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Summer Great Books Program for High School Students — New England

Sunday, July 25, 2021 to Saturday, August 7, 2021

For two weeks this summer, high school students from around the country will join members of the teaching faculty for the inaugural Summer Great Books program at Thomas Aquinas College, New England!

They will come to the College’s beautiful, historic campus in Northfield, Massachusetts, for spirited conversation, engaging firsthand some of the best works of the past 2,500 years. They will read and discuss works selected from the masters of the Western intellectual tradition, including Plato, Euclid, Sophocles, Shakespeare, St. Thomas Aquinas, Pascal, and Boethius. It will be a time for forging new friendships, for enjoying the give and take of rational argument, and for pursuing the truth, which civilizes, ennobles, and liberates.

The Program

The pursuit of wisdom begins with wonder — wonder about the causes and principles of man and nature, and wonder about God, who is the first cause and principle of all things. Through serious consideration of questions which deeply concern each person — and the whole of society — the Summer Program at Thomas Aquinas College encourages wonder and leads participants toward wisdom.

Great BooksWhy the Great Books?

The great books are the seminal works in all the major areas of learning, including mathematics, science, literature, philosophy, and theology. In studying and discussing these works, rather than textbooks, students engage firsthand with the greatest minds of Western civilization. The great books open up for the student the truth about reality. Studied carefully under the light of the Faith, they animate the minds and hearts of students, satisfying the hunger for the truth that makes men free.

The Curriculum & the Discussion Method

During the first week of the program, discussions focus on questions concerning religious, moral, and political authority raised by Sophocles in Oedipus Rex and Antigone, and by Plato in the Crito. The account of the creation and fall of man in Genesis prompts a discussion about man’s nature and free will. Kierkegaard’s Fear and Trembling, Pascal’s famous essay on the “wager,” and St. Thomas Aquinas’ proofs for the existence of God all occasion considerations of the right relation between faith and reason. The great French naturalist J. Henri Fabre argues for purpose and order in nature, confronting those who, like some pre-Socratic philosophers, subscribe to the perennial idea of a godless universe, purely material and existing by chance.

The second week begins with Shakespeare’s Macbeth, a portrayal of fallen man in all of his imperfection and corruption. A look at Euclid’s Elements demonstrates the intelligibility, order, and accessibility of mathematical ideas when they are understood through their causes. The curriculum concludes with a reading of Boethius’ classic work, the Consolation of Philosophy, which addresses more fully many of the issues considered throughout the program. Classes are conducted, like all classes at Thomas Aquinas College, using the Discussion Method, guided by members of the teaching faculty. Class size is limited to 17 students in order to allow each student the opportunity to contribute to the discussions.

Kenarden HallOutside the Classroom

The location of Thomas Aquinas College, New England, is ideal for recreation of all sorts. In addition to daily sports, occasional movies, and area hiking, the program will includes a trip to Boston and the Freedom Trail.

Thomas Aquinas College is genuinely Catholic and has a rich sacramental life. During the Summer Program, Mass is offered daily and a chaplain is available on campus at all times. In order to receive the full extent of religious-liberty protections under Massachusetts law, however, the College may admit only Catholic students to the New England Summer Program. The California program remains open, as always, to students of all faiths and religious traditions. 


Who? Catholic students who have completed three years of high school.

When? Sunday, July 25, to Saturday, August 7, 2021. Students should arrive after 1:00 p.m. on July 25 and depart between 9:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. on August 7.

Where? On the Thomas Aquinas College, New England, campus in Northfield, Massachusetts, just south of the New Hampshire and Vermont borders, in the historic Connecticut River Valley. Out-of-town students will be met by College staff when they arrive at Boston’s Logan International Airport.

Merrill-Keep HallHow much? $975 for tuition, housing, meals, books, and organized activities off campus. Students may want to bring a small amount of spending money.

Why? Because it may be the best two weeks of your life.

How do I get there? By car or air. College staff will meet out-of-town students at Boston’s Logan International Airport (BOS). Return transportation will be provided at the end of the program.

For more information, call 800-634-9797 or write to

Apply now!

New England Campus (2018)
Dr. Jean Rioux

“If you come to the College with any spark of faith at all, it’s fanned into flames. That’s certainly what happened to me.”

– Dr. Jean Rioux (’82)

Chair of the Department of Philosophy, Benedictine College

“This is truly a Catholic center of learning because it reverberates with the ecclesial life of faith, a faith which unfolds the richness of reason and is given fervent expression liturgically, sacramentally, and through prayer, acts of charity, and a passion for justice.”

– The Most Rev. J. Michael Miller

Archbishop of Vancouver

Former Secretary, Congregation for Catholic Education