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]
Established 1886
Type Private
Affiliation Roman Catholic (Dominican Sisters of Grand Rapids)
Endowment $42 million[2]
President Juan R. Olivarez PhD
Provost Gilda Gely PhD
Academic staff
86 FT and 159 PT
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, total 117 acres (0.47 km2)
Colors Maroon and White          
Athletics NAIA
Nickname Saints
Mascot Nelson the St. Bernard
Affiliations Wolverine-Hoosier Athletic Conference
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 Catholic college that aims to provide a liberal arts education located in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Aquinas was ranked among the "Best Regional Universities – Midwest" by U.S. News & World Report (2012).

Mission Statement: Aquinas College, an inclusive educational community rooted in the Catholic Dominican tradition, provides a liberal arts education with a global perspective, emphasizes career preparation focused on leadership and service to others, and fosters a commitment to lifelong learning dedicated to the pursuit of truth and the common good.[4]


Founded by the Dominican Sisters of Grand Rapids in 1886, Aquinas has a Catholic heritage. Aquinas began as a novitiate normal school, for young women who had yet to take their vows to the Dominican religious order.

In 1922, the Dominican Sisters merged their newly created college for lay women with the normal school. This new college received a charter from the state of Michigan to grant degrees in 1923. In 1931, it became the first Catholic college in the US to go co-ed, and was reorganized as Catholic Junior College.

The college began to operate as a four-year institution in 1941, when it was renamed in honor of Saint Thomas Aquinas.


The college campus is in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Aquinas College has 4 dorms, including Dominican Hall, Hruby Hall, St. Joseph Hall, and Regina. Aquinas also has 5 on campus apartments, and 5 on campus living learning communities (Houses).

The Moose

Organization and administration[edit]

The school's first administrator was Monsignor Bukowski, for whom the school's 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, took office in 1986 and served until 1990. In 1990 Mr. R. Paul Nelson was named the College’s fourth president, serving until 1997. Dr. Harry J. Knopke became the fifth president of Aquinas College in 1997. Dr. Knopke served from 1997 through 2006. On July 1, 2006, Provost C. Edward Balog was named Interim President and he became the College’s sixth president in May 2007. Dr. Balog retired from Aquinas College on June 30, 2011. Dr. Juan Olivarez became the seventh president of Aquinas College on July 1, 2011. In March 2014 Dr. Gilda Gely became Provost and Dean of Faculty for Aquinas College. Previous to Aquinas, Dr. Gely was provost and executive vice president at Grand Rapids Community College.

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

Academic profile[edit]

Aquinas has more than 2,000 students and offers over 60 majors, awarding Bachelor's degrees and Master's degrees. It is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association. Many Aquinas graduates go on to graduate schools: approximately 90% of pre-med students from Aquinas are accepted into medical schools. The opportunity to study abroad is a draw for many Aquinas students, as many take a semester at an international university. A study abroad program in Rome was added in 2010.

Financial Aid[edit]

Aquinas is very committed to making your private college education affordable. More than 90 percent of Aquinas students receive financial aid. The average financial aid package: more than $22,000. No wonder, U.S. News and World Report recognized Aquinas as a best value and one of the top schools on its annual "Great Schools, Great Prices" list.

Center For Diversity and Inclusion[edit]

Rooted in the Dominican tradition, the Center for Diversity and Inclusion serves as a safe space for all members of the Aquinas community to engage in empathic cross-cultural exploration, as well as to develop a deeper understanding of their individual cultural identity. Particular emphasis is placed on fostering the holistic development of racially and ethnically underrepresented students.The center for diversity and inclusion host diversity speakers to increase cross-cultural awareness. It Facilitate workshops on creating a more inclusive campus climate and helps organize events for the campus to engage a variety of cultural traditions and provides volunteer opportunities to combat social inequities.

The Center for Diversity and Inclusion welcomes international students as well. It offers guidance and support to out of the country students. It has welcomed many people from different parts of the world such as Asia, Europe, Central and South America. Special and unique orientation programs and events are offered. It aids students get familiar with US culture and the city of Grand Rapids.

There are many multicultural clubs offer at Aquinas College through the Center of Diversity and Inclusion such as: Arabic Language and Culture Club, El Tango, AQ Pride, Gender Studies Club, German Club, Japanese Cultural Club, Klub Polski, Latin@ Student Association (L@SA), Le Club Francais, Social Action Committee (SAC), Spanish Club and Voices Inspiring Black Students Everywhere (VIBE).

In addition to the different clubs offer at AQ the EXCEL Mentor Program encourages students from underrepresented backgrounds to feel more connected to the community (Cantor and James 1999). The Center for Diversity & Inclusion EXCEL Mentor Program is designed to increase underrepresented student involvement and success by promoting community building, academic excellence, cultural engagement and spiritual exploration. Interested students will be matched with an upper-class mentor for their first two semesters at Aquinas. EXCEL Program mentors are committed to making a difference in the lives and successes of new students. Having a trained peer mentor, and program staff who are intentionally focused on supporting your needs as an incoming student of color, can mean the difference between a good college experience and a great one.

Campus Dining[edit]

Creative Dining Services is proud to introduce their new concepts in the Wege Dining Hall. Striving to provide a high level of service to the Aquinas students and staff, Creative Dining Services is delighted to debut the new upgrades. Each concept is themed towards the food it represents. Included in those themes are:

Emma & Charlie’s: Pizza, Pasta & Grinders Decker’s: Deli, Soup & Sides Homestyle: Home-Cooked Foods (Just like Mom made!) Dashi: Ramen Bar Taqueria: Mexican Station (Coming Soon!)

Each was crafted with the guest in mind to offer an assortment of choices on a daily, rather than weekly, basis. A “Vegan & Allergen Sensitive” cooler was also added specifically for those students, faculty and staff with food sensitivities. Other upgrades to the salad bar and beverages have been made as well. Stop by Wege and taste for yourself.


The Aquinas Theatre Program is a hands-on learning experience. Aquinas Theatre offers small class size limiting Directing 1 class to only ten students, making it a more personalized experience. AQ Theatre students work on up to eight projects in a semester, rather than the only one or two offered at larger universities. Students participate in four mainstage productions each year, many of which are regional or even national premieres. Among other features the program brings playwrights to campus to work and collaborate with the students. Faculty represent many aspects of theatre and have credentials regionally and nationally as actors, directors, playwrights, designers, fight choreographers and scholars. The theatre shop, box office and general theatre office offer part time work-study opportunities for students.

The Theater Program is well connected in West Michigan. Students gain experience through internships, assistant directorships and other positions with Actors' Theatre of Grand Rapids, Circle Theatre, Civic Theatre, Jewish Theatre GR, Heritage Theatre Group and other regional theatres including Purple Rose Theatre in Chelsea, MI, and the Boar's Head Theatre in Lansing, MI. Is consistently honored at the annual Grand Awards, celebrating excellence in West Michigan college and community theatre.

Aquinas Theatre offers free seminars called "Help! I'm a theatre major!" that teach students how to turn their theatre degree into a career, whether it be in the performing arts, arts advocacy and community arts, or in the traditional workplace.


Indoor Track
AQ Gym

Aquinas College teams, previously known as the Tommies, 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 men's ice hockey competes at the Division III level of the American Collegiate Hockey Association (ACHA) Michigan Collegiate Hockey Conference (MCHC) and women's lacrosse 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 & field; while women's sports include basketball, bowling, cheerleading, cross country, dance, golf, lacrosse, soccer, softball, tennis, track & field, and volleyball.

Nelson, a St. Bernard, 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 prove big draws. The men's cross country team holds the nation's longest current active streak of being ranked 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 focus solely on his duties as athletic director.

Aquinas College teams have been national runners-up twice. In 1963, the Aquinas men's golf team narrowly lost to host Southwest Missouri State in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division II tournament. The '63 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. Five Aquinas athletes have won seven individual national titles in golf and indoor and outdoor track and field.

  • 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 4x800m Relay – NAIA
  • 2013 – Álvaro Romero – Men's Indoor Long Jump – NAIA

Notable Alumni[edit]

For a more comprehensive list, see Category:Aquinas College (Michigan) alumni.
  • Paul Assenmacher, a pitcher on the school's baseball team in the late 1970s and early 1980s before going on to play for five Major League Baseball teams during a 14-year career;[5]
  • Dave Gumpert, who pitched for three Major League Baseball teams during five seasons in the mid-1980s; and, Canadian sportscaster
  • Godfrey Mwakikagile, writer, scholar and specialist in African studies from Tanzania. He has written non-fiction books about African history, politics and economics and others works. His books are found in college and university libraries, and in public libraries, around the world. They are mainly for the academic community but they are also read by members of the general public.
  • Brian Williams, a 1968 graduate who began his broadcast career while calling the college's basketball play-by-play in 1967. His professional career started with Toronto's CHUM radio. After a year at CFRB Radio in Toronto, he joined CBC Television's Toronto station, CBLT. With more than 25 years of broadcast experience, Williams is considered the dean of Canadian sports commentators.


  1. ^ Thomas Aquinas. "The Aquinas College Seal". Retrieved June 4, 2015. 
  2. ^ As of June 30, 2014. "Aquinas Magazine Winter 2014" (Online). Aquinas College Financial Statement. Aquinas College Communications and Marketing. Retrieved June 3, 2015. 
  3. ^ Aquinas College, 2013‐2014 Enrollment Facts
  4. ^ Aquinas College
  5. ^ ESPN. "Paul Assenmacher Profile". Retrieved June 8, 2015. 

External links[edit]