B.A., Philosophy, Loyola Marymount University (Los Angeles), 1998; B.A., Theology, Loyola Marymount University (Los Angeles), 1998; M.A., Theology, Loyola Marymount University (Los Angeles), 2001; M.A., Philosophy, University St. Thomas (Houston), 2003; Ph.D., 2012, University St Thomas (Houston); Burkitt Crane Graduate Fellow 2001-2005; Jones Graduate Research Assistantship 2001-2002; Assistant Professor of Philosophy at the University of Houston 2004-2005; Adjunct Professor of the University of Houston, San Jacinto College, and University of St. Thomas (Houston) 2002-2004; Tutor, Thomas Aquinas College, 2005–2016.
David Arias was born in Manhattan Beach and lived a very typical California childhood, which meant moving every couple of years. But there were constants in his life: his family, his love for the beach, and the Catholic education he received at American Martyrs parochial school, Loyola High School, and Loyola Marymount University. Having gone on to receive multiple advanced degrees from prestigious institutions of higher education, first in California and then in Texas, Mr. Arias has since returned to California and put down roots. In 2005, he began his career as a tutor at Thomas Aquinas College.
Mr. Arias has had an abiding interest in both philosophy and theology. Thus, after high school, he attended Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, enrolling in a “double degree” program. Instead of the typical four-year time period necessary to complete most undergraduate degree programs, the “double degree” curriculum took five years to complete, but resulted in two separate bachelor’s degrees — one in philosophy and one in theology.
During the final stages of completing his studies at Loyola Marymount, David was disappointed to learn there were no Thomists in the theology department. Fortunately for him, there were Thomists in the philosophy department, and it was they who told him about a small college about an hour and a half north of Loyola where the study of St. Thomas was the focal point of a rigorous program of Catholic liberal education. Intrigued, David looked up Thomas Aquinas College on the Internet. The mission statement, the curriculum comprised of the great books, everything he found on the website not only increased his desire to learn more, but made him aware of certain deficiencies in his current educational path.
Mr. Arias had investigated the programs of study at other Catholic colleges, but at Thomas Aquinas College he found discipleship, to God and the Church, through St. Thomas. That was the deciding factor for him. He decided to finish the double degree program at Loyola Marymount University, (which he did in 1998, graduating summa cum laude); then he would attend Thomas Aquinas College. “I knew by now that I was called to teach. I could see that going to Thomas Aquinas College would be a way to further my education and make me a better teacher. It was a way to fill in the gaps in my own education.”
Mr. Arias’ father, a building contractor by trade, voiced concern that his son was not being practical. David recalls that his father had a difficult time understanding why his son, after completing what was considered a rather extensive degree program at a respectable institution, would want to start all over again at Thomas Aquinas College, where he would learn, his father assumed, the same old stuff. “He was skeptical of the decision and of how good Thomas Aquinas College really was,” Mr. Arias says. “I sort of had to prove to him that it was a good decision. I remember sitting down with him and the College’s founding document, A Proposal for the Fulfillment of Catholic Liberal Education (the “Blue Book”), showing him the extent of disciplines in the curriculum and the challenging nature of the original texts studied in the program.”
With a degree in mathematics and a job in the “real world” as a building contractor, Mr. Arias’ father had lingering doubts about the practicality and worth of pursuing a liberal education. In his day, students like himself in the science and math programs looked down on the liberal arts students — their studies weren’t tough enough, and more importantly, they weren’t practical. To counter these parental concerns, Mr. Arias gave his father a copy of St. Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologiae. “When he had read some of the arguments,” recalls Mr. Arias, “he declared that they were as logical as those in any math book.”
There was another facet to Mr. Arias’ decision to attend Thomas Aquinas College. Upon graduation from Loyola, he began thinking seriously about entering a seminary. Planning to investigate various religious orders, he believed Thomas Aquinas College would be the ideal place to continue discerning a vocation. “Not only would I be learning so much,” he thought at the time, “but I would be in daily contact with holy priests and good, Catholic families. To be honest, I was leaning more toward the priesthood than the married life when I enrolled at the College.” Mr. Arias remembers his spiritual director advising him to have patience and see which vocation God might present to him.
In 1999, as one of the “old” freshmen, the vocation God had planned for David Arias did indeed manifest itself. “I was a work-study student, originally assigned to the grounds crew. But halfway through my first semester I got switched to the library because somebody wanted out of that job; since I had a good deal of experience as a researcher, people thought I would be a logical replacement.”
Working an overlapping shift at the library was junior Jennaya Doylend (’00). College librarian Viltis Jatulis takes full credit for the match and maintains to this day that she predicted David and Jennaya would make a perfect couple. “By the end of my freshman year, Jennaya and I had decided to get married, and we got engaged that summer. At that point, practical necessities dictated my next step. With marriage and a family on the horizon, I had to complete my education as soon as possible. So, I decided not to come back to the College for my sophomore year, but to pursue graduate studies while Jennaya finished her senior year.”
Mr. Arias returned to Loyola Marymount where he earned a master’s in theology in 2001. After Jennaya graduated, they were married and moved to Texas where Mr. Arias continued his graduate work at the University of St. Thomas in Houston. There, he collected a master’s in philosophy in 2003 and began a doctorate in philosophy, which he completed in 2012. Meanwhile, he and Jennaya have gone on to welcome 11 children into their family.
When the faculty position at Thomas Aquinas College became available, Mr. Arias quickly responded and was invited to the campus for an intensive — and successful —interview process that included a prepared lecture and a seminar with students. “The opportunity to come back to the College as a tutor was a blessing,” says Arias. “It was as though God was giving me a second chance to go through the curriculum. One of the most marvelous things about the College’s program is that here tutors are not only educators, but learners themselves.”
The irony of David’s appointment to the faculty of Thomas Aquinas College is not lost on his father: for David is now in the construction business. The difference is that rather than working with bricks and mortar, David is helping to build minds and souls for Christ.
- The Harrowing of Hell (Crisis, April 17, 2014)
- St. Thomas on the Plurality of Forms (January 16, 2015)