Alumnus Profile: Chris Wessely
Aquinas alumnus, Chris Wessely ’04, recalls his first memory at Aquinas, as being one straight out of the movies. “When I walked in [to freshmen orientation in the cafeteria], there was Dr. [Roger] Durham who immediately asked me in front of class, “What is truth?” Obviously, I had no answer at the time, but I still remember this question today,” said Wessely. “It was just like in the movies! You know, where the college professor stood there, passionately asking deep, hypothetical questions, students attempting to answer intellectually. I really loved it, right from the start.” Wessely’s love for Aquinas grew over the years and now, he looks back on his time at the College as being one of the best experiences of his life.
Before attending Aquinas, Wessely was familiar with the school because of some connections he had. His father attended Aquinas and his mother was an adjunct Japanese professor at the College. Aquinas was also close to his home. Only after a short time living on campus, Wessely knew he had made the right decision and was in the right place.
He lived in Regina Hall and said he would recommend life in the residence halls to any college student. “If anyone ever asks me why I chose to pay more to live in the dorms, I simply tell them that there is never another time in your life where you can live with about 50 other peers on your floor with the communal ability to bounce ideas and stories off of. They are your sounding board, supporting team, study buddies, and friends,” said Wessely.
Wessely quickly found a home in Aquinas. The experience that he felt being on campus was unique to any other school he had attended or visited. “As I look back, it felt like camp with classes. I love that AQ is in the heart of GR, yet when you are on campus you forget that you are in the city, as you are sheltered by all the matured trees, it's peaceful and tranquil. The history of the school also made me feel prestigious. From the distinct smell of old books in the AB building to its architecture, when I was there I truly felt like a student and it made me think back to my father's experience here. It just felt right.”
Wessely was a political science and communication major with a minor in Japanese. Dr. David Weinandy, Professor of Communication, remembers Wessely well. “The first thoughts I have about Chris while he was a student at AQ are reflective of a bright man who had a mind that was always racing,” said Weinandy. “He has a naturally inquisitive and entrepreneurial nature. So, whether it was in class or out of class, he was always thinking. More than that, he is blessed to be equally logical and creative. I was also always impacted by his motivation and high energy. Beyond all of his drive and intelligence, what I admire most about Chris is his choice to be a positive person. He was always smiling and happy, which made him a person others wanted on their team.”
Since graduating from AQ, Wessely has worked in the sales and marketing field. He then went to culinary school at Grand Rapids Community College and graduated at the top of his class. He still teaches culinary classes through Grand Rapids Community College’s Cooks program, which offers night classes for adults. He started a business, the Personal Chef Group, but sold it because he got too busy with his other company, the Grand Rapids Sport & Social Club.
“[Grand Rapids Sport & Social Club] offers coed adult sport leagues for 21 and up crowd. We cater to the young professionals in town, allowing them to get some exercise while socializing with like-minded peers,” said Wessely. “The formula is simple, yet very effective: After every game we all meet up at our partnered bar to socialize over a few drinks and food. Already, we have seen a number of marriages, new jobs, and hundreds of new friendships come from GRSSC. Our overall goal is to introduce local people to other local people. We then take it a step further and introduce those local people to local businesses.”
Players engage in coed activities such as kickball or dodge ball. The business has expanded since its opening in 2008. Wessely said that the company has around 800 players per seven-week season. He has also opened the Kalamazoo Sport & Social Club and franchised the Greater Lansing Sport & Social Club.
While at Aquinas, Wessely came up with the idea that became the driving force behind the Grand Rapids Sport & Social Club. He based his senior capstone project on how one meets a significant other if he or she is still single and out of college. “I hypothesized that the closer you get to college graduation, the stronger the pressures to get married become,” said Wessely. “The fear is that once out of college, how can you meet that special someone? The fact is that you now have fewer options and therefore less chances to find a perfect mate. So, I started GRSSC because of this early concept, along with the fact that I love to socialize and I liked to stay active, but wasn't really into the mainstream sports.”
Wessely credits Aquinas with his success post-graduation. He fondly recalls memories that he has from his college days. He notes that a piece of Aquinas sticks with him no matter where life takes him. “I have taken something with me from every job and learning experience and incorporated it together to further myself in life. I was lucky to have such great mentors, even though they didn’t know they were mentoring me,” said Wessely.