Published on


GRAND RAPIDS, MICH. – Aquinas College has been awarded the Green Star Award by the Professional Grounds Management Society. The college was presented the Grand Award for Small Colleges and Universities at the society’s awards program on October 21 in Louisville, KY.

The Green Star Award brings national recognition to grounds maintained with a "high degree of excellence.” They recognize outstanding landscape design and construction by saluting the grounds superintendent responsible for maintaining a well-manicured landscape year round.

“It’s very rewarding to have the college selected for this award, especially considering the hard work my staff puts into our campus grounds year-round,” said Mike DeBoer, grounds manager for Aquinas College. “Aquinas is a special place as it is also home to two historic estates, each with their own historic gardens. Alumni have a strong emotional connection when they return to campus and I think the grounds are a big part of that connection.”

The award criteria takes into account elements including aesthetics, sustainability, maintenance safety, proper staff training, seasonal plantings and irrigation.

Two of the highlights of the 107-acre wooded campus grounds include the Holmdene and Brookby Estates.

Donated to the College in 2011, the Brookby Estate, which is the home of the president of the college, includes a recently renovated Chinese Garden which featured more than 7,000 tulips planted by dozens of students, employees and members of the Kent Garden Club this spring. The Pool Garden is surrounded by perennial and annual blooms,  and a bed of assorted perennials frames the southern porch of the house. Both gardens were restored to their original 1928 designs, created by famed landscape architect, Percival Gallagher of the Olmsted Brothers.

Holmdene is home to many of the college’s administrative offices, including the Office of the President. The lower level of the Holmdene Garden features a stepped garden, planters and a fountain. This area receives a significant amount of attention from both the grounds crew and other users, as it is frequently a meeting space, quiet reading area and hosts weddings throughout the summer months. The upper level of the Holmdene Garden is home to a small reflecting pool, seating area and a wide variety of flora.

A significant amount of time spent during the summer months – especially by student workers – is spent weeding, edging and mulching the many beds around the Aquinas College campus. The crew will use approximately 250 yards of mulch and 75 yards of hardwood chips in the course of a summer.

With an estimated 20-25,000 trees on campus, keeping up with trimming, debris cleanup and tree removal is a daily task. The majority of the work is the responsibility of the Aquinas grounds crew.

Past winners of this award include the Biltmore Estate Historic Gardens, Disneyland Resort, Smithsonian Gardens, University Of Michigan, Catholic University of America and the University of Chicago, to name a few.