Philosophy Studentís Journey Leads to UST
Sophomore philosophy major Nick Pane’s journey to the University of St. Thomas began with a series of questions. He questioned the existence of God, what is goodness and how to find happiness. Pane felt that if he could find strong answers to these questions, he would find conviction.
In another college, Pane, a Winston-Salem, N.C., native, began to delve deeper into these questions and develop a passion for philosophy. While studying philosophy, Pane was introduced to the writings and philosophy of St. Thomas Aquinas through a Catholic professor. Pane, who is not Catholic, was taken by the work of Aquinas.
“I had been introduced to Aristotle, Plato, and the more influential modern thinkers like Descartes, Hume and Kant,” Pane said. “None of them seemed to answer the more profound questions the way Aquinas did.”
When he sought out a college that would further his study of Aquinas his search led him to UST, the only university in the United States that has a Center for Thomistic Studies. Although Pane is not a graduate student, the presence of the esteemed faculty, and the opportunity to take courses offered by them, even as an undergraduate, presented itself as a great opportunity.
The Center for Thomistic Studies is a graduate philosophy program uniquely focused on the thought of St. Thomas Aquinas. Founded in 1975, the center offers a masters and a doctorate in philosophy. Faculty members specialize in many areas, including bioethics, political philosophy and virtue theory.
At UST, Pane flourished under the tutelage of the Rev. Anthony Giampietro, CSB, associate professor and chair of philosophy, and Dr. Stephen Striby, visiting instructor of philosophy. Both professors, he said, have gone out of their way to see him succeed in his studies and have encouraged his search for truth.
“Pane is one of those rare, self-motivated students who does a lot more than he is required to,” Striby said. “He really wants to understand the philosophy for its own sake, not just to make the grade.”
Pane was also indirectly influenced by Dr. John Knasas, professor of philosophy. Although they have not met, the articles Knasas wrote on thomistic metaphysics were an integral part in the development of Pane’s passion for philosophy, as well as his admiration for Aquinas. Pane holds these professors as models of the type of professor and philosopher he would like to become.
Though the transition to Houston was nerve-wracking, the transition to UST has been a smooth one for Pane. He said he was pleasantly surprised by the warm reception and has grown to love the city and community. He also fully immersed himself into the community by joining a Fellowship of Catholic University Students Bible study, philosophy and theology clubs, and playing intramural sports. He has also found great joy in tutoring and discussing philosophy with his fellow classmates.
“From our founding in the 1940s, UST has welcomed students of all faith traditions,” Giampietro said. “Every human being is created in the image and likeness of God, with intelligence and free will as gifts to be used well. It makes sense that Nick would feel welcome here. While the Catholic faith is at the heart of all we do, it would go against that faith ever to impose it on others. In a particular way, we welcome those who are seeking a greater understanding of what is most important in life – what makes life worth living and what is our ultimate destiny.”
Pane said UST will continue to play an important role in his journey and development as a philosopher. His willingness to search has allowed him to begin to answer the questions he once struggled with.
“I am really thankful that, in coming to UST, I am welcomed by everyone,” said Pane. “I am happier here than I have been at any other school.”