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College Signs Agreement to Accept New England Property

College Signs Agreement to Accept New England Property

Posted: February 7, 2017

On Tuesday, February 7, the National Christian Foundation and Thomas Aquinas College announced that they had entered into a preliminary agreement, under which the NCF will give the College the former campus of a secondary school in Northfield, Massachusetts, on May 2, 2017. (Sign up for email updates.)

  • New England Announcement 2016
    Slideshow: The New England Campus
  • New England Announcement 2016
    Slideshow: The New England Campus
  • New England Announcement 2016
    Slideshow: The New England Campus
  • New England Announcement 2016
    Slideshow: The New England Campus
  • New England Announcement 2016
    Slideshow: The New England Campus
  • New England Announcement 2016
    Slideshow: The New England Campus
  • New England Announcement 2016
    Slideshow: The New England Campus
  • New England Announcement 2016
    Slideshow: The New England Campus
  • New England Announcement 2016
    Slideshow: The New England Campus
  • New England Announcement 2016
    Slideshow: The New England Campus
  • New England Announcement 2016
    Slideshow: The New England Campus
  • New England Announcement 2016
    Slideshow: The New England Campus
  • New England Announcement 2016
    Slideshow: The New England Campus
  • New England Announcement 2016
    Slideshow: The New England Campus
  • New England Announcement 2016
    Slideshow: The New England Campus
  • New England Announcement 2016
    Slideshow: The New England Campus
  • New England Announcement 2016
    Slideshow: The New England Campus

Thanks to this extraordinary gift, the College is on the cusp of realizing one of its  longstanding hopes. “As the name of our founding document indicates, when we set about  establishing Thomas Aquinas College in the late 1960s, our mission was to demonstrate the viability and power of the very best understanding of Catholic liberal education,” says Peter L. DeLuca, a founder of the College and its vice president for finance and administration. “Since the nature of the education itself limits the size of the community, we knew that what we could accomplish ourselves would be limited. We hoped, however, that our success would spark imitation, bringing about an eventual restoration of Catholic liberal education that would reach well beyond a single campus.”

For the next few months, the College will complete its assessment of the physical plant at the new site and continue its efforts to obtain necessary permitting. By God’s grace, and contingent upon the approval of the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education, the branch campus will open its doors to students in the fall of 2018.

“To maintain an intimate community of learners at the College, we have thought it important to keep the student body on our California campus at 400 or fewer,” says President Michael F. McLean. Since reaching full enrollment some years ago, however, the College has had to turn away increasing numbers of applicants each year. “We have been considering, therefore, the possibility of a second campus,” continues Dr. McLean. “Given the tremendous challenges and costs involved, the question would have remained no more than academic — but for this extraordinary opportunity that the National Christian Foundation has offered us. Never did we imagine we could acquire a campus so fully developed and so beautiful.”

Located in a lovely rural setting in the Connecticut River valley approximately 90 miles northwest of Boston, the 217-acre Northfield property boasts more than 500,000 feet of floor space, a portion of which will be given to Thomas Aquinas College, consisting in part of: dormitory and classroom space sufficient for an eventual enrollment of 400 students, a library, a science hall, a large auditorium, a music building, a gymnasium with related athletic facilities, and a beautiful chapel that can be adapted easily to Catholic worship.

A Historic Property

The College’s new, New England home owes its origins to a 19th century Protestant evangelist, Dwight Lyman Moody. A popular preacher who often attracted thousands to his services, Mr. Moody sought to broaden his evangelical efforts by providing a Christian education to young people of limited financial means. To that end, he founded two preparatory high schools in Western Massachusetts’ scenic Pioneer Valley: the Northfield Seminary for Young Ladies (1879) and the Mount Hermon School for Boys (1881).

In 1971 the schools merged to become a single, coeducation institution, the Northfield Mount Hermon School, operating on two campuses just a few miles apart. In 2005, however, the school consolidated onto the Mount Hermon campus. Four years later, Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., purchased the Northfield property with the intention of giving it, free of charge, to an institution that would maintain it and continue Mr. Moody’s legacy of Christian education. Hobby Lobby then entrusted the property to the NCF, a leader in Christian philanthropy, to find a suitable recipient.

“From the beginning, we have been impressed with Thomas Aquinas College for its commitment to academic excellence,” says Emmitt Mitchell, founder of the NCF Heartland’s Board of Directors. “We selected it because of this reputation, its strong leadership, and its financial strength.”

The College will share a portion of the Northfield property with the Moody Center, whose mission is to preserve the legacy of Dwight L. Moody. The Center will restore historic parts of the campus, operate a small museum, and establish and maintain an archive of materials related to the evangelist’s life and work.

Pioneers Once More

“We are profoundly grateful to Emmitt Mitchell and the National Christian Foundation,” says Dr. McLean, “for this magnificent gift of the Northfield property and for their steadfast support of our effort to launch our unique program of Catholic liberal education in New England.”

The plan for the branch campus, “is to start small and build slowly, just as our founders did in California,” explains Dr. McLean. Thirty-six freshmen will be accepted in each of the first four years, and more as time goes along, allowing the student body to increase slowly to a maximum of 350-400 students. Seasoned members of the California teaching faculty have volunteered to move east as part of this new venture and will be a strong source of congruence between the California and New England campuses in all aspects: the academic program, the residential life, and the spiritual life of the new community.

“Both campuses will be fully committed to, and governed by, our founding document, A Proposal for the Fulfillment of Catholic Liberal Education,” explains Dr. McLean. “Both will initially be part of one college, with a single faculty, a single board of governors, a single curriculum, and a single accreditation, but we will explore the path to the possible independence of the two campuses in the years to come.”

Thomas Aquinas College New England will be blessed to operate with the “full support” of the Most Rev. Mitchell T. Rozanski, Bishop of the Diocese of Springfield, who wrote Dr. McLean upon learning of the College’s desire to open the branch campus. “I will do whatever I can to help you in establishing the school here to form faithful witnesses to Christ in our Catholic faith,” His Excellency remarked. “We are greatly encouraged by Bishop Rozanski’s warm welcome and pledge of assistance,” said Dr. McLean. “We look forward to working with him to provide even more young people the intellectual, moral, and spiritual formation they need to serve the Church and our country well.”

Trust in Providence

After 12 years of disuse, the New England campus will require some renovations, but it is structurally sound and architecturally rich. “It will be a challenge to raise the funds to fully restore the campus and to meet the financial aid needs of our new students, but we have no doubt that it can be done,” says Dr. McLean. “The NCF has generously offered to pay for several major repairs, and it has promised to match every dollar our benefactors contribute — up to $5 million total — to our small but growing institution. NCF is deeply committed to the success of our shared venture, for which we are humbled and grateful.”

For his part, Mr. DeLuca likens the opening of a second campus to the founding of Thomas Aquinas College 46 years ago. “We always believed that, as long as we were doing God’s work, He would provide the means to make it possible,” says Mr. DeLuca. “Our confidence in His providence, as well as in the mission of the College, is as great as ever.”

 


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John Jost (’17)

“When you first arrive here, the upperclassmen are almost like your heroes because they’re at the place — or approaching the place — where you want to be, both intellectually and spiritually. It promotes friendship in a way that I have never seen before.”

– John Jost (’17)

Algonquin, Illinois

“Thomas Aquinas College is lending a helpful hand to the Church to fulfill her mission. There is no doubt that this Christian environment that is nurtured here is the main cause why there have been so many responses to the call of God to the priesthood and to the consecrated life in the female and male students of your College.”

– Zenon Cardinal Grocholewski

Prefect

Congregation for Catholic Education