College-bound seniors interested in Thomas Aquinas College’s
great books liberal arts program will have the option of both a west and east
coast campus come fall 2018.
According to a Feb. 7 press release, Thomas Aquinas College has
entered into a preliminary agreement with the National Christian Foundation
(NCF) to accept Hobby Lobby’s gift of the former Northfield Mount Hermon School
campus founded by Biblical scholar Dwight L. Moody in Northfield, Mass., 90
miles from Boston.
It is a real credit to our founders who laid out the mission and nature of the school from the beginning that it has been so thoroughly established here in California that we can branch out.
“To maintain an intimate community of learners at the college, we
have thought it important to keep the student body on our California campus at
400 or fewer,” said Michael F. McLean, president. The 46-year-old college
reached its preferred size more than five years ago and had to start turning
away prospective students.
While the plan to start a secondary campus has been a goal for
some time, it became a reality when Hobby Lobby purchased the Northfield Campus
with the intention of donating it to an institution that would continue Moody’s
legacy of Christian education.
The National Christian Foundation was contacted by Hobby Lobby to
find an appropriate institution. After months of searching the foundation
selected Thomas Aquinas College.
The announcement was met with great excitement and anticipation
from students, faculty and former alumni.
“We are so extremely grateful to NCF,” said Anne Forsyth,
director of college relations. “It is a real credit to our founders who laid
out the mission and nature of the school from the beginning that it has been so
thoroughly established here in California that we can branch out.”
Marie Donovan, a 2012 Aquinas graduate who lives in Alexandria,
understands and appreciates the school’s desire to keep class sizes small.
“When you enter as a freshman you are assigned to a group of
about 15 to 20 students called a section and you take all your classes with the
same section for a whole year,” said Donovan. “You learn how to learn together
as a group, which is an important life skill.”
Like many Aquinas grads, Donovan immediately entered a graduate
program after college and earned a master’s degree in Middle Eastern studies
from the University of Arizona in Tucson. She now works as a Farsi translator
and Iran analyst for American Enterprise Institute in Washington.
“It teaches you how to think and read critically,” said Donovan.
“Without a doubt, I use what I learned at TAC every single day.”
Unlike the Santa Paula campus, which was a vacant field when the
founders received the property, the 217-acre Northfield Campus is already built
and has enough dormitory and classroom space for another 400 students. Among
the majestic brick buildings is a library, science hall, auditorium, athletic
facilities and a chapel.
The school hopes to start with 36 freshmen in the fall of 2018.
During the next year, they will work to create a similar culture and experience
at the new campus.
According to Forsyth, a number of senior tutors have volunteered
to be pioneer faculty, and recent graduates are being recruited to work in
residence life. The college will assume ownership of the property May 2 and
hopes to host its first high school summer program at the campus before the
start of the first term.
Go to thomasaquinas.edu or call 805-525-4417.