Seasons come and go, heralding new beginnings and traditions: hiking season, skiing season, the Easter Season, and the list continues. Graduation season—a time of happy faces, caps and gowns, and long ceremonies—has come and gone once more. At the Thomas More College of Liberal Arts, graduation was a festive, weekend-spanning event. This year’s will be long remembered.
On Friday, students scurried about campus, planting flowers, mowing lawns, setting up tables and stringing lights inside the party tent. While most schools hire crews to accomplish the seemingly numberless tasks at this time of year, Thomas More College asks that freshmen, sophomores, and juniors take on the load as a thank you to the departing senior class. It is one of many traditions.
“Your last gift to the seniors is to make campus as beautiful as possible so they can be proud when they show their families where they’ve spent four years,” explained sophomore, Brady Adams. “And after you spend all day cleaning, you see how special this place is. The academics are amazing at TMC, but the campus itself is gorgeous! It’s great to appreciate that.”
“I have worked at a lot of places. Nothing has ever compared to working at TMC,” said freshman Ethan O’Connor while reflecting on the weekend. “There is so much passion here and there’s nothing like working with people who all have the same goal in mind, who really care about the people they are working with and for. There wasn’t one moment when something didn’t need to be done, but it never felt like a burden; it was a joy.”
While the whirlwind of work continued, the sixteen soon-to-be alumni each shared a presentation of their “Magnum Opus” or senior thesis—a culmination of four years of truth-seeking, caffeine-indulging, friendship-making, and faith-building. Following the presentations, President Fahey, faculty, seniors, and guests gathered together for the Presidential Reception held in the Warren Memorial Library followed by a formal meal. The dinner was served by the students under a candlelit tent in the piazza.
“I especially enjoyed putting the dinner on for the seniors and their families,” said Liam Mitchell, Class of 2014, and one of many who made the evening possible. “I liked working alongside my peers. Seeing the results of their hard work was motivating, and after hours, everything suddenly just came together. We all looked around and realized this magical dinner happened because of our joint efforts.”
The next morning, 30-year College Chaplain, Father John Healey, celebrated a beautiful Mass under the main tent. The student choir outdid themselves yet again; they sang Paul Jernberg’s Mass, David Clayton’s Hymn to St. Thomas More, Tallis’ Verily, Verily, the Te Deum, the Regina Coeli, and more. Fed with the Bread of Life and blessed by Christ’s servant, families made their way to the Piazza to enjoy a delicious lunch under the blooming apple trees.
At two o’clock the brass band began to play. President Fahey began, as he always does, with a moving apology to the senior class on behalf of himself and his fellows.
“Your teachers are all too human. We too let little things distract us. We have at times failed to give you all you deserved. We have not always been patient nor diligent nor gracious. So, on behalf of all the Fellows, I ask for your forgiveness for any moment over the past four years wherein we fell short of the standard expected of Catholic teachers—the standard you deserved.”
Dr. Anthony Esolen—author, educator and guest speaker for this year’s ceremony—then gifted the Class of 2013 with words of wisdom. He dismissed the clichés, “Leaders of Tomorrow” and “Seize the Day!” and reminded the graduates that the faithful Christian’s experience of time is greatly different from the world’s experience of the same. Why? Because he lives concerned not with today, nor with tomorrow, but with the “fullness of time”.
“That is what I pray that you graduates will know—not the race, not the vague dreams of Tomorrow, but the fullness of time,” concluded Esolen. “For you, I hope that every new morning is a morning of prayer, recalling the first creation, when the sons of the morning sang for joy, and preparing you for the consummation of all time, when New Jerusalem descends from heaven like a bride.”
After the speech, each graduate was called forward amid clapping and cheering, to receive his or her diploma, be hooded, and to shake hands with the Fellows of the College and its Trustees, many of whom have personally seen them grow during the past four years. This was not some assembly line of graduates and faculty, who may have never had a conversation in their lives, but a firm handshake or hug of mutual respect and love developed over time.
The ceremony closed with President Fahey’s charge to the Class of 2013. This year he reflected upon President Obama’s speech given at Ohio State University. Mr. Obama flattered the graduates, said that the Class of 2013 had been tried and tested by forces unimaginable to their parent’s. With some jocularity, President Fahey said that he was not so sure about such past trials, but certainly the graduates of Thomas More College were well-prepared for future trials. He spoke to them of courage. He charged them to live that virtue as men and women devoted to the Truth with determination. That is the mark of a Liberal Arts education!