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Mom and Dad Travel 3,000 Miles
for Alumni & Parent Day

Posted: December 28, 2018

Joining the Family


When asked why she and her husband, Alexander, made the 3,000-mile trip from their home in suburban New York for this year’s Alumni & Parent Day, Paula Cummings answered in a way that any mom (or dad) could understand:

“We couldn’t wait until Thanksgiving to see our son!” the mother of Ian (’22) admitted. “He’s the first one to leave the nest, and it’s really hard.”

There were also other benefits of coming to the third annual event, besides easing the pains of child-sickness. “We had been told that when your child goes to the College, you join a family,” adds Mrs. Cummings. “At Alumni & Parent Day, we felt that instantly.”

For the better part of three decades, the event was known simply as “Alumni Day,” with graduates bringing their families to relive all that they had loved most about their time on campus — the spiritual life, the intellectual life, the friendships. In 2016 the College began inviting parents to join the festivities as well, and the result is the now well-established joint event, held each year on the Saturday of Columbus Day Weekend.

“We are always looking for ways to bring parents more fully into the life of the College, and Alumni & Parent Day does that beautifully,” says Robert Bagdazian, coordinator of the Thomas Aquinas College Parents’ Association and father of Daniel (’13), Gabriel (’14), and Samuel (’20). “For parents, it’s not only a great excuse to come see your children, it’s also an opportunity to experience, firsthand, life on campus.”

With each passing year, attendance has increased, and parents — like the Cummings — continue to come from ever-farther away. “It’s very well timed because it takes place about 6-7 weeks after the start of the year and 6-7 weeks before Thanksgiving,” says Mr. Cummings. “It was also an exciting time for TAC: The College had just acquired 700 acres surrounding the California campus, and President McLean mentioned that the New England campus may soon be approved, which it was just weeks later.”

The day began with morning Mass in Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity Chapel. “Just like at freshman drop-off, it was so great to start with a Mass,” says Mrs. Cummings. “And it was beautiful to see so many other families there.” Afterward was brunch in St. Joseph Commons. “We love that it’s so open, that people just come to the table and sit down with you,” Mrs. Cummings continues. “The air is really positive and friendly.”

In the afternoon, the College hosted a seminar, led by members of the teaching faculty, on St. Thomas’ treatment of the Crucifixion and Burial of Christ from the Compendium Theologiae. “I think that, for a lot of parents, it was edifying to do what their children do here every day,” says Mr. Bagdazian. “We were participating in the academic program for ourselves, working our way through a great book by way of the Discussion Method.”

Tending to the mundane but important task of getting their son a flu shot, the Cummings missed the seminar as well as the highly popular children’s Cardboard Yacht Race. They did, however, return in time for the President’s Reception in St. Gladys Plaza and the barbeque dinner that followed. “What was nice was that the dinner wasn’t just for parents and alumni, but for the students, too,” says Mr. Cummings. “At the freshman drop-off barbeque, it was largely just freshmen who were there, so this was our first time seeing the entire student body.”

For both parents, the dinner was not only the culmination but also the highlight of the day, bringing together so many parts of the Thomas Aquinas College community — fellow parents, tutors, students, and alumni. “It was wonderful to see TAC at work,” says Mrs. Cummings, “just seeing it in action.” Adds her husband, “We appreciated meeting such a wide cross-section of people, connecting with so many different parts of the community, and joining the family. We felt very welcomed.”

Plans are already under way for Alumni & Parent Day 2019 in California, as well as for a possible second gathering in Massachusetts. “On the California campus, the event was originally for alumni, but we eventually expanded it to include parents,” says Mr. Bagdazian. “In New England, where we will have parents right away, but no alumni for a few years, it will need to be just the opposite. So look for our TAC parents to be the trailblazers!”

Cummings Family at Alumni and Parent Day

Ian Cummings (’22) with his mother, Paula, at Alumni & Parent Day

“I was moved and edified by your remarkable fidelity to St. Thomas Aquinas. Your academic program proposes an original way of training men and women capable of reading, thinking and interpreting tradition correctly.”

– Marc Cardinal Ouellet

Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops