The following essay is adapted from remarks made to the Thomas Aquinas College Board of Governors on February 25, 2023.
by Clare Mangin (’23)
I had no idea that Thomas Aquinas College even existed two months before arriving as a freshman in August of 2019. I come from a seemingly insignificant farm town in Southwestern Indiana, with a population of 525. The things that matter most in my town are basketball, the harvest, and family, and it is there that I spent the first 18 years of my life.
I excelled in public high school, taking AP classes and playing three sports. I earned an academic scholarship to the University of Southern Indiana, where I would major in biology and chemistry, hoping to become a medical professional someday. My scholarship, I thought, was my way out of the small farm town — a ticket to bigger and better things. I left home, and I thrived, becoming one of the six students in my 2,000-member class to receive the Outstanding Sophomore Award.
Nonetheless, something in my soul was telling me that this was not what I was to be doing. From the sixth grade on, the public school system had been asking me questions such as: “What do you want to do with your life?”, “How will you make a living?”, and “What is your career path?” Rarely was I called on to reflect upon questions such as, “Who are you, really?”, “What’s your role in the human estate?”, and “What does it take to live the good life?” I realized that if I stayed on my current path, I would answer only the former of these questions and not the latter.
“My worldview has completely shifted. A knowledge and love of God and man now acts as the lens with which I see the world.”
So, in my efforts to answer these questions, I embarked on a four-week summer class in Germany, culminating in a week in Rome. On the trip, I had the pleasure of meeting two TAC alumni, and the words “Thomas Aquinas College” first crossed my ears.
I was immediately intrigued. I spent almost every night of the trip just scrolling through the website, the curriculum, and everything this place had to offer, and I dreamt about attending one day. Yet I thought I couldn’t sacrifice my scholarship and my laid-out path to become a medical professional. I grappled with the question of whether to go to TAC and cultivate my person for the sake of truth. I decided it couldn’t hurt to apply.
I was accepted on August 9, and my financial aid application was approved on August 10. The Holy Spirit then prompted me to accept the generous offer the school had extended to me. I had three days to purchase a plane ticket, alert my parents of my change in direction, and pack my one suitcase to accompany me on my new adventure.
My first time on the California campus was Wednesday of Freshman Orientation. Almost immediately it became clear to me that I had made the right decision. I fell in love with the school from my first view of the Chapel, and my love has grown deeply over my four years here.
Students at Thomas Aquinas College are faced with the deepest questions about themselves, their creator, and the rest of creation. In Sophomore Year alone we evaluate the entire universe in St. Augustine’s City of God and also the universe atomically in the Natural Science tutorial. And in all of this study, we are constantly faced with the questions: “Who am I in relation to all of this? Where do I fit?” The College has cultivated my sense of wonder, and I pray that this wonder will remain with me throughout my life, occupying a permanent place in my household.
All in all, even if TAC had nothing to offer other than my many thought-provoking conversations with friends, I would count it as the most worthwhile pursuit of my life. I have come to know where I stand, not only in the human estate, but also in the universe as a whole.
I will be getting married in June at the simple church I grew up in in Indiana and returning to my roots, all for the greater glory of God. Now the place I was eager to leave has become the home to which I long to return. My worldview has completely shifted. A knowledge and love of God and man now acts as the lens with which I see the world.
As I reflect upon my unique and providential path to this college, I am filled with thanksgiving to God, and also to you all, who by supporting the College, have made my time here the most worthwhile formation of my life.