1950 to 1959



Dominican priests and lady faculty increase. Aquinas College still has a split campus, with science, music and evening classes held downtown at the old Ransom Street location and other classes at the Robinson Road campus. Students drive or take public transportation between campuses. For a while, students were ferried back and forth by a black-and-white bus they jokingly refer to as the "Black Mariah," a slang term for a police transport vehicle. Enrollment growth and cramped quarters step up the urgency for a building campaign to increase classroom space and consolidate the campuses in one location.

The first honors societies - Delta Epsilon Sigma and Kappa Gamma Pi - were started in 1950.

The first athletic banquet is held at the Eastern Avenue Hall. Athletic director Joe Nagle awards letters to 47 student athletes.

To hear alumni reminisce about faculty members Lew Clingman, Sr. Noella, Sr. Bernetta, and George LaMountain, click here. This audio clip is from "Historically Speaking," an oral history of Aquinas College.

Fr. Henry Nauer, professor of education and originator of The Circle, dies. The Circle continues to meet monthly sponsoring dances, songfests and socials.

The annual rite of the May crowning of the statue of the Blessed Virgin is by now a well established college tradition. Here Dorothy Zeelbeck has the honor on May 6, 1950.

Cheerleading was the first athletic activity for Aquinas women.


Discussion continues about consolidating campuses. The discussion has renewed urgency because the Grand Rapids fire Marshall has declared that the Ransom Street buildings need major renovations to bring them up to modern fire code. The Dominican leadership decides to sell the downtown property and undertake a building program on the Robinson Road campus.

A program is announced to expand the Robinson Road campus. A location for a new academic building is selected, and the architectural firm of Bohlen and Son of Indianapolis designs a three-story building that becomes the Administration Building. Ground is broken on November 19, 1953. The college's building boom will continue in the 1960's with the addition of several more new buildings.

Addition of Business Administration major.

The architect's original plan for the Administration Building called for additional wings on the ends of the building to house a chapel and a library. These wings were never constructed and the library, after a few years of being split between the first and second floors, ended up crammed into the second floor until the 2007 opening of the Grace Hauenstein Library.

Groundbreakings became familiar sights on Aquinas’s campus in the 1950’s and ‘60’s. The first was for the Administration (now Academic) Building, November 18, 1953. T. Gerald McShane, chair of the Lay Advisory Board, wields the shovel as Monsignor Bukowski (2nd from left), Mother Victor Flannery, and other dignitaries watch.

1954 to 1955



Marian Hall, the women students' residence on the downtown campus, is closed.

Center Lloyd Brown leads the Tommies in an upset basketball victory over the Calvin Knights. One of the premier basketball and track stars in Michigan, Brown averages 19.5 points per game, once scoring 72 points in a single game.


The 1954 construction of the Administration (later called Academic) Building allowed for vastly expanded classroom space and the closing of the downtown campus. Students David Bockheim, Elaine Randall and John Ronan check out the materials as the building takes shape in the background.

Aquinas' baseball tradition begins to gather steam. Here the 1954 team poses for a yearbook photo.

Click here to listen to alumni from the class of 1956 recall this event. This audio clip is from "Historically Speaking," an oral history of Aquinas College.

In 1954, these Alpha Gamma Pi Bobbie-soxers brush up their music under Shakespeare's watchful eye. Alpha Gamma Pi was the college music club.

These rambunctious students gather in the crowded Commons in 1954. The commons was located in the basement of Holmdene. The crowded room shows that Aquinas was growing out of its old location in Holmdene and was ready for its expansion into the Administration Building in 1955.


Completion of Administration Building (now known as Academic Building ). The new building houses offices for college administrators, staff and faculty. In addition, it contains classrooms, the library, chapel, bookstore and cafeteria. Restrooms in those years were strictly segregated: priests, sisters, lay male and female faculty, and male and female students all had their own facilities on various floors. Holmdene becomes a residence for Dominican sisters who teach at the college. Monsignor Bukowski says a daily 6:30 a.m. Mass there for the sisters in the building's chapel.

Click here to listen to alumni from the 1950's reminisce about the opening of the new building. This audio clip is from "Historically Speaking," an oral history of Aquinas College.

The annual Marian Conference is a tradition by 1954 when this photo of a rosary procession was taken outside Holmdene. Aquinas' Catholic and Dominican heritage is celebrated in many ways.

In 1955, collegiate basketball had yet to be introduced to the slam dunk. Here a Tommy gets airborne without the help of Air Jordans.

Dominican and other sisters made up the bulk of the student body in summer courses. Teaching at parochial schools during the academic year, they completed their degree requirements in summer sessions. Here the sisters inaugurate the new Administration Building in the summer of 1955.

Sr. Angus Black oversaw the kitchen and lunchroom at Aquinas for many years.


In 1956, television was still a fairly new invention. Here a student watches the tube in the College's audio-visual room. The college was also home to a radio station, WXTO, owned by the Catholic Diocese of Grand Rapids and run by Father Hugh Michael Beahan. The college briefly experimented with closed-circuit televised courses, but the experiment was abandoned in the early 1960's.

A statue of Thomas Aquinas, commissioned and paid for by the classes of 1955-58, is admired by Father Thomas Aquinas Hennessey, O.P., one of many Dominican priests who served Aquinas College. The statue, originally in the lobby of the Administration Building and later moved outside, was vandalized by unknown miscreants and eventually replaced in 1990 with a statue carved by Sr. Phyllis Mrozinski, O.P.


In his annual report for 1956-57, Monsignor Bukowski reflects on the history of Aquinas College: “The amount of good done by the college in the intellectual, moral, and religious spheres is not calculable, but it is recorded in the archives of heaven. The solid hope is that the future will offer still more opportunity for service to the Church and to the country.”


In September, Siena Hall, a residence for first-year women, is opened at 1307 Robinson Road, with Ms. Gertrude Horgan as head resident.

Members of Lambda Iota Tau, the national literary honors society. The society is open to English majors and minors who are juniors or seniors and have achieved high grade point averages in literary studies.

Students in Father Hennessey's theology class pay strict attention. This photo reminds us that in the 1950's going to college was a formal affair. Note the men in sports coats, the women in skirts, and Father Hennessey in his Dominican habit, everyday wear in 1956.

October, the first Gala Weekend is held, with a Friday night dance, a Saturday carnival and a Sunday dinner, netting $15,000. Gala Weekend becomes an annual tradition through the 1980's, eventually being replaced by Homecoming.

Click here to listen to Joe Murphy and alumni from the 1950s reminisce about the first Gala Weekend. This audio clip is from "Historically Speaking," an oral history of Aquinas College.

Aquinas students admire the statue of Our Lady of Fatima as preparations get underway for the 1956 Marian Congress.

In 1956, as in all years, students like to sit in the back of the room. Here "Doc" John Poje and Gene Smith meet with members of the Science Club.

Officers of the Aquinas College Science Club meet with "Doc" Poje and Mr. Eugene Smith.

Members of The Circle conduct a lively interview for "KAC-TV," using cutting edge technology.


Aquinas College theater presents Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream."


The Aquinas College bookstore, overseen by student Carolyn Donovan and Sr. Helen Louse Brogger, O.P., was located in AB 11 in 1957.

Students form a conga line at this 1957 Gala Weekend dance.

Athletic director Joseph Baker dies.

1957 Gala Weekend

The crowning of Mary as Queen of May is an annual tradition of the Aquinas College Marian Congress. Here the 1957 May Queen and her court place the coronet of flowers on the head of Mary at the Fatima shrine.

Waking up a bit fuzzy-headed on the morning after, this 1957 undergraduate needs to look up to the sign posts that mark the quaintly named "streets" of the college campus. He seems to be at the intersection of Elderberry Lane and (now-named) Wege Drive.

These two students are caught "meditating" in 1957 on Aquinas' beautifully wooded campus.

In 1957, this Willys truck with no back window was the Aquinas vehicle of choice for grounds and maintenance patrol.

1958 to 1959

Monsignor Arthur Bukowski guides Aquinas College through the 1950s and 1960s. "Buk" is noted for managing all aspects of campus life, including turning out the lights in empty classrooms to save on utility bills.

A choir of Dominican sisters at prayer at the Marywood motherhouse.


Sr. Noella Byrne, history professor, dies.

A property at 1309 Lake Dr. SE is purchased by the college to serve as Lourdes Hall, another residence for women students. The growing student population will necessitate the building of on-campus residence halls in the 1960's.

Mr. Peter Wege, whose role in fundraising is instrumental in the college's development, is awarded an honorary Ll.D. from Aquinas College. During the building boom of the late 1950's and early 1960's, Wege's work for the college was tireless and his contributions to the campus include the Wege Center.


Sr. Mildred Hawkins, O.P., Academic Dean, 1949 to 1963, provides leadership to the faculty.

Sophomores pore over texts in the Aquinas College library located on two floors of AB.


This 1959 co-ed discusses controlling metaphors with Sr. Marybride Ryan, O.P. Ryan, a native of Ireland, shared her love of literature with generations of students.

Two women students walk through the winter wonderland of Aquinas' campus in 1959.

January: A 12-year, $8 million drive is launched to expand the physical plant, the faculty and the student aid program under the direction of Eugene Kennedy and Peter Wege, who took a year's leave from Steelcase Corporation to act as a business consultant. During the next ten years, the campus will be transformed as it erects residence halls, a student center, and a new gymnasium.

Monsignor Bukowski works with engineers and sisters to survey the site for the construction of Albertus Hall, 1959.

Ground is broken for new Albertus Hall, Sept. 18, 1959. Wielding the shovel is alumni association president Richard Loughrin '42. He is joined by Mother M. Euphrasia Sullivan of the Board of Trustees, Mother M. Victor Flannery, Prioress General of the Grand Rapids Dominicans, Sr. M. Mildred Hawkins, Peter Wege and members of the Knights of Columbus.