The following essay is adapted from remarks made to the Thomas Aquinas College Board of Governors on February 25, 2023.


JohnPaul BeckmanBy JohnPaul Beckman (’23)
Port O’Connor, Texas

Ladies and gentlemen of the Board, thank you for giving me some of your time and letting me speak to you today. I am thrilled you are here, and I want to welcome you to the place I have been privileged to call my home these past four years, a privilege for which I could never be thankful enough.

Growing up in a family that prized classical education, Thomas Aquinas College was always on my radar. My older siblings came here, and I knew I wanted to attend even before I went on the High School Summer Program — and even more so after. I didn’t know what I wanted specifically, just that something about TAC resonated in my soul. I was drawn to it, and I spent most of my senior year of high school dreaming about what my time here would be like.

One of my biggest takeaways from TAC is that true education is at the service of the good life. This sentiment is more adequately expressed in a saying of the College that is repeated every year at Commencement: namely, that the College does not give us wisdom, but rather, “the beginnings of wisdom.” I heard this when I was in high school, at my brother’s TAC graduation, but then I only had a vague understanding of what it meant. However, the longer I have been here, the more I think I understand the saying. The way I understand it now is that the whole of the student’s experience at TAC is ordered toward building a foundation for the good life, a virtuous life.

“The community treats the pursuit of wisdom with such reverence — it is infectious, and it makes me want to know more and never stop pursuing wisdom.”

Everyone wants to live well, but not many are willing to do what it takes to achieve a good life, and that was the state I was in before TAC. Over these last four years, I have found that there’s an intangible push in this community toward bettering oneself. A communal desire arises that wants everyone to have the best spiritual life, the best intellectual life, and the best social life. My experience has been that it is very hard to find the right balance among these parts of life, but the College has given me the knowledge, discipline, and experience to form the foundations necessary to seek the good life.

I remember Freshman Year, struggling to find enough time to master my Euclid propositions because I always wanted to do every activity, sometimes at the expense of my studying time. But then I would experience a countervailing desire: to participate well in class and not mess up when called to demonstrate the props before my section! This tension soon helped me learn to balance how I spend my time. Already, I can see the effects of living a more balanced life — most notably when I’m at work, or when I go home for breaks — and I can order my days much better than I ever could in high school.

To finish, I would like to share some of my favorite, everyday experiences here, even if only to scratch the surface of the impact they have had on me:

First is the way Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity Chapel is at the heart of the academic quadrangle, always reminding me of the importance of prayer, no matter what else is going on, with Our Lady always watching over everything.

Second is the way that the community treats the pursuit of wisdom with such reverence. It is infectious, and it makes me want to know more and never stop pursuing wisdom.

Third is the delight in learning that we can discover truth in every class — by now a familiar but always exhilarating feeling — and the immediate humbling that follows upon realizing, also in every class, that there is so much more we do not know.

And fourth and finally is the way that this community begets some of the strongest friendships I have ever experienced: friendships forged in striving to live well, a task that would be nigh impossible without true friends.

All of these experiences are among the many ways that TAC has helped me build a foundation for the good life, which I will carry with me wherever I go, beginning with law or business school, which I plan to attend in the fall. These are the great gifts I have received here, the ability to order the different, important aspects of my life, and the discipline to pursue virtue.

TAC prepares us to live well, by loving God and seeking truth with true friends.