President McLean: “It Has Been an Honor and a Privilege for me to Serve”
May 12, 2022
Address to the California Class of 2022
By Dr. Michael F. McLean
President, Thomas Aquinas College
May 11, 2022
Let me begin with some remarks about what we are celebrating this evening and about what your Commencement signifies.
You have been diligent students and faithful members of the community. You have worked hard at your studies, helped to foster healthy friendships, contributed to the common good, and tended to your spiritual well-being. We thank and commend you for those gifts, and we thank you for what you have given to Thomas Aquinas College. You have contributed to the success of our classes, to our musical, dramatic, and athletic culture, and to our worship.
You have been tutored by a wonderful faculty and have been taught by the likes of Homer, Euclid, Plato, Aristotle, St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas, Shakespeare, Newton, Newman, and Einstein.
You have read some of the greatest books our civilization has produced and pondered some of the deepest questions humanity faces. You have begun in wonder and, I hope, ended with the beginnings of wisdom and — as a result of true friendships with your tutors and fellow students and the ministry of our chaplains — grown in virtue and ended a few steps closer to the Beatific Vision. Because of these things, you have been well prepared to serve your communities, your country, and your church.
These good things have come about through the providence of God and the efforts and sacrifices of many people.
First among them are your parents, who entrusted you to us in the first place and have worked hard to make it possible for you to attend this college.
Second are your tutors, who have facilitated your introduction to the Great Books, the liberal arts, and the crowning disciplines of philosophy and theology.
Third are our chaplains, who have enabled you to benefit from God’s graces, graces which make all things possible and without which we can do nothing of enduring significance.
Fourth are our administrative faculty and staff, who help to ensure that your material needs are met and that you are well provided with all that is necessary for a life of relative leisure and contemplation.
Fifth are our benefactors and Board of Governors, whose generosity, advice, and counsel make our facilities, financial aid, and all of the College’s other enterprises possible.
The work of the College is the work of educators — tutors whose primary responsibility is to become competent in the College’s academic program and successfully implement its pedagogy — and of the administrative faculty and staff who contribute essentially to that work.
The affairs of the College, however, while certainly ordered to education, extend beyond education and require a kind of wisdom, prudence, and attention beyond that which the tutors and staff can provide. These affairs include advising the officers of the College; ensuring that the College does not stray from its mission; securing, managing, and investing financial resources; planning and implementing a building program; representing the College to the community and the Church; responding to, and hopefully fending off, external challenges to its well-being; and cultivating others who might be qualified to join the College’s governing body or its family of friends and benefactors. Such are the responsibilities of the College’s governors under the leadership of its president.
In light of the very specific educational purpose of our College, which is to provide a genuinely Catholic liberal education in accordance with the principles outlined in the Blue Book, it is very much worth noting that the seven founders of Thomas Aquinas College were granted indefinite terms on the Board of Governors, that the president of the College must be appointed from among the Roman Catholic tutors having permanent appointment to the faculty of the College, and that at least seven members of the Board of Governors must be the seven founding members or persons associated with the administration and/or faculty of which at least five members shall be teaching faculty of the College.
In establishing these provisions for the governance of the College and the perpetuation of its mission, the founders exhibited remarkable prudence and foresight. These provisions do require, however, that, for the sake of the common good, some tutors take on duties above and beyond teaching — some must serve as assistant dean for student affairs, some as dean, and some as president.
I am now coming to the end of my service as president. For 12 years my duties have required me to look not only after the internal health of the College but to look outward as well, alert to threats to its existence and mission, opportunities to increase its benefit to the country and to the Church, and possibilities to add to and strengthen its resources.
It has been an honor and a privilege for me to serve in this capacity. I have enjoyed the opportunity to cultivate friendships with our benefactors, our governors, and all those who believe in and support our work. It has been a joy for Mrs. McLean and me to see the College thrive and grow. However, I have missed the connection with students that I enjoyed for many years and I look forward to devoting myself to teaching next year.
Dr. O’Reilly will soon take over my responsibilities as president. He will take the oath of office and receive the chain of office (sometimes referred to as the “ball and chain of office”) on May 21 at the conclusion of the first New England commencement ceremony. A second inauguration ceremony will be held on this campus next fall.
Please join me now in thanking him for his willingness to serve. Please pray for him and his wife, Peggy, that they will enjoy the graces and blessings that come with leadership.
And now a final word to you: Be proud of what you have achieved and grateful for what you have received. Pray for your benefactors, pray for the College, and pray that you, and all of your classmates, may continue to grow in age and wisdom and grace before God and men.