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Senior Reflection: From Reluctant Student to Husband and Marine

Posted: August 8, 2017

Note: The following essay is adapted from comments made before the Thomas Aquinas College Board of Governors at its May 12, 2017, meeting.

 

By Thomas Ford (’17)

My path to Thomas Aquinas College wasn’t the shortest route. Immediately after graduating from high school, I was interested, but I ultimately chose to enroll elsewhere. It seemed to me that the College had something special in terms of its academics, community life, and strong Catholic character, but as an 18-year-old boy, those attributes held little weight compared to my desire to play college football at another Catholic school.

But after only one semester, I left that other college, realizing that playing the sport I loved wasn’t enough to keep me happy in life. So I returned to Southern California and began a full-time job with an opportunity to move up and make a comfortable living for myself. I also tried some community college courses here and there, but none of it satisfied me. None of it seemed very important.

I considered the possibility of never returning to college. After all, everyone I knew wanted to get their college degrees so that they could get a good job and live comfortably, but here I had already found a job with a good company, with potential to pay very well, and it was honest work. Why would I want to go back to school and jump through almost four years of hoops just so that I could get a more prestigious job that might actually pay me less?

So many friends and acquaintances had witnessed to my suspicion that they didn’t really learn anything in college, that they just drank, partied, and jumped through the hoops so that they could get that paper that allows them to make more money. I didn’t want that. The thought of such an experience was repulsive.

Three years after I left my first college, a good friend from high school, Joseph Stack (’17), returned from studying abroad in Argentina as a student at the University of California, Los Angeles. He had met a priest down there who was a TAC alumnus, Rev. Anthony J. Myers, S.S.J. (’94). Fr. Tony left my friend Joe with a strong impression: He was very aware of the incredible way in which Fr. Tony could analyze any thought and always articulate reasonable positions.

I met with Joe at an IHOP for breakfast when he returned. Joe didn’t wait long before he let me know that, upon finishing UCLA that summer, he would begin college again at Thomas Aquinas, and he wanted me to join him. I was skeptical at first, after being away from school for so long, but Joe reminded me of how unique the program is in the way that it seeks the truth of the most important realities. The fact that the school isn’t “practical” was almost an incentive for me, since I am a stubborn guy, and the idea of getting an education just to get a job was unappealing. So I applied and, along with Joe, was accepted for the fall of 2013.

Four years later, I could not be happier with my decision to attend. The education and the spiritual maturing that I have received here are truly priceless, and I am extremely grateful for all those who have assisted in that. The nature of the Discussion Method always kept me focused in class, greatly deepening my understanding of the most important things.

Looking back at my studies here, I do not feel as though I wasted four years jumping through hoops. On the contrary, I could not imagine a better way to have spent these four short years. Surprisingly enough, I couldn’t have asked for a more practical education, since all of our actions are working toward achieving happiness, and I have never been happier in my life.

The luxury of being able to study things that are worth knowing for their own sake — and not solely for the sake of a job — is one of which few in today’s world can boast. I had the blessing of making many lifelong friends, as well as finding my lovely soon-to-be wife, Sophia (Cain ’16). Thank you for the work all of you have done to make this truly once-in-a-lifetime experience possible.

I look forward now to an upcoming career as an intelligence officer in the United States Marine Corps, the greatest military organization on God’s green earth. I will be shipping out to report to Officer Candidate School on June 3, and I will hopefully receive a commission as a 2nd Lieutenant on August 12. I am honored to call this beautiful country home, and I am excited for the opportunity to serve as a reservist, so that I can also give appropriate attention to raising a good Catholic family.

May God give me strength to serve Him and our nation well, and may He bless all of you for making this education possible. Thank you.

Mr. Ford is from Costa Mesa, California.