New friends typically learn about Thomas Aquinas College from alumni, from other friends, or perhaps from an advertisement, but Dr. David Stuhr’s introduction to the life of the College was unlike any other: He spent a week stranded on the California campus with a vanload of Boy Scouts.
During the summer of 2021, Scout Leader Stuhr, a few other leaders, and some 15 boys were paying a visit to Southern California — on their way back to New Jersey after a backpacking trek in New Mexico’s Sangre de Cristo mountains — when they encountered some difficulties. “I managed to run into the back of a truck,” he laughs. “And so we had to hang around for a whole week while the Chevy place in town fixed our van.” His old friend Jim Link, TAC’s vice president for advancement, offered them a place to stay in the College’s residence halls.
“My experience was mind-boggling,” he says of his time on campus. “The College is completely unique in its whole atmosphere.”
As a result of this providential visit, Dr. Stuhr and his assistant scoutmaster, Hal Hayward, decided to join the ranks of the Thomas Aquinas College President’s Council. “I thought, ‘This is a place where I am going to give as much as I can,’” he recalls. As a member of the Council, Dr. Stuhr joins those whose yearly gifts of $1,000 or more make possible the College’s robust program of financial aid. After seeing the campus and meeting students, he decided such a sacrifice was worth it — because, as he enthusiastically explains, Thomas Aquinas College offers “a real education.”
Dr. Stuhr is well equipped to make such judgments. After earning a B.S. in engineering from Yale University in 1960, he worked as a research assistant at the Federal Reserve Bank from 1968–1969 before finishing a Ph.D. in finance and economics at New York University in 1973. He taught at both Columbia and Rutgers before taking a position at Fordham University in 1977, where he taught for 34 years and served as associate vice president for academic affairs.
Amidst his many professional accomplishments, Dr. Stuhr made time for leadership in the Boy Scouts of America, starting in the early 1970s, when a friend asked him to volunteer. “I said, ‘Yeah, yeah, as soon as I finish my dissertation,’” he laughs. But when he completed his doctorate in 1973, that friend held him to his promise. “He was going on a cross-country trip to the National Jamboree in Idaho and needed another driver,” recalls Dr. Stuhr. “I ended up doing it and had a great time!”
“I managed to run into the back of a truck. And so we had to hang around for a whole week while the Chevy place in town fixed our van.”
Nearly four decades later, Dr. Stuhr’s service to the Scouts — and his 35th backpacking trip to Philmont Scout Ranch — would bring him on his unexpected sojourn to a young college that lacked the legacy of the schools where he had once worked, yet still measured up more than favorably. “It’s wonderful to have a school that maintains a rigorous approach to classical liberal education,” he says. “Maybe you would be surprised to hear an engineer and a business faculty member saying that, but when I was dean of the undergraduate business school, I spent much time trying to get kids to transfer into the liberal arts and get a broad education rather than a specialty.”
In addition to joining the President’s Council, Dr. Stuhr has become more deeply involved in the life of the College. Last year he attended a Fall Seminar Weekend on the New England campus, where guests took part in discussions of the Great Books modeled after the College’s classes. “I had a fantastic time,” he says. “The whole thing was just terrific. President O’Reilly was our tutor, which was great. He didn’t say much, of course,” he adds, “because tutors try not to dominate the conversation.” When the New England campus hosted its first Commencement last spring, Dr. Stuhr was there, cheering on the new graduates.
He also looks to take another group of Scouts to the College’s California campus this summer. “I’m in the early stages of planning the trip,” he says. “I find any excuse I can to go out there!”