New England



Michael F. McLean

By Michael F. McLean, Ph.D.
President, Thomas Aquinas College
Remarks at the Alumni & Parent Day Dinner
September 11, 2021


As we mark the 20th anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks, let us pray for the repose of the souls of all who died in those attacks and for consolation for those who were left behind. Let us pray, too, for the safety of our country and the safety of all of our citizens and military personnel throughout the world. I have spent a lot of time over the years reading various accounts of 9-11, and you can’t read those without weeping. The heroism in those buildings is really unfathomable, and we ought to pray unceasingly for the repose of the souls of those who perished. Those who were left behind have also suffered tremendous loss, tremendous upheaval in their lives, and they need our prayers as well.

Now, as many of you know, we are celebrating the 50th anniversary of Thomas Aquinas College this year. That’s …

  • Fifty years of fidelity to our mission of Catholic liberal education, as articulated by our founders in their Proposal for the Fulfillment of Catholic Liberal Education
  • Fifty years of implementing our coherent and comprehensive curriculum of liberal education, culminating in the architectonic sciences of philosophy and theology
  • Fifty years of introducing undergraduates to the best that has been thought and written, the Great Books
  • Fifty years of employing the pedagogy of classroom discussion, which actively engages students in their own education and which helps them perfect their analytical, critical thinking, and conversational skills
  • Fifty years designing and developing a campus in California, which is among the most beautiful in America, and whose master plan is nearly complete
  • Fifty years of success in attracting qualified students and faculty, to the point where we acquired and opened this second campus here in Northfield, where we hope to gradually increase the enrollment to around 375 students — that’s 375 students who otherwise would not have the opportunity to pursue our education or benefit from the spiritual and moral formation we provide
  • And finally, nearly 50 years of sending out alumni who are serving the Church as priests and religious and working and making substantial contributions to their communities, their countries, and the Church in any number of professions and vocations — and who are, in the words of Bishop Byrne today, zealously presenting Christ as the Messiah, Christ as the Savior, Christ as our Redeemer

Much gratitude for our 50 years of success is due to the many friends and benefactors of TAC, without whom the College would not exist. Gratitude for our success here in Northfield is due to our friends and benefactors as well, but also to you parents, for entrusting your children to us here in New England, and for praying tirelessly that God will bless our efforts on this campus now and in the future. Thanks are due to our alumni as well — a number of whom are also parents of students on this campus —who have contributed financially to the success of our efforts here. Our alums have been among the strongest supporters of this New England project from its earliest stages, and we are very, very grateful for their support and enthusiasm.

So God has indeed blessed our efforts — beyond, I think, my most optimistic expectations. We are meeting our enrollment goals here, and we continue to recruit excellent faculty, staff, and chaplains to implement our academic program, provide for the health and welfare of our students, and tend to the spiritual needs of this growing community. The renovation of Tracy Student Center, of Meany Gymnasium, of East and Gould Halls, and especially the transformation of Sage Chapel into Our Mother of Perpetual Help are testaments to the generosity of our benefactors and to the promise this campus holds for Thomas Aquinas College, for our country, and for the Church, now and in the future.

Speaking of a promising future for the College, two of our most important organizations, the Parents’ Association and the Alumni Association, have both formed boards during the past year and are gearing up to help advance the College’s mission of Catholic liberal education. The Parents’ Association consists of all past and present TAC parents and grandparents. This past year the first 11-member Parents’ Association Board was formed, and a current parent of two students on the California campus, Paula Cummings, was named Parents’ Association board president. She is here today with her husband, Alexander, so I want to give a shout-out to Paula.

She’s here along with fellow board members Cara Guinee, Joanne Dowdy, and Meg Schmitt. We are very grateful for their willingness to volunteer and step up into these leadership positions, and I am confident that the Parents’ Association will really help in the development of the College as we go forward. They will be happy to talk to any of you about ways parents can be of help to one another, to our students, and to the College.

The Alumni Association is made up of all of you who are alumni of TAC, and like the Parents’ Association, exists to help advance the College’s mission of authentic Catholic liberal education. You alumni are a vitally important part of our success, and we thank you for showing your support by being with us here today.

This past year, the first 11-member Alumni Association Board was formed, and Pete Colarelli (’92) was named Alumni Association board president. He could not be with us here today, but board member Emily Sullivan, I think, is here with her husband, Joe. Emily is dynamic, energetic, and will really be a leader and a force for good.

So let me conclude these brief remarks by thanking all who have worked so hard to organize today’s events, especially Julia Wiggin, Patrick Gardner, John Jost, Tom Kaiser, Tim Cosgrove and his crew in the kitchen on this campus, and Rob Bagdazian, Paul Blewett, and Jon Daly from the California campus. Let’s give them all a round of applause for putting this all together. And I thank all of you, parents, alumni, and friends, for coming today and for supporting this enterprise here in New England and for giving me, personally, much support over my years as president.

As you probably know, this is the final year of my two six-year terms, or 12 years, as president. Paul O’Reilly will take over on July 1, 2022, which is exactly 246 days, 13 hours, and 12 minutes from now. I’m not counting, but …

My hope is to get back into the classroom, where I first started my career at Thomas Aquinas College and where my first love really lies, with teaching students. So hopefully I will be able to do some of that once I step down as president.

I want to thank all of you for coming today. I invite you to stay and enjoy good wine and good fellowship, and I pray that God will bless you and that He will continue to bless Thomas Aquinas College. Thank you all very much.



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