New England

With students soon returning to campus, the two newest members of the Thomas Aquinas College, New England, faculty are enjoying the winter and readying themselves for their second semester in Northfield —tutors Dr. Steven Cain and Dr. Peter Cross.

The educators, both formerly of the California campus, made the trip East prior to the start of the 2021-22 academic year. “I have really enjoyed the closeness of the community here,” says Dr. Cross. “The faculty, staff, and student body have been incredibly welcoming to me.” 

Dr. Steven Cain
Dr. Steven Cain

The tutors’ migration is part of the College’s long-term plan for expanding the second campus, which first opened its doors in 2019. As TAC-New England has added a new class in each of its first three years — and as it will continue to expand its student body in the years to come — it has, likewise, augmented its faculty with tutors capable of teaching its classical, integrated curriculum. Most of these tutors have come from the California campus, so that they can help bring the College’s customs, pedagogy, and community with them.

A 23-year member of the teaching faculty, Dr. Cain has moved to New England to serve as the campus’ second dean. He will succeed Dean Thomas J. Kaiser, who plans to return to California in the fall. “The College recognizes that there is going to be a need for a more experienced faculty member to function as a dean for a little while longer,” he explains. “So they asked me if I would be willing to come out here and take over for Dr. Kaiser.”

Dr. Peter Cross
Dr. Peter Cross

A member of the Thomas Aquinas College Class of 2011, Dr. Cross taught for just two years in Santa Paula before relocating to the Northeast. “When the College hired me back in 2019, they hired me as a Northfield faculty member who was going to spend a year or two in California first,” he says. “One of the things that made me really excited to end up out here is the fact that my family is close, and my roots are in Massachusetts. I was excited to bring this education to the area that has been my home for so many years.”

Dr. Cain is likewise an East Coast native with deep roots in New England. He earned his bachelor’s degree at Connecticut College and his master’s and doctoral degrees at Boston College, then taught for two years at Trivium Academy, a classical school in Western Massachusetts, before joining the Thomas Aquinas College faculty in 1998.

Yet in coming to Northfield, both tutors have found a level of comfort and familiarity that has to do with much more than just upbringing or geography.

For starters, their fellow members of the New England faculty were all once colleagues, tutors — or even students — of their own. “Mr. McCarthy and Mr. Cross were students on the other campus, so it’s nice to reconnect with them and the other tutors,” says Dr. Cain. “A lot of it is just reconnecting, rather than forming new friendships.” Adds Dr. Cross, “I am humbled by how much my old tutors on the West Coast, and now here on the East Coast, have welcomed me back as a member of the teaching faculty, treating me as able and willing to help them in the endeavor of bringing the curriculum to the next generation.”

Moreover, what unites the two campuses is a commitment to the same program of Catholic liberal education. “We have all read and pondered the principles that are in the Blue Book, and I don’t think I see that there are any differences at this Thomas Aquinas College,” says Dr. Cain. “Given how closely the two campuses are working,” adds Dr. Cross, “we’re going to be able to keep the same core Catholic liberal education and provide it in this East Coast setting, while having the qualitative benefits of having a different culture and a different environment.”

What unites the two campuses and their single, bicoastal faculty is a unity of purpose and mission. “Those who were on the West Coast and offered to come out East to help start this campus, their thought was not, ‘I want to teach in New England,’ but rather, ‘I want to teach at TAC,’” explains Dr. Cain. “It’s about teaching at Thomas Aquinas College.”