Aquinas College was founded in and remains rooted in Catholic and Dominican tradition. Prayer, Study, Service, and Community are values that shape the institution, its faculty, areas of study, and the world view of the students it graduates.
Today, it provides a liberal arts education with a global perspective, emphasizing 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.
When first founded by the Grand Rapids Dominican Sisters in 1886, it was a Novitiate Normal School for women. It was the vision and efforts of Mother Benedicta O’Rourke, Mother Eveline Mackey, and Grand Rapids Diocese Bishop Henry Joseph Richter and Bishop Joseph G. Pinten that would guide the transformation of the institution into first a junior college and then a four-year institution.
In 1931, when the doors of Catholic Junior College opened, it was the “… first institution of Catholic higher education in the country to be both coeducational and run by a congregation of religious women began,” wrote author Gary Eberle in his book Aquinas College, the First 125 Years.
In 1940, a new four-year college was christened with a new name by the Sisters: Aquinas College.
“The Dominican Sisters who taught and administered the college were ahead of their time in many ways. In an age when it was unusual for women to earn college degrees, they become college professors, attended professional academic conferences, and earned advanced degrees both here in the United States and abroad. The result was that they became role models for the laywomen students and the younger sisters under their tutelage.” Aquinas College The First 125 Years, Gary Eberle, copyright 2011.