Presenting the Class of 2022
On Saturday, May 7, 2022, Aquinas College held its Sixtieth Annual Baccalaureate Mass and Commencement. at the Aquinas Center. Two former students were invited to lead this year’s graduating class in the commencement ceremonies, representing breadth in the college’s academic programs since its founding as a Junior College in 1961. The Reverend Anthony Stewart, OP, (at Aquinas ’09-11) celebrated the Mass. Father Stewart, a priest of the Diocese of Nashville, is currently Pastor of Mother Teresa Catholic Church in Nolensville. He is also a frequent, welcome minister to the Dominican Campus. Retired Colonel J. Christopher Murphy (A.S. ’76) delivered the Commencement Address, exhorting the graduates to keep in mind just how potent their witness will be in the formation of young students. As teachers from Aquinas, he said, they will “represent Christ to their students.” Referencing the sacramental quality of good teaching that radiates from the inner core to the outward appearance, Col. Murphy urged them to realize that they were responsible for transmitting the faith as well as fostering intellectual and emotional advancement. “Graduates, your habit, your veil, your rosary, are all outward and visible signs of who you are and who you represent […]. Some of your students will be men and women of deep faith, but they will still need that smile, that loving and positive attitude, that voice tone that witnesses to Christ in a positive way. Others will need extra attention. You may not know what burdens they are bringing to class that day. Still others will need your words of counsel and your guidance.” He spoke well of his education at Aquinas, remembering by name past educators of the College. “Sister Mary Leonard [Colorigh, O.P., Biology], Sister Henry Suso [Fletcher, O.P., President], Sister Dominica [Gobel, O.P., Academic Dean], Father [Robert] Dolehide [O.P., Chaplain], and others gave that [witness] to me.”
Col. Murphy knows the significance of the educator’s life mark on students. His distinguished career in law enforcement and safety has spanned multiple decades, several states, and many career achievements, including with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and the United States Secret Service. After retirement from the Secret Service, he served as Director of the Alabama Department of Public Safety and on the Montgomery Mayor’s Cabinet of Public Safety. Over the years, he has protected several presidents, vice presidents, and foreign heads-of-state, including Pope Saint John Paul II. His memoirs, In His Majesty’s Secret Service, was published in 2019.
In her remarks to this year’s graduating class, College President Sr. Cecilia Anne Wanner, O.P., acknowledged the College’s sixtieth anniversary year, emphasizing the unwavering commitment that Aquinas has to the Church and the Dominican Order. True to the College’s primary mission, all students being presented for degrees this year were members of the St. Cecilia Congregation. Three were awarded the M.A. T., and four received the B. S.; two with summa cum laude, and two, magna cum laude. While this year’s graduation program paid thoughtful tribute to the College’s past and present, the graduating class’s percentage of high academic achievement and service to the Dominican Order suggests a bright future as well.