In 1982, Thomas Aquinas College was singularly graced to have as its Commencement Speaker Bl. Mother Teresa of Calcutta, M.C ., who not long before had received the Nobel Peace Prize. In high demand that year for graduation ceremonies by colleges and universities around the country, she appeared nevertheless on only three American campuses — those of Harvard, Georgetown, and Thomas Aquinas College.
Also at that 1982 commencement was His Excellency the Most Rev. Juan Fremiot Torres Oliver of Ponce, Puerto Rico, who served as principal celebrant and homilist of the Mass of the Holy Spirit preceding Commencement. It was on that day that he met the “Saint of the Gutters,” forging a friendship that eventually bore fruit in his native country when the Missionaries of Charity established a residence in his diocese and began to practice the corporal works of mercy among the “poorest of the poor.”
Even before the Missionaries of Charity arrived, Bishop Torres had invited one of the College’s graduates, Carl Sauder (’77), to live in Puerto Rico with his family. Mr. Sauder recalls what it took to get Mother Teresa to agree to send her sisters to Bishop Torres’ diocese. “Originally, she had turned him down,” he recounts. “Bishop Torres was rather shocked.”
Later, on meeting Mother in Rome, Mr. Sauder inquired as to why she had declined his invitation, especially since he was taking care of everything financially. She told him that the neighborhood and the house he had chosen were too nice. “She wanted a house in the poorest neighborhood: a wood house, with a tin roof, and the only furniture, four wooden chairs and a table. So Bishop Torres sold that nice house that had been given to him — very well-built, solid concrete, like a bunker — and he purchased one in a very poor neighborhood in Ponce. Mother came, and she sent her sisters. An amazing story.”
There are plenty of poor neighborhoods in Ponce, as Carl and his wife, Kathy (Kraychy ’78), have learned living in Puerto Rico. Like the Missionaries of Charity, the Sauders moved to this island territory of the United States so that Carl could perform a work of mercy, only his was to be a spiritual work.
At that time, the now-retired Bishop Torres had jurisdiction over the Pontifical Catholic University of Puerto Rico, an institution with a 60-year history of fidelity to the Church’s Magisterium, to which its pontifical designation attests. In 1980, hoping to engage for the University professors devoted to the thought of St. Thomas Aquinas, the bishop turned to one of the founders of Thomas Aquinas College, Colonel William Lawton, to ask for leads. Knowing Mr. Sauder’s situation and that he was indeed a devoted Thomist, the Colonel put him in touch with Bishop Torres. After an interview, Mr. Sauder was hired to teach philosophy and began his tenure at the Pontifical University.
Mr. Sauder is now the Vice President for Academic Affairs, overseeing six colleges that enroll 10,000 students — a far cry from the relatively unencumbered life of a simple professor that Mr. Sauder had aspired to when he first moved his family to Puerto Rico.
The Journey Begins
The Sauders’ journey to Ponce began at Thomas Aquinas College when it was a fledgling school located on leased property in Calabasas. A native of nearby Woodland Hills, Carl began his studies at the College in 1971, its first year of operation. After two years of the rigorous program, he took a break to study literature with Dr. John Senior in the Pearson Program at the University of Kansas. Soon though, he longed to return to the College’s more formal, rigorous curriculum.
In the meantime, Kathy Kraychy had come to the College from the Chicago area. Carl returned as a junior at the beginning of her sophomore year, and the two met. During Carl’s senior year, they were engaged to be married, but with Kathy having another year left, Mr. Sauder recalls, the two decided to delay the wedding. “We didn’t want to have any regrets later on. We agreed that Kathy would complete the program, and we would marry the following year.”
By now, Mr. Sauder had a deep love of learning and a desire to teach, so during that year, while taking science courses at nearby California State University, Northridge, he prepared for post-graduate work in philosophy at Université Laval in Quebec by immersing himself in the study of French.
From Canada to the Caribbean
Because Laval was renowned as a center of Thomistic thought, College founders Dr. Ronald McArthur, Dr. Jack Neumayr, and Mr. Marc Berquist had all done their graduate work there, studying under Charles De Koninck. After marrying in the summer of 1978, Mr. Sauder and his new wife moved to Quebec to begin his studies under De Koninck’s student Dr. Warren Murray. In 1980, after completing his thesis on the definition of nature, Mr. Sauder received a master’s degree in philosophy.
The Sauder family had now doubled in size, with two children being born during their time in Quebec. Though Mr. Sauder was working on his doctoral dissertation, it was necessary for him to seek employment to support his growing family. To him, the opportunity in Puerto Rico at the Pontifical University seemed providential.
Thus, Mr. Sauder moved his family from the frigid climate of the 17th century city of Willa Cather’s Shadows on the Rock to the balmy temperatures of a Caribbean island, and he took up his post as a professor of philosophy at Ponce’s Pontifical University. The Sauders spent the better part of that first year adjusting to the new culture and mastering Spanish in order to conduct life both in and out of the classroom. In particular, though he knew the language, Mr. Sauder had to learn the whole technical vocabulary of philosophy and theology in Spanish.
Tapped for Administration
At the beginning of only his second year at the University, Mr. Sauder was appointed to an administrative position as director of the interfaculty department of theology and philosophy. He continued his teaching duties while managing a department consisting of nearly 30 professors, many of them priests. Mr. Sauder explains, “I couldn’t have done it had it not been for my formation at Thomas Aquinas College. I had been very well-prepared both by having studied original texts and by having been well-practiced in the Socratic Method. My ability to defend positions helped me tremendously in the administrative aspects of the job and in explaining the mission of the university.”
After holding that post for nine years, Mr. Sauder hoped to leave administration behind and return full-time to teaching. He was appointed, instead, dean of the College of Arts and Humanities, a position he held for six years. After that, he served as vice president for student affairs for two years, and then as Vice President for Mission.
Defending the University’s Catholic Character
In this capacity, recounts Mr. Sauder, “I was able to defend the Catholicity of the university against the prevailing secularism and the various accrediting agencies that simply do not understand the nature of the pursuit of truth. I owe my ability to do this to my training at Thomas Aquinas College.”
“For example,” he explains, “the Council on Social Work considered that the university was discriminating by teaching that homosexual acts are wrong. I had to explain the Church’s teaching about loving the person while rejecting the sin, making distinctions along the way, in order to preserve our mission as a Catholic institution in accordance with the Church’s moral teaching. In the end, they were convinced.”
Also during his tenure as vice president for mission, Mr. Sauder recounts, “The American Philosophical Association of College Professors sued the University over its nearly unique norm that any professor or employee of the school who is married in the Church but divorces and remarries, is automatically terminated. The Middle States Association of Schools and Colleges, our accrediting body, even got involved. It was difficult, but in the end, we won all the cases.”
A Teacher at Heart
In 2003 Mr. Sauder took up his current post as vice president for academic affairs, but only on the condition that he be allowed to teach one class. Though he now oversees the deans, the department directors, and the faculty of six schools on the University’s three campuses — the College of Arts and Humanities, the Law School, the Business School, the School of Education, the Science School, and the Graduate School — Mr. Sauder makes time for his ethics course.
In fact, Mr. Sauder has never strayed from teaching. “I’ve taught professional ethics to medical students as well as classes on the natural law. Thomas Aquinas College puts one in good standing to distinguish between the tenets of the natural law and the teachings of moral theology. It teaches both philosophy and theology, but it has a clear grasp of the distinction between matters of reason or the natural law and those that are purely of faith. Too often people mistakenly confuse the two. There is a real need for natural philosophy to come to the fore again.”
For this reason, while dedicated to the work of the Pontifical University in Puerto Rico, Carl and Kathy have foregone the free tuition available there to their 12 children, sending them instead to their alma mater.
The Sauders have put down roots in Puerto Rico, a beautiful island that for many years has boasted large families and traditional mores. As Carl recalls, though, “Those first years were really tough. I have to take my hat off to Kathy. The customs and the culture are so different here, there is so much poverty, and she didn’t know Spanish when we first arrived. I had already dragged her to Quebec, and she didn’t know any French. She just never said no.” He adds with a smile, “I was invited to go to India to teach at one point, and I teased her about that. That’s where she drew the line.”
Mr. Sauder will always be grateful to the College for his education, for the wife he met there, and for the introduction it gave him to Bishop Torres Oliver. “I attribute the success I’ve had — without any qualm of conscience — to my formation at the College. I will always remember those first years of Thomas Aquinas College and the sacrifices the founders made to bring it to life.”