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College Honors Chaplains, Faculty Members at President’s Dinner

College Honors Chaplains, Faculty Members at President’s Dinner

Posted: May 13, 2016

As part of Wednesday Night’s President’s Dinner in St. Joseph Commons, Thomas Aquinas College bid farewell not only to the soon-to-be-departing members of the Class of 2016, but also to four other stalwarts of the community — two chaplains and two tutors. President Michael F. McLean additionally used the occasion to honor the services of one dedicated member of the administrative faculty for his 20 years of faithful service to the College.

After his opening remarks, Dr. McLean noted the importance of the chaplaincy to the spiritual life of the College and thanked departing chaplains, Rev. Michael Chaberek, O.P., and Rev. Michael Perea, O.Praem. He then saluted Dr. David Arias who, after 11 years as a member of the teaching faculty, is leaving the College to teach philosophy at Our Lady of Guadalupe Seminary in Denton, Nebraska. The president then recognized Director of Financial Aid Greg Becher, who is celebrating his 20th anniversary at the College, before honoring Dr. Carol Day, who is retiring at the end of the year.

Below is the text of Dr. McLean’s prepared remarks for each of the honorees:

Fr. Perea, Dr. McLean, and Fr. ChaberekFrs. Perea and Chaberek

The College’s founding document quotes St. Augustine, who says that grace is given “not only that we discover what ought to be done, but also that we do what we have discovered — not only that we believe what ought to be loved, but also that we love what we have believed.” The founding document also reminds us that true freedom essentially consists “in the inward rebirth and transformation of ourselves by the grace of God.”

These truths lie close to the heart of the College’s mission. And so we can say that, at Thomas Aquinas College, liturgical life is essential and is to be fostered. Whatever nourishes the Faith belongs to religious education, and without strong faith, hope, and charity, the best theology is only trivial.

Our chaplains are essential to the life of the College, and we have been blessed to have Fr. Michael Chaberek for the last three years and Fr. Michael Perea this past year and from 1998 through 2006. We thank them both for their service. We wish Fr. Michael Chaberek well as he heads off to a branch campus of the University of Mary in Phoenix, Arizona, and Fr. Michael Perea as he returns to Sts. Peter and Paul parish in Wilmington, California.

Dr. McLean and Dr. AriasDr. David Arias

Tonight we must bid farewell to one of our tutors, Mr. David Arias, and his wife, Jennaya. Mr. Arias has served on the faculty of the College for the past 11 years, teaching a great number of courses in our curriculum including three of our four philosophy tutorials and all four years of seminar.

Mr. Arias holds a number of degrees, including two bachelor’s degrees and two master’s degrees in philosophy and theology, as well as a doctorate in philosophy. After teaching for a few years at the University of St. Thomas in Houston, he came to the College in 2005 with his wife Jennaya, and we have all had the pleasure of seeing their family grow in the years since.

Mr. Arias has also headed the Writing Subcommittee, established in 2008 to assist in our last accreditation effort, and he has served for six years on our Admissions Committee. We wish the Ariases well as they embark on their new duties at the seminary of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Denton, Nebraska.

Dr. McLean and Mr. BecherGreg Becher

The second faculty member we will honor tonight is not retiring but is rather still very much in the thick of things — Mr. Greg Becher, our director of financial aid. A graduate of the College’s Class of 1980, Mr. Becher returned to his alma mater in 1995 after earning a bachelor’s of science degree in mathematics and physics education and then gaining valuable experience in the banking industry.

As you are likely aware, the College’s financial aid program differs in a number of ways from that of most schools. The primary difference is that we do not propose a certain amount of funding for financial aid each year and then dole it out until it is gone — and some students are left without aid at all. Instead, we start with a commitment that no qualified student will ever be turned away simply because he or she does not have the financial means. Then we set about each year asking our benefactors to help us meet that goal.

Mr. Becher implements this policy in a way that I think all who have ever worked with him agree is eminently professional, ethical, and confidential. Each year, he works closely with all of our students and their families to come to an agreement on student payments, parent tuition payments, and student loan amounts. The College is truly blessed to have in Mr. Becher a person we can rely on to be judicious and equitable in all of these decisions.

All of this takes time and meticulous attention to detail. And there are periods of the year when, for weeks on end, one can find Mr. Becher in his office late at night and on the weekends. And so in my tribute to him tonight, I want to include his wife, Jan, who generously carries on at home without him during these crunch periods. Thank you, Jan, for your unfailing support.

Dr. Day and Dr. McLeanDr. Carol Day

As many of you may know, Miss Day is retiring this year after 35 years of teaching at Thomas Aquinas College. In preparing for this evening, I reviewed her history with the College. Given that she holds a bachelor’s of science degree in astrophysics, a master’s in astronomy, and a doctorate in the history of science, it was not surprising to see that Miss Day has taught every course in our mathematics and natural science tutorials. What might surprise some, though, given her background, is that Miss Day has also taught all but two courses in the rest of the curriculum — philosophy, language, seminar, music, and theology. This is quite a testimony to the breadth of her mind as well as to her sincere desire to be genuinely liberally educated. Her life’s work is a shining example of the compatibility of reason and faith, and proof that religion is no enemy to science, but that under their twin lights, one truly can attain to wisdom. 

I am deeply grateful to Miss Day for her dedication to the College and to our students these past 35 years. Not only has she been invaluable to our efforts to hone our mathematics and natural science curricula, she has also been a resource for her fellow tutors, generously sharing her particular expertise whenever called upon. And she has served an important role in the administration of the College by serving on the Instruction Committee.

At the same time, Miss Day has devoted herself to our students both in and outside the classroom, participating with them for some years in the College Choir, leading hiking and backpacking trips, and organizing star-gazing evenings, memories of which are among some of the best that alumni have from their time at the College. 

So tonight, as you prepare to retire, Miss Day, we wish you all the best. We will miss your cheerful presence with us, but I hope that you will stop by often for a visit.

Sanjay Adhikari (’18)

“When I first came here, since I am not a Catholic, I was nervous, because it’s a different culture for me, but people have been so friendly, so charitable. It is such a blessing to live in this community, where people care about you. You make strong friendships that last a lifetime.”

– Sanjay Adhikari (’18)

Kathmandu Nepal

“Thomas Aquinas College knows this — that the life of the mind involves the spiritual life as well — and that is why I have always thought of this institution as a college in the image and likeness of John Paul II.”

– George Weigel

Papal Biographer