Lasting friendships, social teachings and a unique Aquinas culture are what most St. Thomas Aquinas High School alumni hold close to their heart as they go through their life post-graduation. Thomas Fladung, a 1978 graduate and a newspaper reporter and editor, remembers his time at St. Thomas as something that has shaped his life and career today.
He reflects on his time as an Aquinas Knight as a distinctive experience, one that is not often replicated at other high schools. He has formed bonds and friendships that have lasted, literally, a lifetime. This unusual circumstance has been confirmed in conversations with friends, from Aquinas as well as friends he made later in life. Fladung said, it is not uncommon for an Aquinas grad to keep in touch with 15 or more classmates despite moving miles away as an adult, while friends from other schools do not maintain high school friendships as nearly as often or as prevalent.
Fladung has spent most of his adult life across the country, working as a newspaper reporter and editor for 33 years. Over the years, he has served as the editor of the St. Paul (Minnesota) Pioneer Press and as managing editor of the Detroit Free Press, Akron Beacon Journal and Cleveland Plain Dealer. He and six other Aquinas grads attended the University of Dayton. Fladung credits Aquinas for his discipline and excellent study habits. It was at Aquinas where he learned that success comes only after hard work, sacrifice, preparation and persistence. And, according to him, that success is really not the goal. It’s the outcome when your goals are to work hard, sacrifice, prepare and persist. In addition, he learned that achieving was a good thing– and that helping others achieve as well was an even better thing.
“There is a culture that permeates Aquinas that has somehow remained for decades and stretches from class to class,” says Fladung. “It includes taking the serious things seriously– but never taking yourself seriously. It includes working hard and then playing just as hard. When you have a culture like that it becomes an asset. And the chief asset of Aquinas is Aquinas itself – the students, teachers and administrators.”
Some of Fladung’s favorite memories at Aquinas include the time spent with his lifelong friends and learning how to learn from teachers and administrators, like Dr. Joe Krok. He said he learned things as Aquinas he used at college and his career. In addition, he remembers his time running cross-country and track for Coach Jerry Michna. Coach Michna taught him that could get more out of himself than he even believed was there. Fladung jokes that Coach Michna also taught him that one can continue to run even after puking. He remembers his time at Aquinas fondly and feels strongly that he was prepared for success.
According to Fladung, a family considering Aquinas for their child would be guaranteed to get a solid, Catholic education, become college ready, prepared for success and, along the way, will form bonds that will last a lifetime.