What an exciting time to build renewal
Reignite Civil Discourse
In 2003, natural law scholar Fulvio Di Blasi, who had worked at Notre Dame for several years, conceived the Thomas International project (TI), and discussed it with Ralph McInerny, a distinguished Thomist scholar whose career at Notre Dame has spanned five decades. The goal of the project would be to reignite the classical tradition of philosophy and theology, the cultural root of Western civilization, by promoting international scholarship focused especially (though not exclusively) on the thought of Thomas Aquinas. The goal was not simply to promote historical knowledge, but to foster engagement between classical, modern and contemporary thought.
Professors Di Blasi and Wolfe met in November 2004, realized their ideals were compatible and joined forces to work together on the TI project. Soon, Jesus Izaguirre of the University of Notre Dame (Biology and Computer Science), Frank O’Brien, a St. Louis businessman interested in higher education in the Catholic tradition, and Robert Gahl, a scholar in philosophy at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross in Rome, joined the team.
Renew the Culture
In 2005 TI expanded with the establishment of the Ralph McInerny Center for Thomistic Studies in the United States. The Center began activities at its provisional office in Washington, DC, sponsoring conferences, courses and publications with the co-sponsorship and assistance of the Associazione Thomas International.
In 2009-2010, TI held its first activities in the Triangle area. Speakers included Robert George (Duke), Thomas Farr (UNC) and Michael Novak.
Strong Scholars’ Network
In 1989, Christopher Wolfe, a political scientist at Marquette University, had convened a meeting of scholars from various universities and fields of study, which resulted in the establishment of the American Public Philosophy Institute (APPI). The APPI (now located at the University of Dallas, Irving, Texas, USA) promoted natural law thought in academic and public life, formed a network of scholars sympathetic to the project of bringing the classical and Christian intellectual traditions to contemporary life, organized various conferences and published numerous books.
TI launched its Research Institute in Italy, which received substantial grants to work on Aquinas’s concept of law and natural law theory, organizing with EU support, a series of conferences in Italy, Spain and Hungary. In April 2005, it established the “Associazione Thomas International,” which quickly attracted more than 100 members. The Institute also receives yearly grants from Sicilian institutions interested in establishing a new university.
Expand Classical Education
During 2007-2008, the Center staff evaluated permanent locations for the Center. In early 2009, they assessed the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill area of North Carolina. Several things attracted them to this area. First, it is in the southeastern United States, where there are only two colleges in the Catholic intellectual tradition and a growing Catholic population. Also, there are excellent intellectual resources with outstanding universities such as Duke, the University of North Carolina and North Carolina State University.
Solid Unity, Honored Principles
In March 2010, TI changed its name from The Ralph McInerny Center for Thomistic Studies to The Thomas International Center, in recognition of the broader array of intellectual activities that it sponsors.