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April 23, 2010 - Grand Rapids, Michigan (April 23, 2010) – In a continuing effort to become a more sustainable campus, Aquinas College this year introduced a sustainable graduation gown made from recycled material. The gown, offered by Herff Jones, which sells educational recognition and achievement products, is part of a new line of commencement gowns manufactured by the company Repreve and made from recycled plastic bottles. The company caught the attention of President Ed Balog as preparations for commencement began last fall.

The new, more sustainable gowns come as a response to the growing desire among colleges to be more environmentally conscious. The gowns are made from 100% certified recycled post-consumer plastic bottles. Approximately 27 recycled plastic bottles are used to create one standard sized (5’8” person) gown.

Aquinas and President Balog are “committed to the pursuit of a more sustainable, healthier campus” says Jan Sommerville, executive assistant to the president, “One of Aquinas’ signature characteristics is its commitment to sustainability initiatives.”

A Herff Jones spokesman indicated that Aquinas College is one of just three client colleges in Michigan and 55 nationwide that have chosen to use the recycled gowns. This is the first year the gowns have been offered.

The cost of each gown is slightly higher that previous gowns. However, according to Aquinas College Bookstore Manager Marian Todish, the price will be kept down to promote the switch to a more sustainable material.

The Aquinas College Commencement will take place Saturday, May 8, 2010, at Sunshine Community Church, 3300 East Beltline NE, Grand Rapids, beginning at 2 p.m.

Commencement will be preceded by a Baccalaureate Mass to be held at 10 a.m. at the Cathedral of St. Andrews, 265 Sheldon Ave. SE, Grand Rapids. More than 450 undergraduate and graduate students are eligible to receive degrees this year and nearly 300 will participate in the May 8 ceremonies.

The change in location for Commencement is due to the ongoing renovations at the College Fieldhouse as part of the Sports and Fitness Center project to benefit the athletic programs and overall Aquinas community.

David Van Andel, chairman and CEO of the Van Andel Institute (VAI), will be this year's Commencement Speaker. He will address graduates on Inflection Point: Recognizing Your Vocation. Van Andel will also be awarded an honorary Doctor of Science degree.

Two additional honorary degrees will be awarded.

Rosemary (Hickey ’58) Zant, a lifelong resident of Grand Rapids, used her Aquinas degree in biology for a career in teaching in the Catholic school system. She has been involved for nearly two decades as a volunteer for several community organizations, raising more than $2.5 million. For her service, Zant will be awarded a Doctor of Public Service degree.

Greg Alksnis ’71 played on the Aquinas golf teams while pursuing a degree in business administration. Following his graduation from Aquinas, Alksnis continued to achieve golfing success, winning many local amateur tournaments. Alksnis, an Aquinas Trustee Emeritus, is the co-owner, vice president and secretary of Magic Steel Corporation of Grand Rapids and is the co-chairman of the College’s Sports and Fitness campaign. He will receive an honorary Doctor of Business degree.

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