A distinguished philanthropist and a noted prelate have agreed to serve as Thomas Aquinas College’s two Commencement Speakers for 2023: in New England, Daniel Flatley, a trustee of The Flatley Foundation; and in California, the Most Rev. James D. Conley, Bishop of Lincoln.
“We are pleased and honored to announce our 2023 Commencement Speakers, both of whom play important roles in the life of the Church today,” says Paul J. O’Reilly, president of Thomas Aquinas College. “As a layman and a philanthropist, Daniel Flatley sustains many of the institutions and apostolates that are vital to the function of the Church’s good works. And as a faithful priest and bishop, Bishop Conley has exercised the sort of leadership that is key to the Church’s evangelical witness. Both men have much wisdom to share with our graduates, and we are deeply grateful that they have accepted our invitation.”
Speaking at the New England campus’s second-ever Commencement exercises on May 13, Mr. Flatley oversees one of the most prominent Catholic foundations in the Northeast. He is a son of Charlotte and Thomas Flatley, an Irish immigrant who came to the U.S. with $32 in his pocket but went on to build a highly successful commercial real-estate portfolio that included malls, shopping centers, office buildings, hotels, nursing homes, and apartment complexes.
The Flatleys were also tremendous philanthropists, and as a trustee of the foundation that they founded and that bears their name, Mr. Flatley has continued his family’s noble tradition. Both individually and through the Foundation, he has made many generous contributions to Catholic causes throughout the country, including the establishment of Thomas Aquinas College, New England.
Mr. Flatley earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Vermont and master’s from Boston College. He also served on the boards of Saint Anselm College, the Wentworth Institute of Technology, and Clergy Trust.
As part of the Commencement ceremony, the College will induct Mr. Flatley into its Order of St. Albert, which recognizes those benefactors whose generosity to the College has been exceptional. “I am honored to be inducted into Thomas Aquinas College’s Order of St. Albert and to serve as its New England Commencement Speaker,” he says. “I hope to encourage the graduates to pay forward the great gift of their education by putting it to the service of both Church and country.”
Offering the Baccalaureate Mass on May 13 will be Rev. Patrick Seo (’06), an alumnus priest from the Archdiocese of Newark, where he serves as the parochial vicar of Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary and St. Michael’s Church in Elizabeth, New Jersey.
One week later, on May 20, Bishop Conley will offer the Baccalaureate Mass and deliver the address at TAC’s 49th California Commencement. He will also receive the College’s highest honor, the Saint Thomas Aquinas Medallion, in recognition of a lifetime of faithful adherence to the teachings of the Church and the primacy of the Magisterium.
A convert from Presbyterianism, Bishop Conley discovered Catholicism through studying the Great Books at Kansas University’s Integrated Humanities Program. Ordained to the priesthood in 1985, he has served in numerous pastoral capacities, including in the curia, where he worked in the Congregation for Bishops. He holds a master’s degree in divinity from Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, Maryland, as well as a licentiate in moral theology from the Accademia Alfonsiana, part of the Faculty of Theology at the Pontifical Lateran University.
Pope Benedict XVI named His Excellency the Auxiliary Bishop of Denver in 2008. Four years later, the Holy Father then named him Bishop of Lincoln, Nebraska, in 2012, where he remains a steadfast shepherd of souls.
“I am very much honored to have been invited to celebrate the Baccalaureate Mass and to speak at the Commencement for the Thomas Aquinas College graduation class of 2023,” says Bishop Conley. “I have been a strong supporter of TAC for many decades. It has been, and continues to be, a bright light, leading the way to an authentic renewal of Catholic higher education in this country and beyond. We need institutions like TAC now more than ever, to help restore the joy of learning and to continue the rebirth of wonder and wisdom in the Catholic liberal arts tradition.”