Thomas Aquinas College (TAC) alumna Sophia Mason recently wrote a commentary for The National Catholic Register honoring the founder of the college, Dr. Ronald P. McArthur, who passed away last month.
Mason, who graduated in 2009, described Dr. McArthur's generous response when she asked him to direct her senior thesis. "[H]e responded as if I'd done him the honor in asking. That's how Dr. McArthur was," she reflected.
She writes of Dr. McArthur's dedication to the unique, authentically Catholic, Great Books education offered by Thomas Aquinas College. Mason said:
The exceptionalism of TAC’s “Great Books” education was a frequent theme with him. In a 1996 speech, he explained the school’s tutorial presentation of original texts from a range of disciplines. When TAC was founded, McArthur said, Catholic schools “imitate[d] the worst features of secular education.” They judged themselves against Ivy League models of specialization and relativism.
But, as McArthur observed, “Princeton’s not going to judge us at the end of the world.” The real judge of an education — as of everything else — is Jesus Christ. And devotion to Christ could largely be measured, McArthur believed, by how seriously you strove to understand this Truth.
That, to McArthur’s mind, was the purpose of the Great Books: to serve faith through their approach to Truth. Students should read them “to see something about reality. ... It’s easy to become conversant with books and start quoting books and playing a game of books. It’s almost like going to a fun house with mirrors and flashing all kinds of images around. That’s got nothing to do with learning.” Rather, learning “has to do with people’s souls.”
Tom Susanka, a current member of TAC's administrative faculty and a former pupil of McArthur, said, "He was learned and wise in things Divine. But he was as humble and, in consequence, as good humored a man as I’ve been blessed to know.
"But what touched you in conversation with this man," continued Susanka, "what you met in this man’s moment-by-moment life, was love, not logic. … You wanted afterwards to be good, not intellectual. Well yes, intellectual, too, but only as a part of goodness.”
Former student of Dr. McArthur and current president of TAC, Dr. Michael McLean, told the Register, "With the help of an excellent faculty and staff, I now have the privilege of leading the institution he was so instrumental in founding and of doing my best to maintain its strength and its fidelity to the mission he and the other founders so ably articulated."
Mason reports that although Dr. McArthur's speech became unintelligible shortly before his death, he was able to clearly utter his last words during a Rosary with his wife Marilyn. "Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit," he prayed.
Read more reflections on Dr. McArthur's life at The National Catholic Register.
Thomas Aquinas College is recommended in The Newman Guide for its strong Catholic identity.
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