SANTA PAULA—March 28—Thomas Aquinas College tutor and alumnus Michael J. Paietta (’83) died late in the evening of March 25, 16 days after entering the hospital with symptoms suggestive of a heart attack. Just prior to his death, he received the last rites, including absolution and an apostolic blessing from college chaplain Rev. Hildebrand Garceau, O.Praem (’78).
Mr. Paietta served for a number of years in the U.S. Navy and attended UCLA for a short time before enrolling in 1979 at Thomas Aquinas College as a 25-year-old freshman. He graduated from the college in 1983 and went on to the University of Notre Dame, where he did his graduate and doctoral work. In 1989 Mr. Paietta returned to the 4-year, Catholic, college as a member of the teaching faculty.
Mourning the loss of his one-time student and colleague of many years, President Michael McLean said, “Mike was noteworthy for his love of literature, music, and baseball. Not only did he love these things, he sought to understand everything about them. Above all, though, he was devoted to understanding the thought of our patron, St. Thomas, and was particularly sure that discussions with our founders, Ron McArthur, Jack Neumayr, and Mark Berquist, would help him in that pursuit.”
Reflecting on Mr. Paietta’s life, Dean Brian T. Kelly noted, “Mike was a unique and beloved member of the Thomas Aquinas College community. He cared deeply about his students and mingled with them frequently in the dining hall. In class and at meals, he displayed charity, good cheer, and an extremely dry wit. Mike taught a range of courses in philosophy, theology, science, and mathematics. But he especially loved the arts; I trusted implicitly his views on literature and music, and happily followed many of his movie recommendations. His deep-rooted sense of loyalty was manifest in his abiding love for the Catholic Church, Thomas Aquinas College, and the Los Angeles Dodgers. He will be sorely missed.”
Dr. Paul O’Reilly, a long-time fellow tutor and Vice President for Development, added a personal reflection saying, “Mike had a tremendous wit and a remarkable memory. We all wanted him on our trivial pursuit team. And those who had him on their team were on the winning side.”
Funeral arrangements for Mr. Paietta are pending. A memorial Mass will be offered at a later date in the college’s chapel of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity. Details will be provided on the college’s website when they are available.
Celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, Thomas Aquinas College has developed a solid reputation for academic excellence in the United States and abroad. At Thomas Aquinas College, there are no majors, no minors, or electives because all students acquire a broad and fully integrated liberal education. The College offers one 4-year, classical curriculum that spans the major arts and sciences. Instead of reading textbooks, students read the original works of the greatest thinkers in Western civilization — the Great Books — in all the major disciplines: mathematics, natural science, literature, philosophy, and theology. Rather than listening to lectures, they engage in rigorous Socratic discussions about these works in classes of 15-18 students. The academic life of the college is conducted under the light of the Catholic faith and flourishes within a close-knit community, supported by a vibrant spiritual life. Genuinely committed to upholding civic virtue and leading lives dedicated to the good of others, Thomas Aquinas College graduates enter a wide array of fields where they are a powerful force for good in the Church and in the culture. Well-versed in rational discourse, they become leaders in education, law, medicine, journalism, public policy, military service, and business. In addition, a steady 10% of alumni go on to the priesthood or religious life.