All College

by Anne S. Forsyth (’81)
Funeral for Dr. John W. Neumayr
Thomas Aquinas College, California
July 25, 2022


It is an honor to be asked to speak about Dr. Neumayr, a truly great and good man. I first met Jack when I was about 10 years old; when he and the other founders were making plans to open the College in the Bay Area, they would come for dinner parties at my parents’ home in San Francisco and bring important guests with them such as Bishop McFarland and Fr. Martin D’Arcy.

I didn’t know then that our founders were themselves important men. Nor did I appreciate the novelty or the stakes of their endeavor — to found a college! I did notice, however, that though Jack was nearly as tall as Ron McArthur, his was a quite different nature: Ron had a huge personality and a voice to match it, while Jack was quieter and more reserved; even then you had to listen closely to hear what he had to say.

One Christmas in the late 1960s, Dr. Neumayr brought Bridget and their children to our home for a visit, the first of many over the years. In fact, our youngest sister, Laura, when she learned of Jack’s passing, said that she couldn’t remember a Christmas without the Neumayrs. In the years since, the friendship that began among our parents blossomed among all of us children.

Recalling my years as a student first at Calabasas and then here on this campus, it seems odd that I never had Jack as a tutor; we were such a small student body then, and there was just a handful of tutors. But I had lunch with him often, and I remember him playing basketball and tennis. And I will never forget his remarks my senior year at the President’s Dinner, delivered with a poker face but so truly funny that I thought I might literally die laughing. I recall, too, the night that Bridget spoke to us about the 40 English Martyrs, and how proud Jack was of his lovely and accomplished wife.

After I returned to the College over 20 years ago, Jack would sometimes stop by my office for a chat, and I treasured those visits. I learned how truly wise he was, not only about intellectual things, but also about practical affairs — trends in our country’s political life, innovations in the liturgy and the Church, and more. It struck me that he was particularly good at tracing the lineage of so many of our modern ills to the errant philosophers who spawned them, thinkers we read in seminar such as Kant, Hegel, Nietzsche, and Marx.

I last spoke to him a couple of months ago, and his mind was wonderfully sharp. We talked about the early history of the College and many other things. I will always cherish the memory of that conversation with a great man who had the kindest eyes in the world.

I recall two occasions on which I had a glimpse of the scope of Jack’s mind, the mind of a wise man, who can order things well.

Some years ago, not long after Mark Berquist’s death, I did a series of videotaped interviews with our remaining founders. During my conversation with Jack, he gave an amazing account of the natural progression of the liberal arts, one to the next, and how together they prepare the mind for the study of philosophy, natural theology, and finally for the queen of the sciences, theology itself. Though his discourse was about 50 minutes in length, Joe Haggard (’03), one of our graduates, was able to distill it and with some masterful editing produce a 7-minute version. It’s a marvelous introduction to the College for prospective students.

On another occasion, at a board retreat in Ojai, Dr. Neumayr gave a memorable account of the corruption of Christian intellectual culture — which had been essentially Thomistic — that began with Descartes and was virtually complete by the beginning of the 19th century. He went on to describe the attempts made by some, when called on by Pope Leo XIII, to restore the Angelic Doctor to his rightful place of preeminence, and that, though well-meaning, they mostly failed, being unable to escape the errors of modernity. This was the reason for Thomas Aquinas College: a response to Pope Leo’s exhortation, a college where students would not only learn the doctrine of St. Thomas, but would become his disciples, making his method their own.

As significant as these lessons were for me, he taught me the most important thing of all by his attendance at daily Mass, following the example of our patron who “never gave himself to reading or writing without first begging the blessing of God.”

I have been thinking about the proximity of our founders’ burial plots — Ron, Mark, and now Jack; with Tom Dillon and Molly Gustin, and my parents and other friends and family members from our college community, all nearby — and the words of St. Paul come to mind:

We will all be changed — in an instant, in the twinkling of an eye … The trumpet will sound and the dead will be raised.

When that last trumpet sounds, what a celebration there will be at our little cemetery in Santa Paula, where friends and collaborators, who brought the College to life and sustained it, will find each other again and together enter into the heavenly Jerusalem.

One last word … I can’t think of Jack without Bridget, such true friends and partners as they were in raising their beautiful family. And I can only imagine how much you are missing him now, Bridget, you and all your children and grandchildren. May you find much consolation in the goodness of his life, the great love he has for you even now, and in all your memories of him.

Eternal rest grant unto Jack, O Lord, and perpetual light shine upon him. May he rest in peace.