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Aquinas College (Michigan)

Coordinates: 42°57′36″N 85°37′43″W / 42.9600°N 85.6286°W / 42.9600; -85.6286
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Aquinas College
Former names
Novitiate Normal School (1886–1922)
Sacred Heart College (1922–1920s)
Marywood College (1920s–1931)
Catholic Junior College (1931–1939)
MottoNon nisi te, Domine (Latin)
Motto in English
"Nothing but You, Lord".[1]
TypePrivate liberal arts college
Religious affiliation
Roman Catholic (Dominican Sisters of Grand Rapids)
Academic affiliations
Endowment$48 million as of 2021[2]
PresidentAlicia Córdoba
ProvostChad Gunnoe (interim)
Academic staff
86 full time
159 part time
Location, ,
United States

42°57′36″N 85°37′43″W / 42.9600°N 85.6286°W / 42.9600; -85.6286
CampusUrban, 117 acres (0.47 km2)
ColorsMaroon & White
Sporting affiliations
MascotNelson the St. Bernard (dog)

Aquinas College is a private Roman Catholic liberal arts college in Grand Rapids, Michigan.



The Congregation of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart of the Order of Preachers (Dominicans), today commonly known as the "Dominican Sisters of Grand Rapids", led by Mother Aquinata Fiegler, OP, founded the 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 (i.e., novices), to be parochial school teachers throughout Michigan. 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.[4] At some time between 1922 and 1931 it was renamed as Marywood College.[5] 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.[4] 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 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.[6]

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.[7]

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".[8]

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.[8] In 1993 the college awarded its first doctorate degree, albeit honoris causa.[9]

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.[9]

A marker designating the college as a Michigan Historic Site was erected by the Michigan History Division, Department of State in 1962.[10] The inscription reads:

Aquinas had its beginning in 1887 as the Novitiate Normal School of the Dominican Sisters of Marywood. In 1922 it became Marywood College of the Sacred Heart. When the college was moved downtown in 1931, it became the coeducational Catholic Junior College. It began operating as a four-year college in 1940 and was named in honor of the great medieval theologian and philosopher, Saint Thomas Aquinas. Aquinas is primarily a liberal arts college. It was moved to this campus, the former Lowe estate, in 1945.

Msgr. Arthur F. Bukowski Roman Catholic Chapel



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)


Admissions statistics
2021 entering

Admit rate89.0
(1,275 out of 1,432)
Yield rate16.9
(216 out of 1,275)
Test scores middle 50%[i]
SAT Total1000–1170
(among 45% of FTFs)
ACT Composite20–25
(among 7% of FTFs)
  1. ^ Among students who chose to submit

The college has more than 2,000 undergraduate and graduate students and offers 61 majors,[12] awarding bachelor's degrees and master's degrees. It is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.[12] Its most popular undergraduate majors, in terms of 2021 graduates, were:[13]

Business Administration & Management (39)
Psychology (29)
Liberal Arts & Sciences/Liberal Studies (26)
Business/Corporate Communications (16)
Speech Communication & Rhetoric (15)
Biology/Biological Sciences (11)
Elementary Education & Teaching (11)

Many graduates continue to graduate schools: approximately 90% of pre-medical students are accepted into medical schools. The opportunity to study away is a major attraction to many students, as many study for a semester at an international institution. Programs currently offered include: England, Spain, Italy, Ireland, France, Costa Rica, Germany, Japan, and Dominican Exchange (US). Short term faculty-led trips are also offered.



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, Norbert J. Hruby succeeded Bukowski as president. Hruby Hall, an administrative building and residence hall on campus, bears his name. Aquinas's third president, Peter D. O’Connor, served from 1986 to 1990. R. Paul Nelson served as the fourth president from 1990 to 1997 followed by Harry J. Knopke 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. Juan Olivarez became the seventh president on July 1, 2011, and retired upon completion of the school year in the spring of 2017. Kevin Quinn was the eighth president and left mid-term. Steve Germic served as the interim president until July, 2022 when President Alicia Cordoba was elected. She is the ninth and current president of the college.

Student publications and radio



  • The Paraclete, a Catholic news and commentary publication;
  • The Torch;
  • "The Saint"

The student radio station is "AQ Sound".[14]



The Aquinas athletic teams are called the Saints. The university is a member of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA), primarily competing in the Wolverine–Hoosier Athletic Conference (WHAC) since the 1992–93 academic year.

Aquinas compete in 30 intercollegiate varsity sports: Men's sports include baseball, basketball, bowling, cross country, golf, ice hockey, lacrosse, rugby, soccer, swimming & diving, tennis, track & field and volleyball; while women's sports basketball, bowling, cross country, dance, golf, ice hockey, lacrosse, rugby, soccer, softball, stunt, swimming & diving, tennis, track & field and volleyball; and co-ed sports include cheerleading and eSports.

Notable people


Notable alumni


Notable faculty



  1. ^ "The Aquinas College Seal", accessed 12 January 2017.
  2. ^ Audits [dead link]
  3. ^ "Enrollment Fall 2022". National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) Home Page. Retrieved 25 February 2024.
  4. ^ a b c Aquinas College, "1886–1939" Archived 16 December 2017 at the Wayback Machine, Retrieved 13 January 2017.
  5. ^ Aquinas College, "Heritage and Traditions", accessed 13 January 2017.
  6. ^ Aquinas College, "1940–1949", accessed 13 January 2017.
  7. ^ Aquinas College, "1950–1959" Archived 2017-12-16 at the Wayback Machine, accessed 13 January 2017.
  8. ^ a b Aquinas College, "1970–1979" Archived 2017-12-16 at the Wayback Machine, accessed 14 January 2017.
  9. ^ a b Aquinas College, "1990–1999" Archived 2017-12-16 at the Wayback Machine, accessed 14 January 2017.
  10. ^ "Michigan Historical Markers – Aquinas College". www.hmdb.org. Historical Marker Data Base. Retrieved August 4, 2022.
  11. ^ "Aquinas College Common Data Set 2021–2022" (PDF). Aquinas College. Retrieved 2022-11-18.
  12. ^ a b "Discover AQ". www.aquinas.edu. 28 July 2014. Archived from the original on 12 January 2019. Retrieved 12 January 2017.
  13. ^ "Aquinas College". nces.ed.gov. U.S. Dept of Education. Retrieved January 21, 2023.
  14. ^ "AQ Sound". 28 January 2015.[permanent dead link]
  15. ^ ESPN, "Paul Assenmacher Profile", accessed 8 June 2015.
  16. ^ "Malawi Parliamentarian gives moving lecture at US College". Nyasa Times. 2012-10-29. Archived from the original on 27 November 2020. Retrieved 2021-11-14.
  17. ^ "Brad D. Smith Aquinas College Masters Degree". May 11, 2010. Retrieved July 19, 2023.
  18. ^ "Glenn Steil obituary". Grand Rapids Press. May 11, 2010. Archived from the original on August 1, 2020. Retrieved August 1, 2020.
  19. ^ Anderson, Jake (April 17, 2013). "Mayo Clinic's chief administrative officer Weis to retire". MinnPost.
  20. ^ "Andrew Bergeron". Aquinas College. Retrieved 2024-06-29.
  21. ^ Angie, Jackson (2012-07-19). "Blandford Nature Center founder to join Michigan Women's Hall of Fame". mlive. Retrieved 2024-06-09.
  22. ^ "Carmen Maret". Aquinas College. Retrieved 2024-06-09.