In Memoriam: Tom Dillon President of Thomas Aquinas College

One of America’s leading Catholic educators, Dr. Thomas Dillon (photo ), President of Thomas Aquinas College in Santa Paula, California, was killed [yesterday] morning in an automobile accident while in Ireland. His wife Terry, who was traveling with him, was also injured, and is currently in a Dublin hospital, but is expected to survive. The couple have four children and 15 grandchildren.

I knew Dr. Dillon personally. He was a thoughtful, learned, kind man who committed his life to the noble cause of Catholic education, building Thomas Aquinas College into one of the great Catholic colleges in the world.

At a time when universities of Catholic tradition like Notre Dame and Georgetown are making headlines less for their academic excellence than for their inconstant support of Catholic principles, Thomas Aquinas College has received global recognition as a beacon of intellectual clarity and Catholic faith.

It seems to me that all Catholics who are thinking of offering financial support to Catholic colleges and universities should consider showing their support for the work of men and women of courage and conviction like Tom Dillon, and support Thomas Aquinas College. (Aerial photo of Thomas Aquinas College in California )

Tom told me he labored mightily each year to raise about $3 million to support his college (he raised a total of about $100 million over nearly 20 years).

Much of the money went to provide scholarships to bright young men and women from around the country who could not otherwise afford to attend such an institution.

I hope that some might feel moved to donate this entire sum of $3 million to the college right now in memory of Tom, to ensure that his efforts during 2009 are crowned with success. (Photo: Dillon with Pope John Paul II )

I believe there are some with the means to help ensure that, even after his death, Tom, and the critically important college of Thomas Aquinas he led for 18 years, are remembered and flourish.

Here is a link to the college’s website: http://www.thomasaquinas.edu

Tom’s influence on our country and our Church was enormous through the students who passed through his college. That influence will be felt for many, many decades to come.

On the evening of September 3, 2008, following Pope Benedict XVI’s blessing at the Vatican of the cornerstone of the college’s Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity Chapel, a dinner was held honoring three cardinals and friends of Thomas Aquinas College: Archbishop Raymond Burke (left ), Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura; Francis Cardinal Arinze (third from left ), Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship; and Francis Cardinal Stafford (second from right ), Apostolic Penitentiary. Also pictured is James Barrett (second from left ), a member of the Board of Governors, Dillon (third from right — as usual in the background ), and Lannette Turicchi, benefactor of the college.

Tom’s life lasted long enough for him to see the dedication of the college’s magnificent new chapel, Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity (photo ). It was dedicated on March 7, a little more than one month ago.

Requiescat in pace . May he rest in peace.

Dr. Robert Moynihan

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Dr. Robert Moynihan is an American and veteran Vatican journalist with knowledge of five languages. He is founder and editor-in-chief of Inside the Vatican magazine.

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