic liberal arts university located in suburban Livonia, Michigan, on the western perimeter of metropolitan Detroit.

Founded by the Felician Sisters in 1937, the university offers more than 100 undergraduate majors toward associate and bachelor’s degrees, as well as 35 master’s programs in clinical psychology, business, criminal justice, education, history and health professions.

In May 2009, Madonna began offering its first doctorate, the Doctor of Nursing Practice.

Among the largest Catholic, Franciscan universities in the country, Madonna University is situated on an 80-acre wooded campus.

In a press release issued by Madonna University’s President Michael A. Grandillo, Ph.D., he stated, “We are honored the Evangelistas will speak to our graduates this year, and we are pleased to bestow on them honorary doctorates. Medical trailblazers, philanthropists and entrepreneurs, these accomplished doctors have achieved and led in a variety of endeavors, and they are staunch supporters of Catholic higher education. The Madonna community is honored that they agreed to take part in this exciting day of celebrating student success.”

Michigan’s Fil-Am power couple, Drs. Jose and Stella Evangelista, became the first Filipinos, first Asian and first couple to address Madonna University graduates and to be conferred honorary doctorates by the University.

The whole-day event was highlighted by the speeches of the two honored guests — in the morning, Dr. Stella S. Evangelista and, in the afternoon, her husband, Dr. Jose L. Evangelista, who is the Honorary Consul General of the Philippines in Michigan.

As a Filipino by heart and mind, I saw the couple’s selection as guest speakers at a single, important event as a rare, unprecedented honor not only for the Evangelista family but also for the entire Filipino-American community.

The honor could well be in recognition of outstanding Filipino achievements.


Dr. Jose L. Evangelista gets his cap & gown; and (photo below) delivering his speech at commencement.


Aside from their being guest speakers, the Evangelista couple were also conferred honorary doctorates by the 80-year-old Madonna University.

The consul received an Honorary Doctorate in International Relations, while Dr. Stella was given an Honorary Doctorate in Humane Letters.

Realizing the significance of the moment, I felt that Filipinos as a race stood tall at the event.

And I presumed that the other Filipinos in the audience — who included Dr. Orly Sison and Dr. Fidelina Baraceros-Bouffard — also fully appreciated the significance of what was unfolding on the stage.

The consul showed that he and his wife truly deserve the honor when he delivered his speech.

He spoke with his customary wit and eloquence.

In one light moment in his speech, he gave the audience a sample of his witticism.

He talked about his marital partnership with Dr. Stella.

He said, “After we got married, we had an agreement — Stella will make all the minor decisions, and I will make all the major decisions. After many years of partnership, though, I have yet to make a major decision.”

Recalling their struggles as new immigrants in Michigan, he said he and his wife came to the U.S. bringing with them only their diplomas and $100.

(Both graduated with honors from the University of Santo Tomas with degrees in medicine in the same year — 1968. In Michigan, they lived in a basement room with only one window.)

Their struggle was uphill, but they eventually made it big.


Dr. Stella S. Evangelista receiving her cap & gown. Photo below shows her speaking at commencement.


At present, they own successful companies, which include the Maple Manor Rehab and Assisted-Living facilities and a CNA Learning Center.

They also own apartments, commercial buildings and a mansion with sprawling grounds.

The consul said that while they were encountering difficulties after difficulties, they were guided by 10 principles.

These are:

•Prioritize and set your goals. Look deep into your heart and question your values. Think about what is important to you because unless you have a clear vision of what is important to you, you cannot work towards it.

•Be fearless and persistent in the pursuit of your goals. Don’t be afraid to dream, think and visualize. Don’t be afraid to break new grounds. What you will regret in life is not what you have done, but what you have failed to do because in the final analysis, it is not your high IQ that will hitch your wagon to the stars, but the will to win and the determination to succeed.

•Gain strength from adversities. Do not let adversities and challenges slow you down. Do not be afraid to make mistakes. When you fail once, try again. When Walt Disney submitted his first drawing, he was told he had no talent.

•Always do the right thing. It takes many years to build your reputation, but it takes only one second to lose it. Travel the path of integrity without looking back for as the saying goes, “there is never a wrong time to do the right thing.”

•Never stop learning. Embrace new ideas and have the humility to accept that there may be better ways to achieve your goals.

•Always do more than what is expected of you. No one can achieve greatness by simply doing what is expected of him; it is what you do beyond what is required that will bring you to the pinnacle of success.

•Know your circle of trust. We live in concentric circles. The outer circle is our work and career. The inner circle is our circle of family, close friends and our life with God. It is here where we get much support, meaning and fulfillment in life.

•Get involved. Actively participate in the community you live in by joining and contributing to professional organizations, church and school. To elucidate his point, the consul quoted Philippine National Hero Dr. Jose Rizal who had said, “It is a useless life that is not consecrated to a great ideal. It is like a stone wasted in the field without becoming a part of any edifice.”

•Remember your roots. Always look back and never forget where you came from, for as the saying goes, “Ang taong hindi marunong lumingon sa pinanggalingan ay hindi makakarating sa paroroonan” (A person who does not know how to look back to where he came from will never reach his destination).

•Leave a legacy. Make a positive impact on the lives of people you care about — your family, your community, your alma mater and the country of your birth, the Philippines.

When the consul ended his speech, the appreciative audience gave him a standing ovation.

Hearing the applause, I felt as if I was in Cloud 9.

Yes, I lost and found my sense of Filipino pride.

Drs. Joe and Stella Evangelista made me feel proud again of being Filipino.

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