Northfield campus to be home to Thomas Aquinas College

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NORTHFIELD, MASS. — The Northfield Mount Hermon School campus on Route 10 just across the border from New Hampshire will soon house a new secondary school.

According to a press release from Thomas Aquinas College and the National Christian Foundation, Thomas Aquinas College will take possession of the 217-acre campus in May.

"As the name of our founding document indicates, when we set about establishing Thomas Aquinas College in the late 1960s, our mission was to demonstrate the viability and power of the very best understanding of Catholic liberal education," stated Peter L. DeLuca, a founder of the College and its vice president for finance and administration, in a press release announcing the preliminary agreement. "Since the nature of the education itself limits the size of the community, we knew that what we could accomplish ourselves would be limited. We hoped, however, that our success would spark imitation, bringing about an eventual restoration of Catholic liberal education that would reach well beyond a single campus."

For the next few months, the College will complete its assessment of the physical plant at the new site and continue its efforts to obtain necessary permitting. Administrators hope to open the campus to students in the Fall of 2018.

Thomas Aquinas College currently has a campus in Santa Paula, California.

"To maintain an intimate community of learners at the College, we have thought it important to keep the student body on our California campus at 400 or fewer," stated President Michael F. McLean. "Since reaching full enrollment some years ago, however, the College has had to turn away increasing numbers of applicants each year. "We have been considering, therefore, the possibility of a second campus. Given the tremendous challenges and costs involved, the question would have remained no more than academic — but for this extraordinary opportunity that the National Christian Foundation has offered us. Never did we imagine we could acquire a campus so fully developed and so beautiful."

The Northfield property boasts more than 500,000 feet of floor space, a portion of which will be given to Thomas Aquinas College, consisting in part of: dormitory and classroom space sufficient for an eventual enrollment of 400 students, a library, a science hall, a large auditorium, a music building, a gymnasium with related athletic facilities, and a chapel that can be adapted easily to Catholic worship.

The Northfield campus owes its origins to a 19th century Protestant evangelist, Dwight Lyman Moody, a popular preacher who often attracted thousands to his services. He founded two preparatory high schools: the Northfield Seminary for Young Ladies in 1879 and the Mount Hermon School for Boys in 1881.

In 1971 the schools merged to become a single, coeducation institution, the Northfield Mount Hermon School, operating on two campuses just a few miles apart. In 2005, the Northfield campus was closed and consolidated with the Gill, Mass., campus.

Four years later, Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., purchased the Northfield property with the intention of giving it, free of charge, to an institution that would maintain it and continue Moody's legacy of Christian education. Hobby Lobby then entrusted the property to the NCF, a leader in Christian philanthropy, to find a suitable recipient.

"From the beginning, we have been impressed with Thomas Aquinas College for its commitment to academic excellence," stated Emmitt Mitchell, founder of the NCF Heartland's Board of Directors. "We selected it because of this reputation, its strong leadership, and its financial strength."

Thomas Aquinas College will share a portion of the Northfield property with the Moody Center, whose mission is to preserve the legacy of Dwight L. Moody. The Center will restore historic parts of the campus, operate a small museum, and establish and maintain an archive of materials related to the evangelist's life and work.

"We are profoundly grateful to Emmitt Mitchell and the National Christian Foundation," stated Dr. McLean, "for this magnificent gift of the Northfield property and for their steadfast support of our effort to launch our unique program of Catholic liberal education in New England."

If all goes according to plan, 36 freshmen will be accepted in each of the first four years, eventually increasing to 350 to 400 students. Members of the California teaching faculty have volunteered to move east as part of this new venture.

"Both will initially be part of one college, with a single faculty, a single board of governors, a single curriculum, and a single accreditation, but we will explore the path to the possible independence of the two campuses in the years to come," stated McLean.

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