What does it mean that Aquinas is a Dominican College?

Dominican lives are rooted in the four Dominican pillars: Prayer, Study, Community, and Service - all for the sake of Veritas (the truth of God’s mercy and love).

  • Prayer: The Dominican tradition is two-fold: contemplative and communal. At Aquinas we are committed to gathering for rich liturgical prayer nourished by God’s Word and the Spirit. Prayer leads us into the deeper Truth needed to live out God's call for us in the world.
  • Study: We commit ourselves to a love of learning, both formal and informal. This necessitates an openness to learn from the most unlikely sources as well as tried and true scholarship.
  • Community: We have a long tradition of working together for the common good, both within the college and beyond for racial and social justice and outreach to persons and places in need.
  • Service: Aquinas encourages students to engage in service projects in the city and service learning programs in places near and far. It also offers preparation for careers that will enable graduates to spread the truths that they have learned - “to make a difference in the world.”

>Learn more about the Grand Rapids Dominicans
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History of Dominican Higher Education

In the year 1215, Dominic Guzman traveled to Rome to attend the Fourth Lateran Council. Later in 1216, he requested and received papal approval for his Dominican Order. Dominic sought official church sanction for his community because he was convinced that the preaching of the Gospel had to be done in harmony with the Church.
In this era, Dominic’s Order of Preachers seemed to be a radical creation.  According to custom, only bishops had the power to preach in the name of the Church; and now Dominic’s band of non-bishops were given that authority.  Strenuous objections were raised by some leaders of the Church, but Pope Honorius III was all too aware that preaching could be effective only if it were free of local political entanglements. 
This new order was both traditional and innovative, qualities that still characterize the Order today.  Study was essential to the lives of the Dominicans because contemplation flowing from vigorous study was a prerequisite for preaching.  Therefore Dominic sent the members of his Order to the universities of the day to study.  Prayer, study, community, and preaching/service became the four essentials of Dominican life.
In the first decades of the Order friars were sent to establish houses of study at the Universities of Paris and Bologna. The interaction of the Dominicans with university professors and students attracted many to enter the Order, among them the brilliant young Italian Thomas Aquinas, who became the foremost theologian and teacher of his day.
What made Thomas such an outstanding teacher? First, he saw teaching as embodying the ideal of Dominican life, because in it both contemplation and action are joined. The second dimension to Thomas’s teaching is to “grasp the truth in order to share.” The true teacher is one who can give to others what he or she has received. Thomas’ students understood that study was essentially exploration, that truth can never be captured fully, and that they could never rest easy with what they already knew. Learning implies a constant openness to the investigation of truth.
Dominican institutions are heirs to the rich heritage and traditions provided by their founder Dominic and his followers such as Thomas Aquinas.

Aquinas College

Aquinas College had its beginnings in the novitiate school established in 1886 by the Dominican Sisters of Grand Rapids for the professional training of candidates for the congregation. In 1922 this normal school merged with the college for lay women founded that year in conjunction with the newly-built motherhouse at Marywood. The new institution, known as Sacred Heart and later Marywood College, was incorporated by the State Legislature in 1922 with full power to grant degrees.
In fall 1931 the College was relocated on Ransom Avenue in downtown Grand Rapids. By an innovative move it was reorganized as coeducational Catholic Junior College. Under the leadership of Father (later Monsignor) Arthur F. Bukowski, named president in 1937, the junior college developed into a four-year school. In 1940, it began to operate as a four-year institution and was renamed Aquinas College.
Aquinas moved to its present campus after purchasing the former Lowe estate in 1945.  It made use of existing buildings on the property for administration and classroom facilities. Since that time a long-range expansion program has seen the construction and/or renovation of numerous buildings.  Over the years the college has grown in enrollment and diversity of students, faculty, and staff.  Its curriculum, with the liberal arts and sciences as the core, has been expanded with new courses and programs to meet the changing needs of students of all ages.  Although the numbers of Dominicans on faculty and staff has dwindled, the heritage is kept alive.

Did you know?

  • St. Dominic was Domingo de Guzmán from Caleruega, Spain
  • St. Dominic founded the Order Friars of Preachers in Toulouse, France
  • Members of the Order Friars of Preachers became known as the Black Friars or the Dominicans
  • In art, St. Dominic is often typified with a lily or a black and white dog, from Domini canis, which means “hound of God” in Latin
  • The Church celebrates his feast day on August 8th each year
  • The Rosary was given to the Church through St. Dominic, who is said to have received it from Our Lady
  • Many Church teachings stem from Dominican saints have shared the fruit of their contemplation and graces. Out of the 33 Doctors of the Church, three are Dominican:  St. Thomas of Aquinas, St. Albert the Great, and St. Catherine of Siena.
  • There are three orders of Dominicans (First:  Priests and Friars; Second:  Religious; Third:  Lay and Clerical Fraternities of St. Dominic)
  • Dominican mottos include: "Veritas" (Truth), "Contemplari et contemplata aliis tradere” (to contemplate and to give to others the fruits of our contemplation), "Laudare-benedicere-praedicare" (To praise, to bless, and to preach), "Euntes evangelizate mundum"(Go forth, and preach the Good News to the world)
  • "Hands are a projection of what is in our heart." - Brother Carlos Aspiroz Costa, the current successor to Dominic

"Arm yourself with prayer rather than a sword; wear humility rather than fine clothes," Saint Dominic.