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Thomas Aquinas College Takes Ownership of New England Campus

May 3, 2017
10,000 Ojai Road
Santa Paula CA 93060
Contact: Anne Forsyth, Director of College Relations
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SANTA PAULA, CA—May 3—On Tuesday, May 2, Thomas Aquinas College took ownership of a property in Northfield, Massachusetts where, contingent upon the approval of the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education, it plans to open a branch campus in the Fall of 2018. At a signing ceremony that took place in Olivia Hall on the Northfield campus, officials of the National Christian Foundation (NCF) formally transferred ownership to the Catholic college and the newly established Moody Center that will be housed on a portion of the property originally developed by the 19th century Protestant evangelist Dwight L. Moody. As President Michael F. McLean described it, “This was a monumental day in the history of Thomas Aquinas College.”

Among those who attended the signing ceremony in Olivia Hall on the campus of the former Northfield School were members of the college’s board of governors and alumni of the college, two of whom served as attorneys for the their alma mater in this transfer of ownership.

“We are very, very grateful to the National Christian Foundation and to its leadership, especially Emmitt Mitchell and Larry Edge, for shepherding us through this process,” said Dr. McLean. “The opportunity here at Northfield presents Thomas Aquinas College with a chance to increase its reach and to increase the number of students who benefit from its education, and we are very grateful that the NCF has made this opportunity possible.”

In his role as a member of the NCF’s Heartland Board of Governors, Mr. Mitchell oversaw the process by which the NCF selected Thomas Aquinas College — out of a pool of 153 initial inquiries — as the recipient of this historic campus. “I can tell you, I have never been so impressed, not only with the student body, but with the faculty and staff and their dedication to the mission. And these trustees…How can I say it? They love that institution,” he said. “I feel very confident that we are making an excellent choice.”

A celebration of the transfer of ownership took place in the Moody Auditorium later in the afternoon. Speakers included Abbot Xavier Connelly of St. Benedict Monastery in Still River, Mass.; Dr. McLean; Mr. Mitchell; Mr. Erwin Lutzer, Pastor Emeritus of The Moody Church in Chicago; and a great grandson of Dwight Moody, Mr. David Powell. Offering hymns were the choirs of Northfield Mount Hermon School and of Trivium School in Lancaster, Mass.

Dwight Lyman Moody established the Northfield School in 1879. In 1971 it merged with another institution that Mr. Moody had founded, the Mount Hermon School for Boys, in the nearby town of Gill. The resulting coeducational institution, Northfield Mount Hermon, operated on both properties until consolidating to the Mount Hermon campus in 2005.

For the last 12 years, the Northfield campus has gone unoccupied, waiting for the day that it could be restored to its original mission of providing affordable, Christian education for young adults. In  granting the campus to Thomas Aquinas College, said Mr. Mitchell, the NCF is choosing an entity that “has a mission similar to Moody’s, which was to educate young people in a fashion that they can make a difference in the world — basically, a Christian message — give them the confidence to go out and do great things in their life.”

The NCF’s donation of the New England campus is the largest gift in Thomas Aquinas College’s history, consisting of some 100 acres of land that include a chapel, residence halls, a library, a gymnasium, and ample classroom and administration space. At this morning’s ceremony, the College took possession of 20 buildings in all, which will allow it to expand its more than 45-year history of Catholic liberal education to the East Coast. The Moody Center, a nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving Mr. Moody’s evangelical legacy, will share the property, with Mr. Mitchell serving as its new president.

Commenting on the events of the day, Dr. McLean said, “We think this is an important moment in terms of the working relationship between Evangelicals and Catholics as we work together to spread the Gospel and to evangelize our culture,” said Dr. McLean. “I am grateful to our Board of Governors, who have counseled and advised us through this process, and have been very supportive and helpful in the guidance they have given us, and also very generous in terms of their own support. I am also very grateful to the faculty of Thomas Aquinas College, who have considered this possibility very seriously and have committed themselves to our efforts in New England.”


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.