Aquinas College (Michigan)

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Aquinas College
Aquinas College seal.svg
Motto Non nisi te, Domine (Latin)
Motto in English
"Nothing but You, Lord".[1]
Type Private liberal arts college
Established 1886
Affiliation Roman Catholic; Dominican Sisters of Grand Rapids, Michigan
Endowment $42 million as of 2014[2]
President Kevin Quinn, Ph. D.
Provost Stephen Barrows, Ph. D.
Academic staff
86 full time
159 part time
Students 2,001[3]
Undergraduates 1,634 full time
229 part time
Postgraduates 15 full time
123 part time
Location Grand Rapids, Michigan, United States
Campus Urban, 117 acres (0.47 km2)
Colors Maroon and white          
Athletics NAIA; WHAC
Nickname Saints
Affiliations AACU
Mascot Nelson the St. Bernard (dog)
Aquinas College

Coordinates: 42°57′36″N 85°37′43″W / 42.96009°N 85.62862°W / 42.96009; -85.62862

Aquinas College is a small, Roman Catholic, liberal arts college in Grand Rapids, Michigan, United States. The College was ranked among the "Best Regional Universities – Midwest" by U.S. News & World Report in 2012.


The Congregation of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart of the Roman Catholic Order of Preachers (Dominican Order), today commonly known as the "Dominican Sisters of Grand Rapids", Michigan, led by Mother Aquinata Fiegler, OP, founded the Roman Catholic Novitiate Normal School in Traverse City, Michigan in 1886. The School's mission was to educate young women who had yet to make their vows in the Order of Preachers, i. e., "novitiates", to be parochial elementary school teachers throughout Michigan, and it trained and sent forth numerous sister teachers successfully. In 1911 the School was transferred to Grand Rapids, along with the motherhouse of the Sisters, pursuant to an invitation of the Bishop of the young Diocese of Grand Rapids.[4]

In response to the need for their sister teachers to hold baccalaureate degrees, in 1922 the Sisters reorganized the Novitiate Normal School as Sacred Heart College and also commenced admitting lay women. The State of Michigan granted a charter to award two-year degrees to women to the new College in the same year. The site of the new College was transferred to the newly erected motherhouse of the Sisters on East Fulton Street, in the margins of Grand Rapids.[5] At some time between 1922 and 1931 it was renamed as Marywood College.[6] In 1931, it was reorganized as Catholic Junior College, transferred to a site on Ransom Street adjacent to the Grand Rapids Public Library, and became the first Roman Catholic college in the United States governed by women religious to become coeducational. Bishop Joseph G. Pinten of Grand Rapids instigated the reform to admit men alongside women.[7] At that time it awarded two-year degrees.

In 1939 Catholic Junior College added a third year to its curriculum. The College began awarding four-year baccalaureate degrees and was renamed Aquinas College in honor of St. Thomas Aquinas, OP and its founder, Mother Aquinata Fiegler, OP, in 1940, but the articles of incorporation to legally effect the institutional change were not filed with the State of Michigan until 1941. In 1945, Mother Euphrasia Sullivan, OP executed for the College the purchase of the Holmdene Mansion, erected by Edward Lowe in 1908, and its arboreal lands, at 1607 Robinson Road, bordering East Fulton Street. The College relocated to the former Lowe estate where it is sited to this day. The North Central Association accredited it in 1946.

In 1948 students instituted a chapter of the Dominican Third (Secular) Order (tertiaries; TOP). In May 1950 the outdoor Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima was dedicated, in memory of the members of Aquinas College who sacrificed their lives in the Second World War, after a student and alumni campaign of two years.[8]

The 1950s and 1960s were a period of great growth and construction, and during them the College abandoned and sold the original campus on Ransom Street. In 1955 the new Administration Building, now the "Academic Building", was erected.[9]

In 1974 the College became legally independent of the Dominican Sisters of Grand Rapids. In 1975 the name of the athletic teams was changed from the "Tommies" to the "Saints", pursuant to a student poll, because African American members had been racially ridiculed as "Toms".[10]

In 1977 the College was accredited to award its first graduate degree, the Master's of Management in business, which was distinct from the conventional Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree awarded by other institutions because it was primarily based on the humanities and not mathematics.[11] In 1993 the College awarded its first doctorate degree, albeit honoris causa.[12]

Also in 1997, the College officially named its mascot, a St. Bernard (dog), "Nelson" in honor of President Paul Nelson, who retired that year. In 1998 the College was reorganized into three "schools", each led by a "dean" and subdivided into departments: the School of Education, the School of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and the School of Management.[13]

Msgr. Arthur F. Bukowski Roman Catholic Chapel

, so named in honor of the first President of the College.


The arboreal campus is in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The College has four dormitories: Dominican Hall, Hruby Hall, Regina Hall, and St. Joseph Hall. It also has five apartment buildings on campus and five "living learning communities", denominated "houses" on campus.

"The Moose" (Cook Carriage House)

Student Publications and Radio[edit]


  • The Paraclete, a Catholic news and commentary publication;[14] and
  • The Torch

The student radio station is "AQ Sound".[15]


The College is headed by a President and Board of Trustees.

The College's first administrator was Monsignor Bukowski, for whom its chapel is named. In February, 1969, Dr. Norbert J. Hruby succeeded Monsignor Bukowski as President. Hruby Hall, an administrative building and residence hall on campus, bears his name. Aquinas’ third President, Dr. Peter D. O’Connor, served from 1986 to 1990. Mr. R. Paul Nelson served as the fourth President from 1990 to 1997. Dr. Harry J. Knopke served as the fifth President from 1997 to 2006. On July 1, 2006, Provost C. Edward Balog was named Interim President and he became the College’s sixth President in May 2007; he retired on June 30, 2011. Dr. Juan Olivarez became the seventh and current President on July 1, 2011.

In March 2014, Dr. Gilda Gely became Provost and Dean of Faculty.

Notable members of the Board of Trustees include Chairman Lt. General John Nowak, United States Air Force (Ret.) and Sr. Nathalie Meyer, OP, Prioress of the Dominican Sisters of Grand Rapids. Trustees Emeriti include Msgr. William Duncan, Vicar General of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Grand Rapids; Sr. M. Aquinas Weber, OP; and local philanthropists Martin Allen, Jr., Peter Wege, and Kate Pew Wolters.


The College has more than 2,000 undergraduate and graduate students and offers 61 majors,[16] awarding Bachelors' degrees and Masters' decrees. It is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association.[17] Many graduates continue to graduate schools: approximately 90% of pre-medical students are accepted into medical schools. The opportunity to study abroad is a major attraction to many students, as many study for a semester at an international university. A study abroad program in Rome was instituted in 2010.


Indoor Track (Alksins Athletics & Recreation Building)
Sturrus Sports & Fitness Center

Collegiate sports teams were previously named "the Tommies" and are now known as "the Saints". The College is a member of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA), primarily competing in the Wolverine–Hoosier Athletic Conference (WHAC), while the men's ice hockey team competes in the Division III level of the American Collegiate Hockey Association (ACHA), Michigan Collegiate Hockey Conference (MCHC) and the women's lacrosse team competes in the National Women's Lacrosse League (NWLL). Men's Sports include baseball, basketball, bowling, cross country, golf, ice hockey, lacrosse, soccer, tennis, and track and field. Women's sports include basketball, bowling, cheerleading, cross country, dance, golf, lacrosse, soccer, softball, tennis, track and field, and volleyball.

"Nelson", a St. Bernard (dog), is the mascot of the Aquinas Saints. As Aquinas has never fielded a football team, the men's and women's soccer and basketball teams are very popular. The men's cross country team holds the Nation's longest currently active streak of ranking in the Top 25. The Saints have been a mainstay in the poll for 135 consecutive weeks dating back to September 2000. The Athletic Department is led by long-time men's baseball coach Terry Bocian, who retired from coaching in 2002 to attend solely to his duties as Athletic Director.

Collegiate teams have been national runners-up thrice: In 1963, the Aquinas men's golf team narrowly lost to host Southwest Missouri State University in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division II tournament. The 1963 squad was inducted into the Aquinas College Athletic Hall of Fame on September 26, 2003. In 2004, the men's cross country team finished second to Virginia Intermont College at the NAIA national meet in Louisville, Kentucky. In 2016, the men's ice hockey team lost to Oakland University in the ACHA Division III national championship, at 5-3.

National Champions:

  • 1964: John Kurzynowski, Men’s Golf, NCAA Division II
  • 1974: Tom Carr, Men’s Hammer Throw, NAIA
  • 1978: Pat Weiler, Men’s 3000-meter Steeplechase, NCAA Division III
  • 1999: Jason Carver, Men’s Outdoor 200-meter Dash, NAIA
  • 1999: Kellie Leeuw, Women’s Outdoor High Jump, NAIA
  • 2001: Jason Carver, Men’s Indoor 55-meter Dash, NAIA
  • 2001: Jason Carver, Men’s Indoor 200-meter Dash, NAIA
  • 2010: Rumeal McKinney, Men's Indoor 60-meter Dash, NAIA
  • 2012: Nicholas Thelen, Grant Gunneson, Dustin Heiler, and Caleb Teachout; Men's Outdoor 4 × 800 Meter Relay; NAIA
  • 2013: Álvaro Romero, Men's Indoor Long Jump, NAIA
  • 2016: Melissa Winchester, Marissa Ingersoll, Sydney Anderson, and Adri Sigafoose; Women's Indoor Distance Medley Relay, NAIA
  • 2017: Adri Sigafoose; Women's Indoor 1000-meter Run, NAIA
  • 2017: Curtis Bell; Men's Indoor Pole Vault, NAIA
  • 2017: Nate McKeown; Men's Indoor High Jump, NAIA
  • 2017: Melissa Winchester, Alexis Miller, Sydney Anderson, and Adri Sigafoose; Women's Outdoor 4 × 800 Meter Relay, NAIA

Notable alumni[edit]

  • Paul Assenmacher, pitcher of the baseball team in the late 1970s and early 1980s before playing for five Major League Baseball teams during a career of 14 years;[18]
  • Dave Gumpert, pitched for three Major League Baseball teams during five seasons in the mid-1980s, and was a Canadian sportscaster;
  • Dave Joppie, current minor league hitting instructor for the Milwaukee Brewers.
  • Godfrey Mwakikagile, Tanzanian writer and scholar, especially in African studies, who has written non-fiction books on African history, politics, and economics and others works; his books are found in collegiate and public libraries throughout the world; they are primarily for academicians.
  • Brian Williams, 1968 graduate who began his broadcasting career while calling the College's basketball play-by-play in 1967; his professional career started with Toronto's CHUM radio, included a year at CFRB Radio in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, and thereafter employment at CBC Television's Toronto station, CBLT; with more than 25 years of broadcasting experience, he is considered the dean of Canadian sport commentators.


  1. ^ "The Aquinas College Seal", accessed 12 January 2017.
  2. ^ "Aquinas College Financial Statement" in Aquinas College Communications and Marketing, Aquinas Magazine, Winter 2014, accessed 3 June 2015.
  3. ^ "Aquinas College, 2013‐2014 Enrollment Facts"[permanent dead link]
  4. ^ Aquinas College, "1886-1939", accessed 13 January 2017.
  5. ^ Aquinas College, "1886-1939", accessed 13 January 2017.
  6. ^ Aquinas College, "Heritage and Traditions", accessed 13 January 2017.
  7. ^ Aquinas College, "1886-1939", accessed 13 January 2017.
  8. ^ Aquinas College, "1940-1949", accessed 13 January 2017.
  9. ^ Aquinas College, "1950-1959", accessed 13 January 2017.
  10. ^ Aquinas College, "1970-1979", accessed 14 January 2017.
  11. ^ Aquinas College, "1970-1979", accessed 14 January 2017.
  12. ^ Aquinas College, "1990-1999", accessed 14 January 2017.
  13. ^ Aquinas College, "1990-1999", accessed 14 January 2017.
  14. ^ The Paraclete
  15. ^ AQ Sound
  16. ^ [1], accessed 12 January 2017.
  17. ^ [2], accessed 12 January 2017.
  18. ^ ESPN, "Paul Assenmacher Profile", accessed 8 June 2015.

External links[edit]