by Michael F. McLean, Ph.D.
Thomas Aquinas College
January 28, 2012
Feast of St. Thomas Aquinas
We are grateful for having this opportunity on the Feast of St. Thomas to look back and rejoice in the countless ways in which God has blessed Thomas Aquinas College over the past 40 years.
Scripture scholars associate a time period of 40 — whether days, months, or years — with a period of testing, trial, or probation; a period which always ends in restoration, revival, or renewal. The 40-year history of Thomas Aquinas College has certainly been marked by its share of testing and trial, but it has also been a period in which the College has established, as Judge Holmes noted, a national reputation for academic excellence, attained a position of leadership among colleges and universities, and prepared itself for a strong and successful future, committed to its mission of Catholic liberal education and confident in God’s goodness and in His providence.
As Judge Holmes mentioned, many individuals deserve thanks for contributing to this work and to making the success of the College possible. This is a very fitting occasion to mention some of those individuals.
We are forever indebted to the College’s founders for the vision, faith, and courage they displayed in establishing this institution. The document that they wrote, A Proposal for the Fulfillment of Catholic Liberal Education, contains a profound account of the nature of Catholic liberal education and of the primacy of St. Thomas Aquinas in that education, and that document has guided this college from its very beginning.
Three of the founders are here thins evening. I would like to ask Ron and Marilyn McArthur, Jack and Bridget Neumayr, and Peter and Kay DeLuca to stand. We owe a great debt of gratitude to them and to the four other founders who are not with us this evening: the late Mark Berquist, Dick George, the late Frank Ellis, and the late Lt. Col. William S. Lawton,. Please join me in expressing our appreciation to the founders of the College who are with us tonight.
We owe a great debt of gratitude as well to longtime faculty members Viltis Jatulis and Larry Shields. Mrs. Jatulis has served as our librarian since the beginning of the College 40 years ago. She started with only a handful of texts on the shelves of a small office, and has built for the College an impressive collection of books and other treasures that are now housed in the beautiful St. Bernardine of Siena Library. We thank and salute Viltis for her years of dedication to and love for Thomas Aquinas College and our students. Larry Shields joined the faculty in 1972 and has been an excellent teacher, an inspiration to students, and a helpmate to his fellow tutors for 39 years. So I would like to ask Viltis and Larry to stand so we can acknowledge them and thank them for their service to the College.
As well, I would like to recognize and thank Terri Dillon, the wife of our late president, Tom Dillon. She has given us eloquent examples of what it means to be a loving and supportive spouse while being fully engaged in the apostolic work of the Church. She is devoted to the College, and has done much to advance and more firmly establish it. Terri, would you please stand?
Finally, I want to thank you — faculty, staff, chaplains, and students, as well as friends, benefactors, and Board members here and across the country, for everything you do to contribute to the College’s success.
Much has been accomplished. After 40 years, perhaps we can say, with Churchill, that we have reached the end of the beginning. It is now our duty to remain faithful to our mission of Catholic liberal education conducted under the guidance of the teaching Church. Only by so doing will we continue to send well-educated young people into the world ex corde ecclesiae — from deep within the heart of the Church — to bring the light and love of Christ to a world plagued by ignorance, doubt, darkness, and sin.
Let us pray and work together to ensure that what has succeeded with God’s help for 40 years continues to be successful and true to its mission for generations to come.
Thank you very much.