Justice Alito, Friends Celebrate Thomas Aquinas College at 50th Anniversary Gala
November 10, 2021
With U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel A. Alito, Jr., serving as keynote speaker, friends of Thomas Aquinas College gathered in Beverly Hills on October 16 to celebrate the College’s golden anniversary.
“The story of the founding of Thomas Aquinas College is a remarkable one,” said Justice Alito, noting that TAC’s founders created an institution dedicated to upholding the Catholic intellectual tradition and reasoned discourse at a time when much of academia was jettisoning both. “What the founders of the College were professing constituted the real counterculture.”
More than 600 friends of the College — including members of the Board of Governors, alumni, students, faculty, staff, and visiting clergy and religious — attended the 50th Anniversary Gala at the historic Beverly Wilshire Hotel. They joyfully shared memories about the College, dating back to its kickoff dinner in 1970 with Ven. Fulton Sheen and its humble beginnings on a rented campus in Calabasas. They delighted in a performance by the College’s California choir, and they cheered Justice Alito’s gracious salute to all who have worked to make its accomplishments possible.
The event began with an invocation from a longtime friend of the College, the Right Rev. Eugene Hayes, O.Praem., Abbot of St. Michael’s Abbey in Silverado, California. “Good and loving God, we praise You this evening for the founding of Thomas Aquinas College five decades ago,” the Abbot prayed, “and for its flourishing ever since, up to our own day.”
From there, Chairman of the Board of Governors Scott Turicchi and his wife, Lanette — who, along with Maria and Richard Grant, co-chaired the Gala Committee — took to the stage to offer a toast. “I would like us to give thanks to God for the founders of Thomas Aquinas College, who took great risks and had enormous trust in divine providence,” said Mr. Turicchi. “Please join me in raising your glasses as we give thanks to almighty God for His generous outpouring of blessings on Thomas Aquinas College.”
Next to offer a toast was Alumni Association President Peter Colarelli (’92), who recalled that the College “didn’t just teach you the good, the true, and the beautiful, but how to seek out these treasures.” Then, speaking on behalf of mothers and fathers of TAC students past and present, Parents’ Association President Paula Cummings thanked all those whose efforts have made “Thomas Aquinas College the God-centered, intellectually excellent, and joy-filled institution that it is.”
Before introducing Justice Alito, President Michael F. McLean reflected on “God’s abiding providence” in allowing the College and its program of Catholic liberal education to thrive for these last 50 years. “We look forward with great anticipation to another 50 years of Thomas Aquinas College’s playing a leading role in Catholic education, witnessing to the Gospel, remaining faithful to the teachings of the Church, and preparing students for responsible citizenship.”
At the beginning of his warm and thoughtful keynote address, Justice Alito acknowledged the extreme difficulties of founding a college amid the academic and cultural turmoil of the late 1960s and early 1970s, which has largely continued and expanded over the ensuing five decades. He praised Thomas Aquinas College’s founders for their fortitude as well as their foresight, anticipating societal problems that its future alumni would be uniquely equipped to address. With even today’s highly trained attorneys often lacking the ability to persuade through rational argumentation, the Justice continued, the need for TAC graduates has never been greater.
“For 50 years Thomas Aquinas College has been on a quest for truth,” Justice Alito concluded. “May it continue that quest for 50 more years, and 50 years after that, and 50 years after that, and many more years to come. Happy anniversary, Thomas Aquinas College!”
After attendees rose to give the Justice a sustained standing ovation, the lights fell, and a new video — recounting the history and accomplishments of Thomas Aquinas College — played on several large screens stationed throughout the ballroom. The festivities then came to a close, fittingly, with a prayer, as one of the College’s new friends, the Most Rev. Thomas John Paprocki, Bishop of Springfield in Illinois and the 2021 Commencement Speaker, delivered the benediction.
“We thank You for the blessings that You have bestowed on Thomas Aquinas College over these past 50 years and for the graces You have showered upon the founders, students , tutors, administrative faculty, staff, alumni, board, and benefactors,” His Excellency said. “As we go forth from here, we ask Your blessing upon all our future endeavors.”