SANTA PAULA, Calif. — Thomas Aquinas College has entered into a preliminary grant agreement with the National Christian Foundation (NCF) to accept its gift of a former secondary school campus in Northfield, Mass. It will assume ownership of the Northfield property on May 2, 2017 and open its doors to students on this branch campus in the fall of 2018. Prior to May 2, the college will complete its assessment of the physical plant at the new site and continue its efforts to obtain necessary permitting.
Says college president Dr. Michael F. McLean, “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.” Since reaching full enrollment some years ago, though, the college has had to turn away more and more applicants each year. “We have been considering, therefore, the possibility of a second campus,” continues Dr. McLean. “Given the tremendous challenges and costs involved, the question would have remained no more than academic — but for this extraordinary opportunity that the National Christian Foundation has offered us. Never did we imagine we could acquire a campus so fully developed and so beautiful.”
Located in a lovely rural setting in the Connecticut River valley approximately 90 miles northwest of Boston, the 217-acre Northfield property has 500,000 square feet, a portion of which will be given to Thomas Aquinas College, consisting in part of: dormitory and classroom space sufficient for an eventual enrollment of 400 students, a library, a science hall, a large auditorium, a music building, a gymnasium with related athletic facilities, and a beautiful chapel that can be adapted easily to Catholic worship.
Established in the 19th Century by evangelist and Biblical scholar Dwight L. Moody, the Northfield property has a history of education and evangelism. It was the original home of Northfield Mount Hermon School, which began as two institutions – Northfield Seminary for Young Ladies in 1879 and Mount Hermon School for Boys in 1881. The two schools became a single institution in 1971 and consolidated to the Mount Hermon campus in 2005.
Four years later, Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. purchased the Northfield property with the intention of giving it, free of charge, to an institution that would maintain it and continue Moody’s legacy of Christian education. Hobby Lobby then entrusted the property to the NCF, a leader in Christian philanthropy, to find a suitable recipient.
The Founder of the NCF Heartland’s Board of Directors, Emmitt Mitchell, comments that, “From the beginning, we have been impressed with Thomas Aquinas College for its commitment to academic excellence. We selected it because of this reputation, its strong leadership, and its financial strength.”
“We are profoundly grateful to Emmitt and the National Christian Foundation,” says Dr. McLean, “for this magnificent gift of the Northfield property, and we are deeply thankful for their help in creating a $5 million matching grant fund to help us launch our unique program of Catholic liberal education in New England.”
The plan for the branch campus, “is to start small and build slowly, just as our founders did in California,” explains Dr. McLean. Thirty-six freshmen will be accepted in each of the first four years, and more as time goes along, allowing the student body to increase slowly to a maximum of 350-400 students. Seasoned tutors from the California campus have volunteered to move east as part of this new venture and will be a strong source of congruence between the California and New England campuses in all aspects: the academic program, the residential life, and the spiritual life of the new community.
“Both campuses will be fully committed to, and governed by, our founding document, A Proposal for the Fulfillment of Catholic Liberal Education,” Dr. McLean explains. “Both will initially be part of one college, with a single faculty, a single board of governors, a single curriculum, and a single accreditation, but we will explore the path to the possible independence of the two campuses in the years to come.”
On learning from the president of the college’s desire to operate a branch campus at Northfield, the bishop of the Diocese of Springfield, the Most Reverend Mitchell T. Rozanski, wrote to Dr. McLean saying, “I wish to inform you of my full support for this endeavor, and will do whatever I can to help you in establishing the school here to form faithful witnesses to Christ in our Catholic faith.”
Responding Dr. McLean says, “We are greatly encouraged by Bishop Rozanski’s warm welcome and pledge of assistance. We look forward to working with His Excellency, with the town of Northfield, and with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, to expand our mission of Catholic liberal education at this new branch campus. With God’s help, we will provide even more young people the intellectual, moral, and spiritual formation they need to serve the Church and our country well.”
Thomas Aquinas College will share a portion of the Northfield property with The Moody Center, whose mission is to preserve the legacy of Dwight L. Moody. The Center will restore historic parts of the campus, operate a small museum, and establish and maintain an archive of materials related to the evangelist’s life and work.
For further information, please visit: www.thomasaquinas.edu/newenglandpr
About Thomas Aquinas College
A four-year, co-educational institution, Thomas Aquinas College has developed over the past 46 years a solid reputation for academic excellence in the United States and abroad and is highly ranked by organizations such as The Princeton Review, U. S. News, and Kiplinger. At Thomas Aquinas College all students acquire a broad and fully integrated liberal education. The College offers one, four-year, classical curriculum that spans the major arts and sciences. Instead of reading textbooks, students read the original works of the greatest thinkers in Western civilization — the Great Books — in all the major disciplines: mathematics, natural science, literature, philosophy, and theology. The academic life of the college is conducted under the light of the Catholic faith and flourishes within a close-knit community, supported by a vibrant spiritual life. Graduates consistently excel in the many world-class institutions at which they pursue graduate degrees in fields such as law, medicine, business, theology and education. They have distinguished themselves serving as lawyers, doctors, business owners, priests, military service men and women, educators, journalists and college presidents. For additional information, visit www.thomasaquinas.edu.