Michael Van Hecke, the headmaster of Saint Augustine Academy in Ventura, California, came to California’s Thomas Aquinas College not to study, not to be a better Catholic, but to learn to surf. That was all. He planned to learn to surf and transfer out.
He told The Cardinal Newman Society that he was only there because his parents made him apply.
He said that during his high school years in Wisconsin he transferred between what he called “typical” Catholic schools and “typical” public schools. He said his parents wanted to find a “great educational experience” for their son. Sadly, they didn’t. But the problem wasn’t so much the schools themselves as it was Michael Van Hecke.
He described himself as weak student with a strong aversion for homework. He was one of those kids with all the ability in the world but no personal drive to learn. No passion.
After graduating from high school he said his parents asked him to apply to a college he’d never heard of – Thomas Aquinas College in California. “Being the dutiful son, I applied but I had no intention of actually going there,” he said.
But come September, he found himself on the Catholic campus in California. But Christianity and a strong education were the furthest things from his mind. “I came out here to learn how to surf and then I planned to transfer out,” he said.
Besides falling off his surfboard many times he said he accidentally “fell into Christendom.”
“I found myself in a truly Christian society, concerned about higher things, and concerned about people and imbued with holy charity,” he said. “People were good. They cared about you.”
He said four years of experiencing the atmosphere at the faithful Catholic college left him…”altered.”
“I found happiness,” he said. “And I wanted to bring that to people too. I want to give that joy to kids.”
Educating children in faithfulness became his passion. Shortly after graduating, he became a teacher and quickly made headmaster. He said, “I wanted to get into education to share my passion which really developed at Thomas Aquinas.”
And he’s not the only one. In fact, The Cardinal Newman Society has learned that three of the high schools named to its 2012-2013 Catholic High School Honor Roll,which recognizes “excellence in Catholic identity, academics and civic education at Catholic high schools across the United States,” are led by graduates of TAC.
“The Honor Roll schools are a reminder that Catholic education is getting better every day — not only academically, but in the renewal of Catholic identity,” says Cardinal Newman Society President Patrick J. Reilly. “We are delighted to see the increased level of competition among the schools that participated in the program this year.”
Catholic Education Daily is an online publication of The Cardinal Newman Society. Click here for email updates and free online membership with The Cardinal Newman Society.