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Thomas Aquinas College Receives Special Grants to Aid Thomas Fire Recovery

March 28, 2018
10,000 Ojai Road
Santa Paula CA 93060
Contact: Anne Forsyth, Director of College Relations
(805) 525-4417
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SANTA PAULA, CA—March 28—Thomas Aquinas College has substantial help with its recovery efforts following the historic Thomas Fire last December: a grant of $511,000 from the Dan Murphy Foundation, and a grant of $370,000 from the Edwin L. Wiegand Trust.

In the immediate aftermath of the Thomas Fire, it was clear that damage to the campus of Thomas Aquinas College, although far less than what so many others had experienced, would be significant. The fire destroyed an estimated 100 trees on campus and ruined more than 4,000 feet of perimeter fencing. The college also lost two storage sheds, extensive landscaping, and some 100 pounds of refrigerated food in its kitchen. Add in lost productivity for the staff and faculty, and recovery expenses — emergency power generation, air purification, and security and clean-up costs —and the total price tag exceeds $3 million.

“Given our size and budget, those costs could have destroyed us,” says President Michael F. McLean, who notes that the college’s annual fund must raise $5 million a year for financial aid costs alone. “But we were blessed. Our insurance coverage proved largely up to the task of meeting our needs, and in the few places that it fell short, our friends have more than helped make up the difference.”

Among them is The Dan Murphy Foundation, a longtime benefactor of the College, which has awarded the College a $511,000 grant. These funds will cover the replacement of trees, fencing, and irrigation surrounding the campus, as well as trees and landscaping on its lower portion, where the damage is most severe. The risk of falling, fire-weakened trees in this area has deprived students of praying at the Stations of the Cross and Lourdes Grotto. “Because of the Dan Murphy Foundation’s tremendous generosity, this beautiful portion of our campus will soon be available to us again,” says Dr. McLean.

Looking to the future, the Trustees of the Edwin L. Wiegand Trust of Reno, Nevada, have supported a grant to protect and preserve Thomas Aquinas College going forward. The Wiegand Trust has awarded the college a $370,000 grant to purchase a backup power system for St. Joseph Commons, which houses the kitchen and dining room. The new equipment will ensure that in an emergency like the Thomas Fire — during which electricity and road access to the campus were curtailed for several days — students will be well-fed, and refrigerated food will not go to waste.

Then there are the hundreds of donations from members of the Board of Governors, alumni, parents, and other friends of the college — totaling more than $300,000 — that arrived during the weeks following the fire’s first night. “The rush of donations was astounding,” says Dr. McLean. “Many of the gifts came from first-time benefactors, people with little or no connection to the college who learned about us from news reports and were eager to help. Many of the other gifts came from longtime friends who had recently made a donation, but whose hearts were stirred to give again. We are profoundly grateful to all the kind people whose generosity, during a time of great stress and uncertainty, was a tangible reminder of God’s unceasing providence.”


About Thomas Aquinas College

A four-year, co-educational institution, Thomas Aquinas College has developed over the past 46 years a solid reputation for academic excellence in the United States and abroad and is highly ranked by organizations such as The Princeton Review, U. S. News, and Kiplinger. At Thomas Aquinas College all students acquire a broad and fully integrated liberal education. The College offers one, four-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. 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. Graduates consistently excel in the many world-class institutions at which they pursue graduate degrees in fields such as law, medicine, business, theology and education. They have distinguished themselves serving as lawyers, doctors, business owners, priests, military service men and women, educators, journalists and college presidents. For additional information, visit