When new friends first learn about Thomas Aquinas College, they are most often attracted to either the spiritual life on campus or the College’s reputation for academic excellence. Usually it takes some time before they see how, in the life of the College, one informs the other: how a curriculum ordered toward the highest truths about nature, man, and God inclines one toward deeper faith, and how the truths of the Faith illumine all facets of learning.
In this respect, Jean and Michael Maiuri of Torrance, Calif., were like most visitors when they came to the campus three years ago. Mrs. Maiuri, a lifelong Protestant working her way toward the Catholic Church, was drawn by the vibrant spirituality. By contrast, Mr. Maiuri, a fallen-away Catholic finding his way home again, was intrigued by the College’s classical curriculum.
Together they recognized in Thomas Aquinas College the twin virtues of faith and reason — the “two wings, on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth,” as Pope John Paul II famously wrote in his 1998 encyclical, Fides et Ratio. These two wings would carry the Maiuris into the Church, and have sustained their profound friendship with the College as members of the President’s Council .
“I had read about Thomas Aquinas College 15 or 20 years ago, and it always interested me,” reflects Mr. Maiuri, a retired electrical engineer. “I admired how the students can explain how great scientists made their discoveries because the students actually perform those same experiments, rather than just reading about them in a book.” Sometime around 2002, the Maiuris briefly visited the campus while passing through the area. They picked up some literature, and not long thereafter, they became benefactors.
“We want to leave a legacy behind when we’re no longer here, and the students here will be such a legacy,” says Mr. Maiuri, noting the good work of Thomas Aquinas College alumni in so many fields and vocations. “That’s a legacy that you can’t improve on.”
With that end in mind, the Maiuris were a natural fit for the President’s Council. Consisting of members who give $1,000 or more each year, the Council raises most of the $4 million required to provide financial assistance to the more than 70 percent of Thomas Aquinas College students whose families could not otherwise afford the cost of tuition. Thanks to the generosity of the President’s Council members, the College has never had to turn away a qualified applicant because of financial need.
As a small expression of gratitude, the College invites President’s Council members to the campus every July for its Summer Seminars. In 2007, the Maiuris attended their first such weekend, which only enhanced their regard for the College.
Just as Mr. Maiuri had first come to appreciate Thomas Aquinas College for its emphasis on reason, at the Summer Seminar, Mrs. Maiuri — then still a Protestant, although already enrolled in RCIA classes — was taken in by the heartfelt examples of faith she witnessed among students, faculty, and fellow benefactors. “I was just so struck by how devoutly the Catholics received the Eucharist and recognized the presence of Christ. That was a witness to me,” she recalls. “The people were also very warm and very friendly; we found the place so inviting.”
The experience “helped me on my journey toward the Catholic Church,” says Mrs. Maiuri. After a year of catechetical instruction and attending Mass with her husband, who had returned to the Faith, she was received into full communion in 2008.
In addition to their loyal, regular support of the College, in 2007 the Maiuris were moved to make an extraordinary gift of spiritual significance, contributing the funds for the south confessional in Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity Chapel . Having spent many years outside of the Faith, the couple have a heightened awareness of the need for the Sacrament of Reconciliation. “To me, it represents the forgiveness and mercy of God,” says Mrs. Maiuri. Adds Mr. Maiuri, “With that sacrament, you can enter into the Eucharist with all of your sins forgiven, so that was an important sacrament for us.”
With the infectious zeal of converts, the Maiuris plan to remain faithful members of the President’s Council. “There are literally thousands of ways to support organizations within the Church, and you have to pick and choose the right ones,” says Mr. Maiuri. “We love the College and will continue to support it.”
“We are humbled by the Maiuris’ generosity,” says Robert Bagdazian, the College’s director of development, “and we are inspired by their faith, which renews our own.”