SANTA PAULA—December 19, 2012—Thomas Aquinas College has received a grant of $3.2 million from the Fritz B. Burns Foundation of Los Angeles for the construction of a new classroom building on its campus located in the foothills of the Topatopa mountains in Ventura County. The new building will be the thirteenth constructed by the college since it acquired the undeveloped site in the 1970s, and will nearly complete the academic quadrangle which is anchored by Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity Chapel. Commenting on the grant, Burns Foundation president Rex Rawlinson said: “When I first met Thomas Aquinas College’s late President, Tom Dillon, he gave me a copy of The Last Days of Socrates. Our discussions led to extensive study on my part, until I was assigning myself homework, such as reading Saint Augustine's Confessions to compare and contrast with Rousseau's Confessions. I realized then the value of what Thomas Jefferson had and I had missed — a classical education. Thomas Aquinas fills a void lamentably abandoned by most colleges."
Says Dr. Michael McLean, president of the 4-year, Catholic college, “We are profoundly grateful to the trustees of the Fritz B. Burns Foundation for this most generous grant. When we first opened our doors, the late Mr. Burns contributed to our founders’ fund, and he supported our efforts for the rest of his life. In the years since, the Burns Foundation has been an extraordinary partner in our endeavor to firmly establish Thomas Aquinas College, contributing to the construction of several buildings on the campus as well as to our financial aid fund. This latest grant continues the legacy of giving that Mr. Burns began and testifies to the depth of the Foundation’s commitment to Catholic liberal education.”
The new building will house eight classrooms designed to facilitate the small, seminar discussions about Great Books that are at the heart of the college’s unique program. It will be named for St. Gladys, the patron saint of Fritz Burns’ beloved wife. The fifth century daughter of a Welsh king, St. Gladys was married to King Gundleus, a convert to Christianity and himself a saint. Together, they raised at least five children who are saints, and one of whom — St. Cadoc the Wise —founded a monastery and college in Wales. In later life, the saintly couple had a vision directing them to leave political life and establish a hermitage; there they lived out the remainder of their lives in celibacy and prayer.
Commenting on the name of the new building, Dr. McLean said, “St. Gladys is a wonderful example for our students, so many of whom go on to marry and raise families themselves. Particularly edifying in the life of St. Gladys is the saintliness of her children and the way in which she integrated an active, political life with the contemplative life.”
Ground-breaking ceremonies will be held in the spring of 2013 and construction will get underway following commencement in May. Completion of the new classroom building is expected in the spring of 2014.
Thomas Aquinas College has developed a solid reputation for academic excellence in the United States and abroad. At Thomas Aquinas College, there are no majors, no minors, or electives because all students acquire a broad and fully integrated liberal education. The College offers one 4-year, classical curriculum that spans the major arts and sciences. Instead of reading textbooks, students read the original works of the greatest thinkers in Western civilization — the Great Books — in all the major disciplines: mathematics, natural science, literature, philosophy, and theology. Rather than listening to lectures, they engage in rigorous Socratic discussions about these works in classes of 15-18 students. The academic life of the college is conducted under the light of the Catholic faith and flourishes within a close-knit community, supported by a vibrant spiritual life. Genuinely committed to upholding civic virtue and leading lives dedicated to the good of others, Thomas Aquinas College graduates enter a wide array of fields where they are a powerful force for good in the Church and in the culture. Well-versed in rational discourse, they become leaders in education, law, medicine, journalism, public policy, military service, and business. In addition, a steady 10% of alumni go on to the priesthood or religious life.