University of St. Thomas Graduate Discovers Family Tie to St. Thomas Aquinas
After Matthew Summerour graduates from the University of St. Thomas in May, he will have the name St. Thomas printed on two cherished personal documents – his college diploma and his family’s ancestral record. Though he was unaware of his lineage when he enrolled at UST, Summerour is coincidentally related to the University’s namesake, St. Thomas Aquinas.
He is the 29th direct descendant of St. Thomas Aquinas’ sister, Theodora. Their family discovered the connection to St. Thomas about a year ago when Robert Lytton, a family friend and Texas A&M civil engineering professor presented his family with genealogical documentation which suggests their bloodlines can be traced back to St. Thomas’ sister.
Summerour, will graduate with a bachelor’s degree in political science and a minor in theology.
St. Thomas Aquinas was a 13th century Dominican Friar, philosopher and theologian. Known as the “Doctor of the Church,” he is the patron saint of Catholic universities, colleges and schools. Honoring the value of his teachings, UST offers the Center for Thomistic Studies, which is the only graduate philosophy program in the United States uniquely focused on the thought of St. Thomas Aquinas.
“Throughout my years at UST, I have studied the teachings of St. Thomas Aquinas,” Summerour said. “Since we found out about our family connection to St. Thomas, what I learned has become more interesting and meaningful. Someday I’d like to do more research into the philosophy of St. Thomas and into my family genealogy.”
Summerour said he is proud of his heritage, but he is not one to boast. When he does mention the coincidence of attending the University of St. Thomas and being related to St. Thomas, “ … people are surprised and express disbelief,” he said.
He is grateful for Lytton’s research which has given his family a window into their past and a legacy to pass on to future generations.
“My sister and several cousins are currently in high school and are planning to attend UST. I will be the first in the family to graduate from St. Thomas, and we are intending on making it a family tradition,” he said.
Lytton said he is not a professional genealogist, but he takes his research very seriously. He uses some online resources, but also tries to verify them with books and official documents.
The Summerour family is lucky, Lytton said, because their family lines happen to come from areas which keep good records. St. Thomas Aquinas was of noble birth, and the European nobility kept impeccable records, Lytton said. Lytton traced Summerour’s maternal grandmother’s line from Louisiana.
“People in Louisiana have some of the best birth, marriage and death records in the United States because they were all kept by the Parishes,” Lytton said. “How sure am I about their connection to St. Thomas? I can’t be absolutely certain, but the things I’ve read and several different resources point me to the same line of Antoinette Landry. She’s the key that leads back to St. Thomas’ sister, Theodora. The leap back to Europe is a short leap from Louisiana with very solid records.”
Summerour’s future plans include a master’s degree in political science and law school. While on a merit scholarship at UST, he was inducted into the following honor societies: Aquinas, Theology, Political Science, and Philosophy. In addition, he was named to the National Dean’s List and Who’s Who Among Students in American Universities and Colleges.