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David Dowdy: Prayer, Thomas Aquinas College & New England

Posted: July 14, 2017

David Dowdy
Teacher, Northfield Mount Hermon School 
Father of Will (’05)
Address at Thomas Aquinas College New England Reception
July 1, 2017


Among the first and certainly best things I did when I arrived at Northfield Mount Hermon in 1982 was to read John Pollack’s biography of D.L. Moody, simply called Moody. From that I learned that when Moody dedicated the School’s first building, East Hall, he announced that the School’s motto would be taken from Isaiah 27:3. The subject is a vineyard “of red wine,” and the verse says: “I the LORD do keep it; I will water it every moment: lest any hurt it, I will keep it night and day.”

This promise became my constant longing and steadying prayer. Although many good and worthy things occurred at this school, on this particular campus, it was still often difficult, incredibly so, to see this promise being realized. I had to look for the small hidden fruits — the obscure clusters — and learn to be grateful. If I sought them, I found them. He had not forsaken His vineyard.

Then in 2005, the school closed this campus. It wasn’t what I wanted, but that’s beside the point. With the closing came an opening, an opening of opportunity for how it might be used next. This was both an exciting and anxious time because of the speculations and rumors we faculty heard about various parties showing interest in the property.

So I began to pray. And so did so many, many, many, many others with prayer walks, prayer vigils, individuals, groups, organized, impromptu, Rosaries, and so on. I doubt there’s any other parcel of real estate in New England as prayed for, prayed about, or prayed over as this one (with the possible exception of Plymouth Rock).

I prayed that the campus would remain a school of some sort, in line with Moody’s intention. Even better, a Christian one. Better yet, a great books one, and with the C.S. Lewis College plan, we almost got that. And when nobody was home, when I locked the doors and pulled the shades, I’d ask God if He could make it a Catholic one, too (the good Catholic kind)!

So now we have Thomas Aquinas College, a college that frequently asserts that Truth exists and that that Truth is knowable. This is a college that cultivates the trad (as the Irish say), not follows the fad.

What is the fad? It would be amusing if it were not so alarming. For instance 

  • At a large university in Arizona, a visiting scholar in residence has declared himself not merely transgender but transpecies. He identifies himself as a hippopotamus. And this at the taxpayer’s expense. 
  • At a university in Washington State, a biology professor has been forced to conduct his classes in a municipal park because the campus police cannot guarantee his physical safety after his refusal to participate in an annual protest in the prescribed manner.
  • At the bottom of our own Connecticut River valley, at Yale, a dean and her husband were pressured out of their positions for suggesting the college not attempt to exert control over the students’ Halloween costumes that some deemed politically incorrect.
  • At a nationally known university in North Carolina, a professor has equated Newtonian physics with Western imperialism and blamed it for the social individualism that engenders oppressive binary separations between people.
  • And at a popular college in Ohio, students have loudly protested against mid-term exams because they interfere with the students’ political activism in nearby cities.

What is the tuition at these institutions? And just how is it that studying the great books wastes one’s college years??

So for a real marriage of reason and revelation among a community of real scholars, such as Thomas Aquinas College provides, to fill this campus would not merely be a nice idea, a happy outcome to some prayers. This college is important, even necessary, for Northfield, for the Diocese of Springfield, for the good of the Church, for the survival of our civilization, and for the future of our humanity.

We are thankful to the College and to God. 

David Dowdy at New England reception, July 1, 2017
Thomas Cavanaugh (’18) -- quote 2

“My time here has really refined the way I think, read, and understand. It has allowed me to think about things more critically and logically.”

– Thomas Cavanaugh (’18)

Larkspur, California

“Thomas Aquinas is already the preeminent Catholic college in the country.”

– John Cardinal O’Connor (†)

Archbishop of New York