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“Little Philanthropy”

Posted: June 28, 2017

Anonymous Parent Gift Replenishes
College’s Natural Science Labs


“One of the things that distinguishes our academic program from many of the other orthodox Catholic colleges is that every student here studies math and natural science, for all four years, in great detail,” says Dr. John J. Goyette, a tutor and Thomas Aquinas College’s next dean.

“That is very important in order to think critically about some of the presuppositions that the modern world tends to adopt — such as the widespread belief that faith and science, or faith and reason, are incompatible,” he remarks. “To make those judgments in an informed way, you need to be able to think through what modern science actually has to show about the world. And there’s no better way to do that than in the lab, replicating some of the experiments that the original scientists performed, or at least experiments that are close to what the original scientific papers are describing.”

For this reason the College’s curriculum includes a heavy emphasis on laboratory experiments and demonstrations. Whereas at most colleges only a small portion of students — those who major in a few STEM subjects — ever touch any of the laboratory equipment, Thomas Aquinas College must have sufficient technology on hand for every student. “It’s not adequate to have, say, one student doing an experiment while five classmates stand around and watch,” says Mr. Goyette. “For students to have truly firsthand experience, there must be enough equipment that they can work in small groups, usually in pairs.”

The problem is that laboratory equipment is expensive and, for years, as the College’s student body and financial-aid needs grew, the laboratory budget was unable to keep pace. Over time, equipment aged or broke, while the number of students making use of that equipment increased.

“It became more difficult to conduct our experiments,” says Dr. Goyette. “The results were less reliable. Students were compelled to share more than is ideal.”

Until some thoughtful parents intervened.

“Last year, a student noticed that we were making do with less,” recalls Dr. Goyette. “When the student’s parents heard about it, they replied quickly and generously, contributing funds that allowed us to make some long-delayed purchases.”

These parents have asked to remain anonymous, but they are happy to share why they chose to support Thomas Aquinas College in this way. “In our financial giving to the College, we had always focused on supporting the financial needs of students or capital campaigns, which also tend to be the focus of major philanthropic support,” says the student’s father. “But it occurred to us that there might be a giving gap, if you will, an opening for ‘little philanthropy’ to target some special needs, such as updating lab equipment, that would otherwise fall through the cracks of giving intentions. So we started a series of annual donations targeted to this particular need.”

These donations have done a world of good for the College’s natural science program. “I have been able to buy several laboratory scales, a high-quality Newton’s Cradle, a vacuum plate and bell jar, a new wave-demonstration machine, and various other items at a great discount,” says Dr. Goyette, who oversees the laboratories. “We have been able to give our labs a much-needed upgrade.”

Such acts of generosity, says Parents’ Association Coordinator Robert Bagdazian, exemplify the many ways that TAC parents consistently assist not only their own children, but all of the College’s students. “Parents have a window into the life of the College that allows them to perceive needs and respond to them,” he says. “I am constantly amazed at how they are always looking for ways to help. Their ‘little philanthropy’ has played an enormous role in the life and success of Thomas Aquinas College.”

Dr. Goyette with students in Natural Science lab (2017)

Dr. Goyette with students in one of the College’s natural-science labs

Caroline Johnson, M.D. (’97)

“The diverse and in-depth education I received at Thomas Aquinas College was extremely valuable, first and foremost, for my soul; but it also proved to be more beneficial for my vocation as a physician than all the ‘hard sciences’ combined, perfectly blending the practical with the philosophical, and allowing me to see Christ in all whom I treat.”

– Caroline Johnson, M.D. (’97)

Internal Medicine Hospitalist

“What you do here at this college is important not only for the individual salvation of your soul, but really as a witness to all of society.”

– Most Rev. Robert Francis Vasa

Bishop of Santa Rosa