Faith in Action Blog
At its meeting on Monday, the City Council of Troy, Michigan, appointed a new member to its ranks — Paul McCown, a graduate of the Thomas Aquinas College Class of 2010.
A native of Troy (population: 83,000) with a longstanding interest in politics, Mr. McCown has served on the city’s Zoning Board of Appeals for the last three years. In 2015 he ran for the City Council in a competitive race, but came up short. A year later, however, a sitting member resigned, and the remaining members of the council undertook a comprehensive selection process to fill the vacancy. That process culminated in Mr. McCown’s coming before the Council for a public interview on September 19, which can be seen in the video below:
By meeting’s end, the Council voted to appoint Mr. McCown, who promptly took his oath and immediately began voting on city matters. His term will continue until next November, at which point he will be up for election.
Yet governance is only a part-time job for Mr. McCown, who, by day, is the CFO and executive vice president of Dataspeed, Inc., an engineering firm that specializes in the design and construction of autonomous cars and mobile robots. The 30-person firm has partnered with a wide range of clients including Ford, General Dynamics, and the U.S. Army Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center. “Our staff consists entirely of engineers except for a bookkeeper and then me,” he laughs. “So I have oversight and responsibility for finance, accounting, HR, marketing, pretty much all departments except for engineering.”
After graduating from the College in 2010, Mr. McCown earned a master’s degree in economics and American politics at Pepperdine University and then returned to Michigan, where he held several positions in the financial sector before joining Dataspeed. Yet it is not his advanced degree, but his liberal education, he says, that has most prepared him for a career in finance.
“The formulas that I write and the models that I build, all of them are underpinned by logical thinking. You have to understand which pieces of the puzzle need to go where, what comes first, what comes later, if/then statements, all that kind of thing,” he explains. “Practicing deductive reasoning, thinking it, breathing it, drinking it the way we do at Thomas Aquinas College — that was really a game-changer for me.”
In addition to his work as a public official and a corporate executive, Mr. McCown is, first and foremost, a husband and father, having wed classmate Jacinta (Alarcon ’10) in 2012. The couple has two sons, Paul Jr. (3) and James (1½), and due to arrive next February is the family’s first daughter, Rosie, named for the McCowns’ late classmate Rosie Grimm (’10).
It has been a big week for alumni Dominicans in the Order’s Western Province! First, on September 1, Br. John Winkowitsch (’04) and Br. Athanasius Thompson (’12), entered the novitiate, receiving the habit of the Order of Preachers, at St. Dominic’s Catholic Church, San Francisco:
First-year Western Dominican novices: Br. John Winkowitsch (’04), top-center, and Br. Athanasius Thompson (’12), bottom-left (photo: Western Dominican Novitiate)
Br. Athanasius signs the Vestition book. (Photo: Western Dominican Novitiate)
Then, on September 3, five brothers professed first vows on Saturday, including Br. Patrick Rooney (’15):
Br. Patrick Rooney (’15) (Photo: Western Dominican Novitiate)
Below is a photo of all the Western Province’s first- and second-year novices with Novice Master Rev. Anthony Rosevear, O.P.
There are currently eight alumni among the Western Province Dominicans: Rev. Augustine Hilander, O.P. (’99), Rev. Michael Hurley, O.P. (’99), Rev. John Tom Mellein, O.P. (’99), Rev. John Marie Bingham, O.P. (’00), Br. John Winkowitsch, O.P. (’04), Br. Richard Berquist, O.P. (’10), Br. Athanasius Thompson, O.P. (’12), Br. Patrick Rooney, O.P. (’15).
Alumnus Paul Lazenby (’10), director of the College’s Annual Fund, is, in his spare time, an amateur aerial photographer. Using his trusty drone, he recently produced the above video, which beautifully captures the academic quadrangle, the walkable Stations of the Cross, the lower campus, and Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity Chapel. It also features music by the Thomas Aquinas College Choir. Enjoy!
Members of the Life Legal Defense Foundation, including Vice President for Legal Affairs Katie Short (’80, left) and President Paul Blewett (’85, right)
In a Riverside, California, courtroom last week, a legal team led by two Thomas Aquinas College graduates delivered a blow to the state’s new assisted-suicide law.
Attorneys from the Life Legal Defense Foundation — whose vice president for legal affairs is Katie Short (’80) and whose president is Paul Blewett (’85) — sought an injunction against California’s End of Life Option Act, which went into effect in June. The attorneys argued that granting doctors the power to help kill their patients deprives sick and vulnerable Californians of the constitutional rights to due process and equal protection.
Although Life Legal did not obtain its sought-after injunction, it achieved an important victory nonetheless. In his ruling, Riverside County Superior Court Judge Daniel Ottolia granted that the six physicians and the nationwide medical group that Life Legal represents have standing to challenge the law, and that their case is “ripe” — that is, the End of Life Option Act may cause actual (not just hypothetical) harm to those it affects. As a result, Judge Ottolia rejected the state’s attempt to block Life Legal’s lawsuit, thereby allowing the challenge of this unjust law to continue.
Please pray for Mrs. Short, Mr. Blewett, Life Legal, and their continued success!
A powerful earthquake struck central Italy early this morning, just 6.5 miles southeast of Norcia, birthplace of Sts. Benedict and Scholastica, and home of the Benedictine community at Monastero San Benedetto, of which three Thomas Aquinas College alumni are members. The earthquake, which had a preliminary magnitude of 6.2, has been followed by some 200 aftershocks, including one with a 5.5-magnitude tremor. It has reportedly leveled homes, churches, and shops, killing at least 120 people.
The monks of Norcia report that they and their guests have experienced no serious injuries, but several of the buildings in their 1,000-year-old monastery have suffered significant damage. Rev. Benedict Nivakoff, O.S.B., told Catholic News Service that the Basilica of St. Benedict, which the monks serve, suffered “considerable structural damage” and that its façade “seems to have detached” from the rest of the building. As a precautionary measure, the brothers are temporarily relocating to the International Benedictine headquarters in Rome, although two monks will remain in Norcia to keep watch over the basilica and monitor the developing situation.
Please pray for the Monks of Norcia, for the people of central Italy, and, most especially, for the eternal rest of all those who have died.
Ryan Truss (’16)From as far back as he can remember, Ryan Truss (’16) has sensed a vocation to the priesthood. “For a time I considered entering seminary right after high school, but I decided to come to the College first,” he recalls. “I thought the education offered here would be a really good grounding for a priest and also a good way to discern if that was what God was calling me to. I came here and met a lot of great friends who supported me in my discernment and showed me what it’s like to live a joyful, authentically Catholic life. And the chaplains were amazing examples of holiness.”
On August 15, the Feast of the Assumption, Mr. Truss will enter Kenrick-Glennon Seminary for his native Archdiocese of St. Louis. He is the Class of 2016’s second seminarian to date: On August 6, classmate Edward Seeley entered St. John’s Seminary in Camarillo, California, for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.
“Studying theology draws the students here into a closer friendship with God and helps us to prioritize what is important in life,” reflects Mr. Truss. As such, he adds, his time at the College “helped me to see the need for the priesthood, and how much priests are needed in the world to bring people the sacraments so that they can love God, grow closer to Him, and inherit eternal life.”
At Kendrick-Glennon, Mr. Truss hopes to study under a fellow alumnus, Dr. John Finley (’99), a professor of philosophy. By God’s grace, he will be ordained to the priesthood in 2021. Please keep him in your prayers!
Rev. Samuel Ward, Associate Director of Vocations for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, joins Edward Seeley (’16) and his father, tutor Dr. Andrew Seeley (’87), at Commencement 2016
On Saturday a member of the College’s most recent graduating class, Edward Seeley (’16), will enter St. John’s Seminary in Camarillo, California, to study for the priesthood for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.
“I’ve been discerning a vocation since about age 9,” reflects Mr. Seeley, the third son of tutor and fellow alumnus Dr. Andrew Seeley (’87). “I’ve had a lot of priests who really inspired me, both in the parish and in my family. I’ve thought about it a lot, but at the College, I was able to discern better what sort of priest I wanted to be. I considered the religious life, and then went to a few vocations talks. Then I talked a bit to (former chaplain) Fr. Illo, and he really inspired in me a love of the secular priesthood.”
Among the College’s 64 priestly alumni there are, as of yet, no Archdiocese of Los Angeles priests, but that is changing. Mr. Seeley follows in the footsteps of Michael Masteller (’13), who entered St. John’s last year. By God’s grace, in six years, there will be two alumni priests in Los Angeles, with many more still to come.
“My time at the College, particularly reading St. Augustine, really enriched my spiritual life,” says Mr. Seeley. “Knowing that all of God’s graces are a free gift, and not something we merit, has changed the way I pray. And living in community together, seeing God’s face in the people around us, has been something I couldn’t get anywhere else.”
Please pray for Mr. Seeley and his vocation!
Patrick Cross (’14), self-portrait
This blog recently featured an illustrated tribute to martyred French priest Rev. Jacques Hamel, penned by alumnus cartoonist Patrick Cross (’14). The work is one of several cartoons that Mr. Cross — who is, by day, a counselor in the College’s Admissions office — has drawn in recent months as he launches a career in editorial cartooning. Already, his efforts have borne some success: Mr. Cross produces cartoons weekly for CatholicVote.org, as well as occasionally for GlennBeck.com.
“I’ve always been interested in politics, and I’ve always been interested in art,” Mr. Cross reflects. “But it was my parents who first suggested that I combine the two loves together in editorial cartooning.”
The idea began to take root during his Senior Year, when College Governor Berni Neal spoke at an on-campus career panel. Upon learning about Mr. Cross’ professional interests, Mrs. Neal revealed that she was friends with Michael Ramirez — the two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist, formerly of the Los Angeles Times — and offered to arrange a meeting. “Ramirez was my favorite cartoonist growing up,” recalls Mr. Cross. “I went down to see him at the end of my Senior Year. We talked for about an hour and a half. That really put a fire in my belly.”
Mr. Cross began publishing his cartoons on his website and a Facebook page in January, and soon his work began generating attention. His goal, he says, is to produce cartoons that succeed on a variety of levels. “There are many layers,” he says. “You can have something that is funny in a slapstick sort of way. But some readers are looking for more.” Here, he adds, one sees the value and versatility of a classical education. “If you have an education that shows you how to identify principles, causes, effects, and prior causes, then you can do much better work.”
Patriotism infuses Mr. Cross’ art — a patriotism, he says, that has been with him all his life, but which deepened during his time at the College. “I’ve always loved the American founding. I’ve always believed in the principles of the country. But what my education at TAC really did, especially Junior Year, is show me why I believed in those things. In reading the Federalist Papers, the founders, and Abraham Lincoln — all in the context Aristotle’s Ethics and Politics, which we were studying in philosophy — I was able to locate the American experiment, or the American founding, in the context of the Western tradition. I came to a better understanding of why self-governance is good, why a government that promotes political prudence is such a gift, and also how we must not take any of it for granted.”
A group of Western Province Dominican novices recently traveled to Salt Lake City, where they spoke about their vocations with students at the St. Catherine of Siena Catholic Newman Center, which serves the University of Utah. Among the young Dominicans to share their stories was a member of last year’s graduating class, Br. Patrick Rooney (’15).
“Because he was interested in apologetics and philosophy, [Br. Patrick] attended Thomas Aquinas College in Southern California,” reports Intermountain Catholic. There, he learned “to love the liturgy and Gregorian chant,” and he joined the choir. “I wanted to become a monk, but I also wanted to be a philosopher,” he reflects. “In the next few months, I found out that I could be both in the Dominican Order.”
Br. Patrick is now undergoing the first year of Dominican formation at St. Dominic’s Church in San Francisco, where he assists the church’s pastor and a fellow alumnus, Rev. Michael Hurley, O.P. (’99). Please pray for him and all his fellow novices!
Madeleine Lessard (’16)A member of the College’s newest graduating class, Madeleine Lessard (’16) will formally launch her career on August 1, when she starts a position as an analyst for Economic Partners in Denver, Colorado. “The company values intangible assets of corporations,” Miss Lessard explains, such as patents, brand identity, and goodwill. As an analyst, she will be “taking in a lot of data and analyzing what’s most important, writing reports on it, and also editing reports from other people.”
While a student at the College, Miss Lessard worked in the Admissions Office, which proved to be fortuitous. When one of Economics Partners’ executives called Admissions Director Jon Daly to ask if he could suggest any candidates for an open position, Mr. Daly recommended Miss Lessard, who then traveled to Denver for a battery of interviews, culminating in her hire.
The position is “not what I thought my Thomas Aquinas College education was preparing me for,” Miss Lessard admits. “But then everything they asked me in my interview seemed perfect for a TACer. They asked me to define critical thinking, and they wanted to hear all about my math background. They were also interested in learning about the seminar method because they thought that was similar to the way they work together in their meetings.”
Additionally, the company will be sponsoring Miss Lessard as she studies for a Chartered Financial Analysts degree, which typically takes two-to-three years, or longer, to obtain, suggesting a long-term commitment. “I’m hoping that I love it, and they love me, and this is something I can stay in as long as I want to continue working,” she says.
Please pray for her success!