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Undergraduate Admissions E-Newsletter - Summer 2005

Welcome to the Aquinas College E-Newsletter - your source for the latest news and events happening at AQ! Read on to find out what amazing things AQ faculty, staff, students and alumni are up to as well as what exciting projects are going on at Aquinas.

Four Saints Teams Head to NAIA Nationals

Service Learning... An Aquinas Tradition

AQ Alumnus Heads Scouting Efforts For NBA Rockets

Medical Mile Moves Forward; Institute Heads to Next Level

AQ Graduates First American-Trained Conductive Education Conductors

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It has been quite a spring for the Aquinas College Saints athletic program as four teams qualified for National competition.


With two wins over St. Xavier, the Saints earned the right to compete in the NAIA National Championship held in Lewiston, Idaho at Harris Field of Lewis-Clark State College. The 49th Annual NAIA Baseball World Series was held May 27 to June 3, 2005. The tournament consisted of a ten team double elimination tournament.
More about baseball at Aquinas.


The Lady Saints grabbed their second NAIA Region VIII championship in the last five years as they were victorious over cross-town opponent Cornerstone University in the championship round of the Region VIII tournament. With the win, the Lady Saints have earned the right to compete in the NAIA National Championship tournament held in Decatur, Ala. on May 20 to 25, 2005. Other victories in the Region VIII tournament for the Saints included a 8-7 win over Bethel College and a 3-2 victory over Indiana Wesleyan. With the win, Coach Ronda Varnesdeel garnered her 100th career win. Coach Varnesdeel was also named Regional Coach of the Year.
More about softball at Aquinas

The Aquinas College track team is en route to the NAIA Outdoor Track & Field National Championship held in Louisville Kentucky on May 26 to 28, 2005. Seventeen student-athletes competed at the event. The following AQ track team members earned All American honors through their performances: Nick Gumina, Jeff Luehm, Noelia Garcia and Sarah Ellis.


The following earned Academic All American honors: Sarah Ellis, Val Kunde, Jenny Millis, Nick Gumina, Adam Hoogewind, Jeff Luehm, and Josh Miller.
More about men's track and field at Aquinas
More about women's track and field at Aquinas


With a 8-1 win over Taylor University and a 5-4 victory over Indiana Wesleyan in regional play, the Aquinas men's tennis team earned a trip to the NAIA National tournament held in Mobile, Alabama on May 16 to 20, 2005.
More about men's tennis at Aquinas.



21 Aquinas College students chose to start off their summer vacations by serving others. One group of students headed to Honduras and another to Peru .

Eight Aquinas College students spent 10 days, May 9 to 19 in San Pedro Sula , Honduras on a service learning trip.  In preparation for the visit, students took a full- semester academic course dealing with the economy, history, politics and literature of the region, with special emphasis on the role of Christianity and especially the Catholic Church since the 1960's and the development of Liberation Theology.  Students analyzed CAFTA (Central American Free Trade Agreement) and learned how the Agreement affects the people of Honduras.  The group was accompanied by Ms. Linda Nash, women's athletic director for Aquinas, and Professor Suzanne Gasster, who taught the course. 

Aquinas students worked with local Hondurans to help construct small cement block houses with solid floors and tin roofs.  The houses replaced wash-away structures in the low ground near the river, each house being built by the potential owner who pays it off with his/her labor.  Aquinas worked primarily on two small houses, about 15 ft by 12 ft, mixing cement and pouring the floors.

The most difficult and perhaps complicated experience was the visit to the prison. Exactly a year ago 106 prisoners were killed in a fire that most people believe was caused by or at least augmented by gasoline thrown by the prison guards.  At the time, prison personnel delayed a whole hour before calling the firemen, who in turn took an hour to arrive. 

Aquinas extends thanks to Sister Joan, Sister Doris, Fr. Tom, and the Honduran people for their hospitality and for this life-changing experience.


The culmination of a year of fundraising and building awareness was brought to a head as 13 members of Casa Hogar joined Eric Bridge , Director of Service Learning, and Damon Bouwkamp, Admissions Representative, in the group's annual trip to Peru from May 9 to 20.

“Our visit to Casa Hogar (the orphanage in Lurin, Peru which the club was named after) was the perfect ending to our year of volunteering here in Grand Rapids,” said club president Helene Rivard. “Everyone was so loving and welcoming, freely sharing of everything they had with us, even though their possessions may seem small compared to American standards.”


Most of the week was spent sharing time with the 74 children who call Casa Hogar home. Whether playing soccer, practicing English/Spanish or playing cards, the Aquinas group definitely felt the warmth of the people and culture of Peru.

“The amount of love that is shared between everyone at Casa Hogar has created an ‘oasis of hope' for these children in Peru, leading them on to bigger and brighter futures,” shared Rivard. “It was amazing to be a part of this for the short ten days we spent in Peru.”

A side trip to Cusco, Peru to visit Machu Picchu and other ancient Incan ruins was taken toward the end of the two-week stay.

To view a photo gallery from Casa Hogar's trip to Peru, please click here.



Dean Cooper, Aquinas grad and former baseball and golf student-athlete (1991), has been named Director of Scouting for the NBA's Houston Rockets. In his current capacity, Cooper is responsible for scouting the NBA, colleges, international leagues and basketball's developmental leagues. In his previous five years with the Rockets, he served as video coordinator/ scout for two seasons, assistant coach for two seasons and NBA personnel scout for one season.


Before joining the Rockets, Cooper coached two years each at the University of Buffalo and at his alma mater, Aquinas College. Additionally, he served as advance scout for the Connecticut Pride of the CBA for four seasons.


Cooper, a Belding High School graduate and standout athlete, also coached for five years at Belding High School and three years at Caledonia High School. Cooper lettered in baseball at Aquinas for four seasons and as a member of the AQ golf team for two seasons.

Click here to learn more about AQ Alumni in the news.



By Kathleen Longcore
Copyright 2005, The Grand Rapids Press. All rights reserved. Used with permission. Edited for space

The research and education institute the late Jay and Betty VanAndel gave their hometown celebrates its fifth birthday today with news of a second phase that will include a graduate school, expanded research and the creation of hundreds of jobs.
Phase II of what will be a $200 million jewel in Michigan Street's "medical mile" was to be launched this morning by David Van Andel, chairman and CEO of the Van Andel Institute. A 2006 start date is planned for a large addition to the distinctive rippling glass structure designed by Rafael Vinoly.
The changes will further transform a burgeoning health corridor that got its boost from the institute.
A key part of the next phase is the Van Andel Institute Graduate School, which will begin accepting students in 2006 and award doctoral degrees to young scientists who will help shape the future of medicine.
The new construction - slated for completion in fall 2008 - also expands the Institute's capability, Van Andel said.
"We can get into areas of research we haven't done before," he said.
"We are already deep into cancer. Now, we can add Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's and nutritional research."

These are areas of particular interest because Van Andel's father, who died in December, suffered from Parkinson's disease and his mother died of Alzheimer's in January 2004.

The $120 million to $150 million addition will appear to cascade down the hill behind the institute, fronting North Division Avenue and more than doubling the facility's size.
The institute's annual operating budget will more than triple -- hitting $100 million a year when it reaches capacity.
The next phase eventually will employ 400 people. Van Andel said it took five years to fully staff the current building, and it may take five to 10 years to staff the addition. Those jobs represent an influx of "intellectual capital" that cannot be overestimated, said Birgit Klohs, president of The Right Place economic development agency.
"The attraction of researchers to this area is as important as hard capital," she said.
Klohs said the institute began a dynamic cluster of research, medical care and education on Michigan Street . Those developments include the $27 million Midtown development at Union Avenue and Michigan Street NE and the $120 million medical office complex across the street from Spectrum Health's Butterworth Campus.
“None of that would have happened in Grand Rapids without the institute. It has transformed this region," she said.
In an interview, Van Andel said there was never a timeline for the next phase of his father's vision.
"But I am pleased and somewhat surprised that we have needed to do this so soon. Within 12 months, we will have maxed out the (existing) building," he said. The fifth floor of the Van Andel Research Institute - finished but unused until recently - will get lab benches this summer.
Jay Van Andel told friends five years ago that opening day of the institute was one of his happiest. David Van Andel said his father did not know the details of Phase II when he died six months ago, but he knew it would happen soon.
Jay and Betty Van Andel pledged to donate the bulk of their estate, estimated in the billions in the late 1990s, to fund the institute. David Van Andel said "a good chunk" of the estate will stay with the Institute. "It covers our core expenses," he said.
Financial support also comes from research grants and from the Hope on the Hill development arm of the institute, which has raised $5 million in the past five years. Financing for the new addition will include construction bonds, Van Andel said.
"It is terribly expensive to do research. But it is the engine that drives everything," Van Andel said.
The institute has raised $600,000 toward a $3 million endowed chair to fund studies of Parkinson's and will partner with Saint Mary's Health Care on studies of neurological diseases.
The graduate school will raise the profile of the lesser-known Van Andel Education Institute, which honors Betty Van Andel.


Aquinas added another “first” to its long distinguished list of accomplishments in its history when it graduated the first group of U.S.-trained conductors from the Physically and/or Otherwise Health Impaired program (POHI) in May.

The four students who received their degrees as teacher-conductors from Aquinas on May 7th are Clare Avery, Andrea Gainok, Melissa Kelly and Jamieson McCormick. The students began their journey five years ago, taking general education classes in their first two years. Their final three years concentrated on POHI with an emphasis on the Conductive Education method of teaching, a complex educational system which teaches children and adults with motor disorders to be more functional participants in society. Aquinas College's Conductive Learning Center (CLC) is the only institution in the United States offering a POHI methodology teacher-training program utilizing the conductive education method.

Kathy Barker, a professor in the POHI program, says “conductive education methods focus primarily on young children because there is a window of opportunity for improving the quality of life for youngsters with motor disabilities. These first four graduates from our program have demonstrated a passion and commitment to do this work. They've gone the extra mile to be excellent teachers.”

“This degree and certification is something that we (four students) have all worked extremely hard for,” said Kelly. “We have put in many hours of work both in the classroom and at home as well. I think we would all say that we have been able to put this dedication and love into this program and conductive education because we believe so strongly in it and have a passion for making it succeed.” 

Students study the methods in the classroom and then apply what they learn in the lab classroom at the Conductive Education Resource Center (CERC) on Burton Street S.E. in Grand Rapids. There, they work side-by-side with a conductor from the Peto Institute in Hungary where the conductive education techniques were first developed. They then apply the methods to the work they do with youngsters, thus improving the quality of their lives.

“Working closely with the conductors at the CERC has been an invaluable experience and it may be possible that I've learned even more from the children,” Avery said.

The techniques involve helping the clients develop feelings of self-esteem. The goal of the program is to help children with cerebral palsy, spina bifida and other motor challenges to achieve optimal independence and cognitive function.

Kelly plans to work at a conductive education school in Illinois, following graduation. Beyond that, she would “love to take conductive education to new places within our country. It would be wonderful to be given the opportunity to start up a new school or a satellite school in an area that is searching for conductive education.”

Click here to learn more about the conductive education program at AQ.



Your senior year of high school is full of many exciting events such as senior pictures, homecoming, and final athletic seasons, just to name a few. At the same time you will be in the process of making perhaps the biggest decision of your life thus far, choosing a college. The summer before your busy senior year is a great time to start narrowing in on what school is the right fit for you. With so many colleges and universities to choose from it can be an overwhelming process. Some factors to consider are size, location, academic opportunities, other opportunities (such as study abroad, athletics and on campus jobs), and financial aid.

Another important consideration is the gut feeling you get when you visit campus. Many college campuses including Aquinas are open for visitors in the summer. While the campus is quieter in the summer, you will be able to get a good idea of what being an AQ student is like when you meet with an admission counselor and tour our 107-acre wooded campus with a current student. Make an appointment.

In addition to visiting campus other things on your summer college planning list should include:

Researching our website

Filing your free application for admission

E-mail your admissions counselor with specific question

Sign up for the ACT

Search for scholarships

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