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Colleagues Toast Tom Susanka
on his Retirement

Posted: July 28, 2020

Tom Susanka Tom Susanka

 

Note: At the end of the 2019-20 academic year, Thomas J. Susanka, onetime director of admissions and director of gift planning, retired from the faculty of Thomas Aquinas College.

Dr. Michael F. McLean
President

I want to thank Tom for his extraordinary service to the College both as director of admissions and director of gift planning. Tom oversaw significant increases in our enrollment while working in admissions and has helped shepherd many substantial gifts to the College while working in gift planning. I, along with countless others, have been inspired by Tom’s holiness, joyfulness, and humility. His sense of humor is unfailing and always uplifting. He, his wife, Therese, and their seven children — including six alumni — have been tremendous blessings to the College.”

Robert Bagdazian
Director of Alumni and Parent Relations

Tom has been a wonderful, kind, knowledgeable, faithful, and patient mentor to me for the five years I reported to him as associate director of gift planning. Besides being a great prayer, whistler, and classical-music listener, he has given me some great laughs. I have also wondered at times — as a matter of compliment — if in his appearance, talent, humor, and mannerisms, he, Hugh Laurie as Bertie Wooster, and Dick Van Dyke might have been separated at birth!

Thank you, Tom, for your continued prayers; you, Therese, and your wonderful family remain in mine.

Paul Blewett (’85)
Director of Gift Planning

As a high school student, I had the great pleasure of knowing Tom at the beginning of his career at Thomas Aquinas. As director of admissions, he was the perfect man for the difficult job of persuading excellent young men and women to attend what was then a relatively obscure little college. In those early years in Santa Paula, the campus had yet to be landscaped, classrooms and dorms consisted of temporary buildings on wheels, and the College continually hovered on the brink of insolvency. Add to that the prospect of oil wells in the middle of campus, and you can imagine just how difficult it would be to represent the College to aspiring students and their parents. Yet that’s just what Tom did, and he did it in the only way it could be done — with a thorough commitment to and love of the mission of TAC, and a love and commitment to those whom he recruited. Everyone I know who met Tom enjoyed his graciousness, his self-effacing good humor and, most importantly, recognized his sincere desire for their good. 

I recently heard a story about how, in those early days, Tom visited the home of a very bright, but skeptical young man. His parents wanted their son to take a look at the College but he was having none of it. Tom enjoyed dinner with the parents and afterward was invited to share about the College. He described the curriculum, the tutorial method, and the ultimate goal of liberating the student through knowledge and understanding of the truth. After a while, the young man’s parents turned toward their son, who was in the adjoining room, and they saw a young man with his head down, sobbing with tears of joy that such a place existed. 

From this past February until mid-May, I worked with Tom to transition into his role as director of gift planning. As I reflect on our time together, what I find most remarkable is that the Tom Susanka I worked with these past few months is no different than the Tom Susanka I knew and loved as a student. He is a truly good man, whose love and commitment to the College and, more importantly, to God and neighbor, have left an indelible imprint on all those around him.

Dr. Sean Cunningham
Tutor

When I had to leave the College in 2015 for family medical reasons, Tom wished us well and expressed hope that I might be able to join the New England faculty. His specific encouragement helped me to focus on the goal of returning, and I am now back on the faculty — in New England. 

 

Jon Daly (’99)
Director of Admissions

Tom hired me in August of 2000, and for the first four years of my professional life, I sat in the office immediately next door to his. We often kept the door between the offices open, so I had the benefit of hearing many of Tom’s conversations with visitors and on the telephone.

Tom is humorous, he is direct and he is at the same time the most genuine and truly humble man I have known. I remember that every day, immediately following lunch (and Tom always took an abbreviated lunch), he would quietly slip into the Chapel for quiet prayer before jumping back into the office. He never drew attention to this practice, but everyone who worked with him saw it, and were in some way deeply influenced by his example. I also remember visiting his home as a student and remember in particular that he would sometimes ask his family to pray by name for students who were applying to the College. He treated everyone with the utmost respect and was a deeply genuine man.

Perhaps what I’ll remember most is listening to him in conversations: Because we left the door between our offices open, I heard him answer the same sorts of questions from day to day, and each time he answered questions, he would genuinely acknowledge the person and think through the answer he was offering as deeply and thoroughly as he probably did the first time. He never took someone for granted, and always gave them his full attention. I am blessed to have been among those who knew him and worked with him for so long, and I owe him a deep debt of gratitude for that.”

Peter L. DeLuca
College Co-Founder, Former President, Senior Tutor 

I have known Tom since he first came to Thomas Aquinas College as a student almost 50 years ago. I have labored with him in that same province of the Lord’s vineyard for almost 40 of those years. He has been a major part of its success and has affected all our lives for the better. In all those years, Tom has never failed to put the common good first and to exemplify what a Christian gentleman should be. I wish him the very best in the years to come. 

Dr. Paul J. O’Reilly (’84)
Director of Advancement

Tom has always been devoted to the College, and a joyful witness for Christ. I first met him when he picked me up at LAX as a prospective student. But I really got to know him when I worked with him at TAC. As the College has expanded, and with it, our need for financial aid, planned giving has played an ever more important role in our development efforts. For the last 16 years, Tom has done a tremendous job of helping us both to meet our annual needs and to grow our endowment. He has been so successful because he genuinely cares for our benefactors and has formed abiding friendships with them.

Dr. Andrew Seeley (’87)
Tutor

God bless you, Tom, for your 41 years of unfailing cheerfulness and personal attention to everyone who came in reach of your smile. Thank you also for the great blessing that TAC has been in my life — your personal attention to me as a high school junior and senior made me comfortable with taking the crazy risk of joining a weird commune 2000 miles from home.

Isabella Hsu (’18) on integrated curriculum

“It is amazing to read all the different works from a wide range of disciplines, and see the same truth popping up again and again — whether it’s in Euclid, or theology, or natural science. It all comes together to form a full picture.”

– Isabella Hsu (’18)

Redondo Beach, California

“I was moved and edified by your remarkable fidelity to St. Thomas Aquinas. Your academic program proposes an original way of training men and women capable of reading, thinking and interpreting tradition correctly.”

– Marc Cardinal Ouellet

Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops

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