Our rich history: Renaissance ’71 – Celebrating 50 years of MVC / TMC; a golden jubilee was needed


By Dr Raymond Hébert
Special at the NKyTribune

Part 4 of our series, “Retrospect and Vista II”: Thomas More College / University, 1971-2021

Mgr. John Murphy, president of Thomas More College, has decided that the first fifty years of Villa Madonna College (VMC) / Thomas More College (TMC) should be celebrated in style. In the summer of 1970, he appointed a Golden Jubilee Committee, made up of representatives from each constituency of the collegiate community. Joseph Gausepohl was the general chairman of the committee, which organized commemorative events to mark the celebration in 1971. All on campus were invited to submit possible titles for the anniversary programming. The winning title of “Renaissance 71” was submitted by Mary Jo Beall, a junior at Thomas More College, who won a prize of $ 25 (Sr. Irmina Saelinger OSB, Retrospective and Vista, p. 80).

In front of the Renaissance ’71 program. (Courtesy of Thomas More Archives)

With “Renaissance ’71” as a guide, the committee developed a program made up of multiple events that celebrated the past but also looked to the future. There were a few opening events during the spring semester of 1971. The highlight was Founders’ Week, with a series of activities between Sunday, September 12 and Saturday, September 18, 1971. Likewise, during the centenary of the university in 2021, we will officially open with activities scheduled from September 10 to 13, 2021, alongside the closing dates of the Golden Jubilee.

In 1971, the following activities were part of the 50th anniversary year:

•• January 10, 1971, the jubilee year opened appropriately with a concelebrated mass at the Cathedral of the Assumption.

•• Shortly after the opening liturgical function, it seemed appropriate to immediately recognize both the great man, St. Thomas More, in whose honor the college was recently (1968) named, as well as the talented teacher who served the college and the community. Between January 20 and February 17, 1971, on consecutive Wednesday evenings, selected professors gave lectures on various aspects of the patron of the college, known internationally a few years earlier as Man for all seasons in Robert Bolt’s highly acclaimed play of the same name. An Oscar-winning film – also titled A man for all seasons – followed, also starring Paul Scofield in the title role. All this attention had intentionally put the name of St. Thomas More in the limelight. The theme of the lectures was “to help college friends and the general public get to know better a great man whose ideas and ideals find application and appeal in the twentieth century” (Retrospective and Vista, p. 81).

The subjects and speakers were:

• “Plus et son temps”, Robert Handy, Ph.D. – President of the history department

• “More, the Statesman”, Sister Mary Philip Trauth, SND, Ph.D. – Professor of History

• “More, the Man of Letters”, Sister Agnes Margaret Humbert, CDP, Ph.D. – Professor of English

• “Plus, The Complete Man,” Reverend Anthony Lovegrove, Ph.L. Exchange teacher – Philosophy (England)

•• Always in spring, as a second more general tribute to the academic nature of the institution, a special mid-semester symposium on futuristics and higher education was organized, recognizing thirteen recognized academics in the field of education. Everyone spoke about the theme of Futuristics ’71. The title was “The Future and the Undergraduate”. It took place from March 25 to 27, 1971, culminating with a President’s Ball in honor of Mgr. John Murphy, celebrating 20 years as President of VMC / TMC. There were four main speakers:

• Nicholas Rescher of the University of Pittsburgh, who in his writings in the 1960s focused on the protections of “change in the future” value.

• Billy Rojas, a University of Massachusetts historian known for his work as the coordinator of the Future Study in Higher Education Program there.

• Paolo Soleri, an architect from Scottsdale, Arizona, whose design interests reflected his quest for a syntropic balance between man and nature.

• Gary Woditsch, director of institutional research at Bowling Green State University, Ohio, who had pioneered the establishment of an “experimental college” in Bowling Green.

Dr. Richard DeGraff shaking hands with a faculty member. (Courtesy of Thomas More University Archives)

The coordinator was Thomas H. Maher, Associate Academic Dean of Thomas More, who had also been the primary champion of the college’s “Venture Program,” a phased approach to the college’s core curriculum that will be discussed in a later article.

•• Later in the spring semesterOn April 27, 1971, a choral concert for organ and brass took place at the Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption. It was a musical tribute to the celebration of the year.

•• Finally, the events of Founders Week were intended to conclude the celebration of the Golden Jubilee.

The program, as found in institutional archives, listed the following events (September 12-18, 1971):

1. Sunday September 12, concelebrated Mass – on the campus in front of the Chapelle du Monte Casino

2. Thursday September 16, Academic Convocation – 10 am – Seiler Commons. Speaker – Dr. Warren Bennis, President of the University of Cincinnati

3. Friday September 17, Musical program – 8 p.m. – Outdoor concert on campus. Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra.

4. Saturday, September 18, Renaissance Ball ’71 – 9 p.m. Beverly Hills Supper Club
(Retrospective and Vista, p. 8 and Renaissance ’71 file in TMU archives)

With these events over, the focus on campus shifted to the inauguration of the new science center on June 1, 1971 and the official arrival of Dr. Richard DeGraff as the seventh and first lay president of Thomas More. College on July 1, 1971.

Dr Raymond G. Hebert is Professor of History and Executive Director of the William T. Robinson III Institute for Religious Freedom at Thomas More University. He has just completed his 46th year at Thomas More and, with that training, will now be the official history editor of Thomas More College / University from 1971 to 2021. With a projected title of RETROSPECTIVE AND VISTA II, it will be used immediately by Sr. Irmina Saelinger RETROSPECTIVE AND VISTA, the story of the first 50 years of Thomas More College (formerly Villa Madonna College). He can be contacted at [email protected]

We want to learn more about the history of your business, church, school, or organization in our area (Cincinnati, Northern Kentucky and along the Ohio River). If you would like to share your rich history with others, please contact “Our Rich History” editor Paul A. Tenkotte at [email protected]. Paul A. Tenkotte, PhD is professor of history at Northern Kentucky University (NKU) and author of numerous books and articles.

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