Senior Reflections

A Student Looks Back at His Time at the College and Ahead to His Future

By Deneys Williamson (’10)

Note: The following remarks are adapted from comments that Deneys Williamson made before the Thomas Aquinas College Board of Governors on February 12, 2010.

Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you for inviting me to have lunch with you. It is a privilege to speak before you, to tell you about myself, my experience at Thomas Aquinas College, and my plans for the future.

I was born and raised in Johannesburg, South Africa, the eldest of three children. My family has lived in South Africa for several generations, and we have a history of being involved in politics and law: One of my relatives was the first governor of the Cape Colony, and my grandfather was a judge on the Supreme Court. And so when I finished high school, I planned to attend a local university to do a PPE (politics, philosophy, and economics) degree and go into law. I was attracted to this degree because I was (and still am) an intellectual romantic who was searching deeply for the “truth,” although back then I was unaware of where it was to be found.

However, just before beginning my first year, by chance I came across an ad for Thomas Aquinas College in First Things magazine. (Yes, your advertising works!) After reading more on the College’s website, I immediately recognized the superiority of this education over anything I had seen before. I had never heard of liberal arts before, and in fact there are no liberal arts colleges in South Africa that I know of — let alone colleges like Thomas Aquinas College. And so, to cut a long story short, within a year I found myself flying over the Atlantic Ocean to Southern California — the land of Hollywood and palm trees, not really knowing what to expect but having the confidence bordering on arrogance that only youth can give.

I was raised Catholic and took my faith somewhat seriously, but not seriously enough. I was somewhat of a rebel. However, when I came here — and this might sound trifling to you, but for me it was a revelation — I was immediately blown away at how good and holy the students were. The faculty, too, were the same way. Good people — that’s rare. And for the first time in my life, I was able to discover the joy of true Catholic friendship. I found my weak faith slowly being nurtured by the rich sacramental life in this peaceful, respectful and, above all, joyful environment.

The classroom has also been a place of profound discovery for me. As I said, I’m an intellectual romantic, and so I can’t describe the wonder and joy I have felt every day studying the College’s classical curriculum. As you know, this education is a confirmation of what we all know deep inside: that our world is true, good, and beautiful. Yet for me it turned out to be more beautiful than my small mind could comprehend. I was challenged every day to think deeply and reflect, and this naturally led me to think more about the Source of the marvels, God. Having had Dr. McArthur for junior theology, in which we read St. Thomas Aquinas for the first time, is another memory that stands out.

And so this leads me to my plans for the future. As I said, through the academic program and my friends I had a gradual reconversion back to the Faith, and recently I have discerned a call from God to the priesthood. I plan to pursue this vocation after graduating, and I am looking at several religious communities nearby, one of them being St. Michael’s Abbey in Orange County.

I think that if I had not come to Thomas Aquinas College, I would not have discovered my vocation. I am convinced that the College has been the means whereby God has shown me His will for my life. Which leads me to you today, because I know that were it not for the work you do, Thomas Aquinas College would not be possible. So thank you, each and every one of you, for your work in keeping the College running. Know that through your efforts you have helped at least one student discover his calling.

Thank you.