Close to 700 University of St. Thomas students are expected at a special event on campus today in honor of retiring president Fr. Dennis Dease.

In February, the school announced Julie Sullivan would take over as the new president of the St. Paul Catholic school, the largest private college in Minnesota with close to 10,000 students.

The first lay person to lead St. Thomas, Sullivan, 55, served as executive vice president and provost at the University of San Diego. St. Thomas officials have said Sullivan is expected to officially start as president in July.

At Tuesday's event, "students will say their goodbyes and thank-yous to retiring Father Dennis Dease at a celebration that starts at 11:45 p.m.... on the lower-quadrangle’s John P. Monahan Plaza. Dease is retiring on June 30 after serving 22 years as St. Thomas’ president," according to a released statement from the school.

A free lunch as well as ice cream and cupcakes will be served on the plaza. Hundreds of students have already shown their gratitude by signing thank-you banners that will hang in the Anderson Student Center.