SANTA PAULA, Calif.—On Saturday, September 30, 2006, over five hundred guests assembled in the Wintergarden ball room of the Beverly Wilshire Hotel in Beverly Hills for a gala dinner to celebrate the 35th anniversary of Thomas Aquinas College. Sir Daniel Donohue, president of the Dan Murphy Foundation and Gentleman in Waiting to His Holiness the Pope, was the honorary chairman of the event; Frederick J. Ruopp, chairman and chief executive officer of Chelsea Management Company, a Los Angeles investment firm, served as dinner committee chairman.
The Keynote Address was delivered by George Weigel, the official biographer of Pope John Paul II and a senior fellow of the Ethics and Public Policy Center where he holds the William E. Simon Chair in Catholic Studies. Describing Thomas Aquinas College as "one of the jewels in the crown of higher education in the United States," he went on to discuss Pope Benedict XVI's recent talk at Regensburg that focused on the urgent need for reason to prevail in the world. Weigel praised Thomas Aquinas College because, in keeping with the Holy Father's plea, "it is dedicated to the logos, to the truth of things, to the wisdom of both Athens and Jerusalem. Because of that commitment it can give us the kind of educated men and women we need in a world where irrationality is rampant, on the march and threatening….They all become men and women of reason who can foster communities of reason where their peers and perhaps even some of their parents, can come to grips with the fact that human beings can know the truth of things, including the moral truth of things…."
President of the college, Dr. Thomas E. Dillon, then told the assembled friends and benefactors that "The one thing that has characterized Thomas Aquinas College from the beginning has been its determination to remain faithful to Christ and the teaching Church and never to compromise its principles….We are devoted, in season and out of season, to the twin pillars of faith and reason and to seeking and speaking the truth, happily making ourselves disciples of that Master who Himself is the way, the truth and the life."
Earlier in the evening, Richard B. Madden, President of the Western Association of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, commented on the growing friendship between the Order of Malta and the college. He then read from a letter of congratulations from the Grand Master of the Order who lauded Thomas Aquinas College for earning "an international reputation for excellence in Catholic higher education by demonstrating that seeking knowledge under the light of faith and reason…is possible, desirable, and necessary to form the truly wise, Catholic person."
During the dinner, the Honorable Michael D. Antonovich, long-time supervisor for the 5th district of the County of Los Angeles, presented President Thomas E. Dillon a proclamation from the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors and praised the college for 35 years of excellence in higher education. James Barrett, Vice Chairman of the college's board of governors and owner of Chateau Montelena Winery in the Napa Valley, then gave the official toast of the evening, saying, "This society we live in is a spiritual desert and Thomas Aquinas College is an oasis…an oasis of truth, beauty, and goodness. For all of us pilgrims who have been associated with it, it has changed and enhanced our lives and made us better people."
Maria Grant, a trustee of the Dan Murphy Foundation and the chairman of the college's board of governors, made the final remarks of the evening, saying, "I thank all of you here and those not present who have done so much to help us fulfill and realize the vision of our founders."
Monsignor Francis J. Weber, archivist for the archdiocese of Los Angeles and director of the San Fernando Mission, gave the benediction at the end of the evening. Filled with hope for the future of the Church because "Thomas Aquinas College is effectively preparing clergy, religious and lay leaders for the next generation," he closed the evening with the prayer of Simeon. Earlier in the evening, Monsignor Weber offered a Mass of Thanksgiving for attendees at which graduate Rev. Sebastian Walshe, O.Praem. ('94) was the homilist; Fr. Walshe is one of Thomas Aquinas College's 42 alumni priests.
Entertainment was provided by members of the Thomas Aquinas College Choir who performed scenes from Gilbert and Sullivan's Mikado. Guests also danced to the music of the Johnny Crawford Dance Orchestra.
Two weeks prior to the gala event, a celebration was held on the college's campus for students, faculty and staff. Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz of Lincoln, Nebraska, was the Keynote Speaker for that event.