Liberal education seeks to bring the student to think deeply and carefully about the most important questions which men face. A certain degree of separation from the workaday world is necessary. The student does not remove himself because these questions have nothing to do with the world — it is precisely because they belong inescapably to that workaday world that they are important and must be faced. But for learning to take effect and to be thorough, one must pause at length from the distractions of life: “A little learning is a dangerous thing, drink deeply or taste not...” The student should attain considerable intellectual maturity during his college years. He should come out as a senior, grown in wisdom, not as a sophomore, a mere “wise fool.” A deep and sustained concentration goes into the process. Education is made up of habits that we need for a whole lifetime. These habits must be well planted, watered, and nourished. They may have to survive many a drought: “A good beginning is more than half of the whole.” This means that for the most part students remove themselves from the hurly-burly of metropolitan life for the serenity of the scholarly life.
The concentration required of the student has other implications. He needs time to become knowledgeable, and he must be knowledgeable to act wisely. Student activism for social reforms, however honorable, is not of the essence of liberal education. Reforming society belongs to the entire community, not just to the colleges. A college serves best in this work by educating well.
The location of Thomas Aquinas College is well suited to this education. Situated 65 miles northwest of Los Angeles in a mountain valley at the confluence of Santa Paula Creek and Sisar Canyon Creek, the 131-acre campus is adjacent to the Los Padres National Forest and includes its own beautiful park with streams and ponds. The campus architecture is in the style of the California missions. Red tile roofs, stucco walls, stately arcades, sweeping lawns and lush beds of flowers provide a beautiful setting for the life of learning. Students and faculty gather for meals, lectures, and social events in St. Joseph Commons. A permanent chapel, Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity Chapel was dedicated in March of 2009. Albertus Magnus Hall, named for the medieval pioneer of science and teacher of St. Thomas Aquinas, provides laboratories and classrooms. St. Augustine Hall is the primary location for seminars and tutorials. With a vaulted 16th century Spanish ceiling and more than 60,000 volumes, St. Bernardine of Siena Library is a favorite place to study. Six beautiful residence halls provide excellent, strictly single-sex student living accommodations. Outdoor athletic facilities, along with nearby beaches and hiking trials, afford opportunity for exercise in the mild California climate.
Thomas Aquinas College is an independent college for men and women. Though the College is devoted to the great Catholic educational tradition, it is open to all students. Faith is a gift. We rejoice with those who have it and we welcome those without it, believing sincerely that this tradition, elevated through the truths of Christian wisdom, is a benefit to all men.
A close-knit community of students and teachers is highly desirable. This is only possible when the size of the school remains small. Thomas Aquinas College admits 102 freshmen each year and has a maximum student body size of about 350.
Because of its unique character, the College attracts students from all parts of the country, from abroad, and from all parts of society. Despite differences of personality and background, students should have this in common: an honest desire to learn and to live the serious life of scholarship.
This life does not demand genius; it requires the will to learn and to be intellectually thorough and honest. Students are encouraged to aid each other in their education. Mixing the exceptional with the ordinary intellect works for the good of both. Young minds tend toward sophistries in difficult matters. The quick can often be preserved from these by the more deliberate who insist upon a clear and accurate accounting of what is said. Mutual assistance creates an esprit de corps that is wholesome in building character and preparing men for society. Every effort is bent in curricular and campus life toward promoting this spirit. Common rooms exist so that students may continue their scholarly discussions during their free time.
The College Community
A college is more than a community. As the Latin source of the word “college” indicates, it is a “sending together on a mission.” This implies something to be accomplished and the need of working with another to do it. Basically, the association is between teacher and student; all other college relationships refer to this one. St. Thomas likens this relationship to that of a doctor and his patient. The doctor ministers to the patient, not to put health into him, but to help the patient’s body gain health for itself. In the case of teacher and student, the objective is the student’s education, his intellectual development. The nature of this relationship excludes opposition between the parties involved. The community of teachers and students, being unified by a common objective, should be organic. The parts, like the organs of the body, cooperate in the work of the whole. Thomas Aquinas College is deliberately small so that the individual is not lost, and his needs are not ignored.
Social order and the well-being of each student make necessary certain rules governing campus life. The teacher (and the College generally) is naturally an agent of the parents, assisting them to bring the minds and souls of the young to maturity. This is serious work. Conscious of this and aware of the inseparability of the intellectual and moral lives, the College sets rules of conduct becoming to Christians. Time-honored Christian values, not contemporary permissiveness, are the basis for these rules.
Since the College is an agent of the parents, it routinely informs them of the academic and disciplinary status of their son or daughter, unless the student is of age and self-supporting. A student who fulfills these two conditions must so indicate, or the usual procedures for informing parents will be followed.
Parents and students should be aware of the following:
Students are expected to maintain their own medical insurance while enrolled. Although the College has general liability insurance, it does not provide medical insurance for any injuries which occur at the College or at College-related events, whether to students, their families, or their friends. Nor does it provide student medical insurance for illness during periods of enrollment at the College.
The College reserves the right to dismiss a student from the program for using illegal drugs or alcohol on campus. Behavior which may result from serious medical or psychiatric illness and which renders the student unable to pursue his studies, or which represents a danger to the student or to others, or which seriously disrupts the orderly functioning of the College, may cause the student to be subject to involuntary withdrawal. Since misconduct off-campus can harm the reputation of the College, interfere with the climate of learning, and indicate that a student is not suited to the program, such behavior also is subject to disciplinary action.
A student who is expelled may be required to leave the campus immediately. In cases serious enough to warrant expulsion, when circumstances and time permit, the Assistant Dean for Student Affairs will contact the parents or guardians of a student who is not of legal age so that they can arrange suitable travel and accommodation for that student and storage for his possessions.
Attire and Residence
Proper dress is proportionate to the dignity of one’s activities; coveralls, for instance, are suited to manual labor but not to divine worship. Accordingly, more formal dress is worn throughout the week in the chapel, offices, classrooms, laboratories, dining hall, and library, and for formal Friday dinners and Sunday brunch. Women wear skirts or dresses of modest length with modest sleeve and neck lines and street shoes or sandals. Men wear slacks, shirts with collars, and dress shoes or sandals with socks.
Men’s and women’s residence halls are always off-limits to the opposite sex.
The private possession or use of alcohol is forbidden on campus. Possession or use of illegal drugs or narcotics is strictly forbidden.
The residence halls are locked at 11:00 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and at 1:00 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights. Students are to be in their residence halls by these times. In special cases students can be admitted later by prior arrangements with the residence hall prefect.
Religious Life Religious exercises are not required of students, but are an integral part of campus life.
The common good of the College community embraces more than purely academic affairs. Liturgical life is to be fostered. Whatever nourishes the faith belongs to religious education; without strong faith, the best theology is only trivial. The Sacraments, the Mass, and devotional practices are important to Catholic education. The College chaplains know the proven spiritual life of the Church and are convinced of its importance.
Three Masses are offered daily in the College chapel, and there are no classes at those times so all may attend. Confessions are heard before and after all liturgical services. Eucharistic adoration is scheduled each day. Morning Prayer, Compline, the Rosary, and other liturgies and private devotions are traditional at the College and are well attended. Religious vocations are fostered and spiritual direction is offered.
Social Life and Athletics
The student activities program complements the academic program of Thomas Aquinas College by providing the recreation so conducive to the successful pursuit of a serious and demanding intellectual life.
Hiking and backpacking trails are readily available in Los Padres National Forest, which borders the campus. The Pacific Ocean is 20 minutes away and provides opportunities for surfing and other water sports at the beach. The harbors at Ventura and Santa Barbara also offer whale watching tours, deep-sea fishing, and excursions to the nearby Channel Islands for diving, snorkeling and sight-seeing. Many cultural and recreational activities are also available and easily accessible in Ventura, Santa Barbara and Los Angeles.
Several formal dances are scheduled each year, with music, entertainment, and refreshments planned entirely by the students. A picnic inaugurates the year’s activities in September, and the fall senior-freshman party enables the students to meet one another vicinand to discuss the aims of the school and the expectations of the freshmen. The spring picnic is the occasion for an alumni reunion, with seminars for the alumni followed by sports, games, and a barbecue dinner.
Formal dinners are held at Thanksgiving and Christmas and on other occasions throughout the year. Faculty members often entertain students in their homes. At year’s end, each class organizes a dinner, brunch, or party for the seniors, who are honored as well at the President’s annual dinner.
Movies are scheduled every week on campus throughout the year. Poetry and drama readings, hosted by members of the faculty, and extracurricular seminars are part of the College life.
Athletics include organized intramural basketball, football, and volleyball leagues as well as membership in off-campus city leagues. Students have joined as individuals and have fielded teams in softball, basketball, women’s soccer, and volleyball for league play in nearby communities. A tennis court and weight-lifting rooms are also available on campus.
“We are studying to find the truth in each of the liberal arts, to see the truth in all of God’s creation. It helps you understand why we are here as rational human beings.”
– Thomas Lawlor (’13)
“Thomas Aquinas College is doing on the undergraduate level exactly what should be done. The College's alumni and alumnae prove that with this kind of education you can go on and do anything.”
– Dr. Ralph McInerny (†)
Scholar and Writer