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Meet the Eight Tutors who will Establish Thomas Aquinas College, New England

Posted: June 25, 2019

Dr. Thomas J. KaiserDr. Thomas J. Kaiser

Leading the team on the New England campus is the associate dean, Dr. Thomas J. Kaiser, a 37-year member of the teaching faculty who oversaw the College’s natural science laboratories for 20 years and served for eight years as assistant dean. A member of the College’s first graduating class, Dr. Kaiser earned his doctorate in biology at the University of California, Los Angeles. He holds the distinction of being the first member of the faculty to have taught all 23 courses in the College’s classical curriculum.

“As a member of the first class on our original campus, I know what it will be like for our first students in New England, and that should be helpful in getting us off to a good start,” says Dr. Kaiser. “I think it will be an adventure and a challenge. It’s going to be a sacrifice for my wife, Paula, and me to be away from our 11 children and 26 grandchildren, who mostly live here in California, but I think it will be exciting to be among the founding faculty of the new campus.”

Dr. Michael A. AugrosDr. Michael A. Augros

A New England native, Dr. Michael A. Augros is a graduate of the College who earned his master’s and doctoral degrees in philosophy at Boston College. “My wife, Amy, and I both grew up in Merrimack, New Hampshire, about an hour’s drive away, and our parents still live there,” Dr. Augros reflects. “That’s part of why I volunteered to go — but only part. I also want to contribute what I can to help make this new venture a success.”

Dr. Augros taught at Thomas Aquinas College from 1995 to 1998, then moved back east to teach for 11 years at the North American campus of the Pontifical University Regina Apostolorum, before returning to the California campus in 2009. He is the author of two books, Who Designed the Designer: A Rediscovered Path to God’s Existence (2015) and The Immortal in You: How Human Nature is More Than Science Can Say (2017). He and Mrs. Augros are the parents of three children: one a graduate at the College, the other two, students, the younger of whom — Ben (’21) — is a fellow pioneer who will be transferring to the New England campus with them.

Dr. Sean B. CunninghamDr. Sean B. Cunningham

This fall Dr. Sean B. Cunningham will leave a successful law practice to become a tutor at Thomas Aquinas College — again.

A graduate of the University of Virginia, Dr. Cunningham holds a master’s degree and a doctorate in philosophy from The Catholic University of America as well as a juris doctor from the University of Texas School of Law. In 2013 a longstanding passion for philosophy, coupled with a yearning to teach, inspired him to leave his position as a partner at an 800-attorney law firm in Washington, D.C., and join the College’s teaching faculty.

Two years later, however, one of his four young daughters faced a dire medical condition that required Dr. Cunningham and his wife, Joanna, to bring their family back to the East Coast, where he resumed his legal career. “Thankfully she got through the crisis,” he says, and with the College opening a campus closer to home, he is now able to return to teaching. “Being a tutor at the College was a calling and a privilege, to which I am very happy to be able to return.”

Josef C. FroulaDr. Josef C. Froula

“As a student, the spiritual and intellectual richness of the College completely transformed my life,” reflects Dr. Josef C. Froula. “I looked forward to attending every class, and I never had a single bad experience” — well, save for one: “I remember my graduation was a very sad day for me,” he continues. “I didn’t want to leave.”

Yet leave he did, making the most of the subsequent 26 years before returning to his alma mater as a tutor in 2018. Dr. Froula married classmate Hélène (Augros ’92), and the couple has welcomed 10 children. He earned master’s degrees in dogmatic theology at Holy Apostles College and Seminary and humanities at California State University, Dominguez Hills, as well as a doctorate in educational leadership at Southern Connecticut State University.

“The New England location will allow the College to offer more students the intellectual and spiritual life that characterizes the West Coast campus,” Dr. Froula says. “I am excited to be a part of this effort and inspired by the zeal and commitment of the faculty, students, and benefactors who are making it happen.”

Dr. Patrick M. GardnerDr. Patrick M. Gardner

Like several other members of the New England-bound faculty, Dr. Patrick M. Gardner has ties to the region, having earned his undergraduate degree at Harvard University before obtaining his master’s and Ph.D. in medieval studies at the University of Notre Dame. It is the example of the College’s founders and early students, he says, which has inspired him and his wife, Kate, to move across the country, along with their six young sons.

“We had it easy in our own journey to Thomas Aquinas College,” Dr. Gardner reflects. “We didn’t have to make the tremendous leap of faith that, in the early years of the College, both tutors and students had to make. We came later, when the goodness and greatness of the founders’ vision and God’s blessings were already manifest. This fact has ever deepened our gratitude for the pioneers of the College, as our love for this community and this education has grown. So when the New England opportunity arose, and the prospect opened — both exhilarating and a bit frightening — of being, in a very secondary way, a pioneer myself, I thought, ‘How could I refuse?’”

Dr. Margaret I. HughesDr. Margaret I. Hughes

“I grew up in Connecticut, and so feel very much at home in New England,” says Dr. Margaret I. Hughes. “It is a great privilege for me to be able to be part of bringing Thomas Aquinas College to my home. It is the meeting of a place and an institution which are both very dear to me.”

A graduate of the University of Chicago, Dr. Hughes earned her master’s and doctoral degrees in philosophy at Fordham University, where she taught undergraduate philosophy, and then served for six years on the faculty of the College of Mount Saint Vincent in New York. She joined the College’s faculty last fall and has spent the last year teaching on the California campus in preparation for her move to Massachusetts.

“I am especially looking forward to being able to share aspects of what I love about New England with my students,” she says. “These include the wonderful museums and concerts there, as well as the New England woods, which, because I grew up around them, seem to me the most beautiful in the world.”

Dr. Paul K. ShieldsDr. Paul K. Shields

 “When I finished my graduate studies at Ave Maria University in 2013, I felt something of a missionary spirit,” recalls Dr. Paul K. Shields. “I made a commitment that I would be willing to teach anywhere God wished to send me — so I was pleasantly surprised to wind up here.” Six years later, when the College was looking for volunteers to go to New England, he says, “I felt that missionary spirit revive within me.”

A Thomas Aquinas College graduate, Dr. Shields is married to a classmate, Mary (Coughlin ’07), whose father, Dr. Glen Coughlin, is a senior member of the teaching faculty. Dr. and Mrs. Shields anticipate that their life in Massachusetts — and that of their five children — will be much like Mrs. Shields’ childhood as a member of a tutor family during the College’s formative years.

“Frankly that is part of what made New England attractive to us,” Dr. Shields says. “We look forward to experiencing an extra sense of camaraderie with all the students, staff, tutors, and families who are undertaking this adventure together.”

Stephen F. ShivoneStephen F. Shivone

Prior to coming to Thomas Aquinas College, Stephen F. Shivone taught, over the course of 15 years, in Alaska, Texas, Arizona, and North Carolina. Yet when the opportunity to become a TAC tutor presented itself, he decided that it would be worth the burden of another move — or even two.

In 2017 he joined the faculty in California with the intention of transferring to New England when the new campus was ready. With that moment at hand, Dr. Shivone now finds himself thinking of a favorite quotation from Bl. John Henry Cardinal Newman: “Therein lies the nobility of the Faith, that we have the heart to venture something.” As Dr. Shivone describes it, “This is a venture of faith on the part of the College. It is undertaking something bold and difficult, and we feel blessed to be part of it.”

Dr. Shivone earned his undergraduate degree at the erstwhile College of St. Thomas More in Fort Worth, Texas, and his master’s and doctoral degrees in literature at the University of Dallas. He and his wife, Mary Ann (Hastings ’03), are the parents of five children.

Crest for Thomas Aquinas College, New England
Isabella Hsu (’18) on integrated curriculum

“It is amazing to read all the different works from a wide range of disciplines, and see the same truth popping up again and again — whether it’s in Euclid, or theology, or natural science. It all comes together to form a full picture.”

– Isabella Hsu (’18)

Redondo Beach, California

“Thomas Aquinas College is a paragon of what Catholic higher education ought to be.”

– William Cardinal Baum

Prefect Emeritus

Congregation for Catholic Education

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