Dr. Paul J. O’Reilly (’84) Takes Oath of Office as College’s Fifth President
May 21, 2022
At the conclusion of Thomas Aquinas College’s first New England Commencement on Saturday, there were two other historic “firsts” on the Northfield, Massachusetts, campus: Dr. Paul J. O’Reilly (’84) took the presidential Oath of Office, becoming the College’s first alumnus to assume the presidency, and the first president to take office in New England.
“Paul O’Reilly was deeply invested in helping to establish and develop our New England campus from the very beginning,” said outgoing President Michael F. McLean. “It is only fitting that he would take the Oath of Office here in Northfield.”
As the graduation ceremony drew to its close, Dr. McLean removed the Chain of Office, which he has worn to academic celebrations throughout his 12 years as TAC president, and presented it to Chairman of the Board of Governors Scott Turicchi, who, in turn, entrusted the chain to Dr. O’Reilly. Dr. O’Reilly then approached the lectern, where the Commencement Speaker — the Most Rev. Robert Joseph McManus, S.T.D., Bishop of Worcester, Massachusetts — administered the Oath of Office, as well as the Oath of Fidelity, undertaken by all members of the College’s teaching faculty.
“It was six years ago when I first came to this campus, in the hopes that it may one day become the East Coast home of Thomas Aquinas College,” remarked the new president. “To be here now for our first New England Commencement, and to take the presidential Oath of Office, is humbling and gratifying. Thanks be to God for the blessings He has bestowed upon the College, as well as to Dr. McLean for his 12 years of tremendous leadership.”
A 30-year member of the teaching faculty who previously served as vice president for advancement, Dr. O’Reilly first came to the College in 1980, shortly after his family fled to North America to escape the Troubles in Northern Ireland. Within one year of his graduation, he married classmate Peggy (Steichen ’84) and moved to Quebec, where he earned master’s and doctoral degrees in philosophy at the Université Laval. He then taught for two years at Saint Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire, before returning to Thomas Aquinas College as a member of the teaching faculty in 1989. From 1995 to 1999 he also served as assistant dean of students.
In addition to being an alumnus of the College, Dr. O’Reilly is a TAC parent. He and Mrs. O’Reilly have 12 children, five of whom are current students or alumni, including a rising junior on the California campus and a daughter, Mary (’22), who was among the members of the inaugural New England class that graduated at Saturday’s ceremony.
While the College will host a more formal inauguration on the California campus in the fall, Dr. O’Reilly assumes the responsibilities of the presidency effective immediately. Free from his administrative responsibilities, Dr. McLean, meanwhile, intends to devote his energies more fully to teaching students on the California campus.
Newly sworn in as Thomas Aquinas College’s fifth president, Dr. O’Reilly asked his colleagues, fellow alumni, benefactors, parents, students, and other friends for their prayerful support. “Please pray for me and for the College,” he said, “as we continue to pursue our mission of Catholic liberal education in the years to come.”