President's Office  

Juan Olivarez, Ph.D., President of Aquinas College

Dr. Juan Olivarez Dr. Juan R. Olivarez is Aquinas College’s seventh president. He became president in 2011.

During President Olivarez’s time at Aquinas, he has initiated a robust strategic planning process that has resulted in a variety of quality initiatives for continuous improvement college-wide. The college has also developed a campus master plan and an academic master plan. Under his leadership, Aquinas was named to the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll in 2013 and 2014. This national designation is the highest honor a college or university can receive for its commitment to volunteering, service-learning, and civic engagement. The college was named one of the "Greenest Colleges" by the Sierra Club, and has been listed in The Princeton Review’s Guide to 322 Green Colleges.


President Olivarez has dedicated the majority of his four decade career to all fields and aspects of education, ranging from preschool to post-secondary. During his career, he served as a teacher, school psychologist, dean, and president. Prior to Aquinas, President Olivarez served as the president and chief executive officer of the Kalamazoo Community Foundation for three years, spent 20 years at Grand Rapids Community College (GRCC) and worked in Grand Rapids Public Schools for more than 10 years. At GRCC, he advanced from dean of institutional research, to chief executive officer, and finally, he served as president for nine years.

President Olivarez has served on many national and regional boards and committees, including Innovation Network for Communities, Council of Independent Colleges, Educational Testing Services, High Education Research & Development Institute, and President George W. Bush appointed him to the National Institute for Literacy. He is well regarded as an advocate for an improved educational system by focusing on early childhood education, literacy, and equal education for all individuals.

Over the course of his career, President Olivarez has been recognized for numerous accomplishments. Some noteworthy recognitions include the Literacy Center of West Michigan’s Champion of Literacy Award, Junior Achievement Worldwide’s Exemplary Leadership Award, Michigan State University’s Educational Excellence Award, National Community Leadership Association’s Distinguished Leadership Award, National Black Nurses Association’s Making a Positive Difference in the Lives of People Award, and Boy Scouts of America’s Whitney M. Young, Jr. Service Award.

President Olivarez earned his doctorate in family and child ecology from Michigan State University, master’s degree in educational psychology from Wayne State University, and bachelor’s degree from Aquinas College.