Twice in the last two weeks members of the Thomas Aquinas College faculty — tutors and senior administrators alike — have participated in seminars about a topic of utmost importance to their work: the mission of the College.
“Many strong Catholic institutions of higher learning have collapsed, or lost their way, in part because they were not explicit enough about what they stood for,” says Dean Brian T. Kelly. Careful to avoid this fate, the Thomas Aquinas College faculty meets each summer to discuss texts that deepen members’ understanding of and commitment to the College’s mission and its unique program of Catholic liberal education.
The first of this summer’s seminars focused on a report that Dr. Glen Coughlin, a senior tutor, presented in 2001, when he was serving as the College’s dean. The purpose of the report, as he described it at the time, was “to reflect on our experience and to recall our principles, in the hope that a useful clarity about the nature and purposes of the College may result.” Intended to supplement the College’s founding document, A Proposal for the Fulfillment of Catholic Liberal Education, the report aimed “to express more concretely and explicitly the character and mission of Thomas Aquinas College,” says Dr. Kelly. “It was an attempt to shore up our self-understanding.”
For the second seminar, the faculty read Pope St. John Paul’s 1998 encyclical Fides et Ratio. “At Thomas Aquinas College we aim to serve the Church,” says Dr. Kelly. “Our mission — to help students make a good beginning on the road to Catholic wisdom — must be informed by the teaching Church. Reading and discussing St. John Paul’s great encyclical on faith and reason helps us to think and act with the magisterium.”
The seminars are just one part of the faculty’s summertime preparations, which also include the Tutor Summer Program and the annual retreat for faculty and staff that precedes the start of the new academic year.