The Tommie Transformation

March Through the Arches

In 1986, Joseph Connors published Journey Toward Fulfillment, a definitive account of how St. Thomas began as a small Catholic college focused on educating young men and evolved into the largest private university in Minnesota.

At the time, Connors had been a faculty member in the English Department for more than a decade. He understood the arc of history and that incremental change often can lead to significant shifts over time.

“We are all historical characters for the students 25 years from now,” Connors told an on-campus audience in October 1987.

Connors was right, of course, whether it’s 25, 50 or 130 years. Every student who has stepped through the Arches, taken a class in Terrence Murphy Hall or studied in Rome represents a moment in Tommie time – a single representative in the midst of dozens, hundreds or even thousands of fellow Tommies.

We began to wonder about those incremental changes that have delivered us to this moment. How did enrollment increase from 99 students to 10,000? If the college began as a school for Catholic men, how has that affiliation changed over time? (Not to mention the gender split.)

As much as we long for stability, little in our world remains in stasis. In the words of Heraclitus, “The only thing that is constant is change.” So, St. Thomas students have changed, constantly, since there first were Tommies. What follows is a reporting on some of these data points of change as well as a glimpse into some of the Tommies who represented these defining characteristics.


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