McFadden was honored for his contributions and decisive leadership as the first lay president of UST, his work as executive director of the International Council of Universities of St. Thomas Aquinas and “his efforts toward building Catholic identity at institutions across the world through the model of St. Thomas Aquinas as teacher and scholar,” said Dr. Mary Catherine Sommers, director of the Center for Thomistic Studies.
McFadden Reflects on Aquinas, Education
Receiving the St. Thomas Aquinas Medal from my colleagues at the Center touched me deeply and humbly. Why, well because I have cherished dearly the University of St. Thomas Community and the support that everyone has given me in my 25 years of being a part of that Community. I have come to believe that Thomas Aquinas is just as relevant today as when he taught and preached in his time. He has much to say about teaching and learning to inspire us all.
To begin, he said that education and being educated was a special gift from God to man. For it was through the educational process that a person begins to recognize their potential. Aquinas believed that a teacher had a very special role to play in this process – not THE role, but a special role.
Ideally, a teacher is dedicated to searching for truth. A teacher forms a willing partnership with their students in this search, for it is the teacher who organizes the student learning experience and provides keen insights for their students. The work of a teacher in this partnership is: to encourage student reflection, to stimulate the integration of knowledge, to inculcate intellectual habits, to assist students in discerning the truth and to help build their personal character. Both student and teacher must play an active role. But the teacher must be ever mindful that it is the student who has the primary responsibility for learning – not the teacher.
For Thomas Aquinas, a truly liberally educated person, was a person whose personality was characterized by a harmonious union of a scientist, a philosopher, an artist and a saint – a tall challenge indeed. Yes, but it is a challenge that the UST community has consciously undertaken – it has become a part of its very character.
It has been wonderful for me to be a part of the UST community as we together try to live up to the challenge presented by Thomas Aquinas – our patron Saint. He has much to tell us about our role as teachers and students.
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