Thomas Aquinas College president will step down, return to teaching in 2022

  • Thomas Aquinas College President Michael McLean, who oversaw the acquisition of the college’s second campus in Northfield in 2017, has announced he will leave the role in 2022, with plans to return full-time to the classroom. Contributed photo

  • Emmitt Mitchell of The Moody Center, Michael McLean president of Thomas Aquinas College, and Larry Edge, manager for the Northfield Campus LLC, the organization owned by the National Christian Foundation that previously oversaw the Northfield campus, sign documents in Olivia Hall when ownership of the campus was transferred in May 2017. McLean has announced he will leave the role of president in 2022, with plans to return full-time to the classroom. Staff File Photo/Paul Franz

Staff Report
Published: 4/21/2021 2:57:10 PM

NORTHFIELD — Thomas Aquinas College President Michael McLean, who oversaw the acquisition of the college’s second campus in Northfield in 2017, has announced he will leave the role in 2022, with plans to return full-time to the classroom.

“I have been blessed to serve as president during a tremendous period in the history of the college, complete with hardships as well as triumphs,” McLean said in a press release. “After my second six-year term draws to a close, I would like to focus once more on what led me to become an educator and brought me to Thomas Aquinas College in the first place — and that is a love of teaching. I look forward to sitting at the classroom table and discussing the Great Books with our students, free from any administrative responsibilities.”

The private, Catholic, co-educational college offers a single classical curriculum and one degree — a bachelor’s degree in liberal arts, which is considered to be the equivalent of a double major in philosophy and theology, and a minor in mathematics. 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. Its flagship campus is in Santa Paula, Calif.

According to the release, McLean assumed the presidency after the death of President Thomas Dillon, who was killed in an automobile accident in 2009. He previously served as a longtime tutor, former dean and one-time vice president for development.

In the same year that he led the acquisition of the Northfield campus, McLean saw the college through the 2017 “Thomas fire,” spending the night on the California campus even as flames swirled around it. For the last year, he has navigated the ever-changing regulatory landscape of the COVID-19 pandemic, enabling Thomas Aquinas College to remain in operation.

Meanwhile, McLean has overseen the completion of the California campus with the addition of St. Gladys Hall with new classrooms, the St. Cecilia Lecture and Concert Hall, and the Pope St. John Paul II Athletic Center, the release explains. In 2018, he facilitated the purchase of more than 700 acres on the surrounding Ferndale Ranch property, expanding the size of the campus six-fold, and creating both a new buffer and student recreation areas.

“When Mike was elected president 11 years ago, life at TAC and in our culture was so much simpler,” Board of Governors Chair R. Scott Turicchi said in the release. “We are very grateful for his friendship, service and dedication to the college.”

“I am indebted to many people who have been of invaluable assistance to me and the college throughout my presidency,” McLean said. “It has been an honor to serve as president, and I look forward to continuing to serve the college in other ways moving forward.”




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