Heritage & Traditions at Aquinas College

AQ Historical Commission Members

Jill Straub, Chairperson 

Jill Straub graduated with her Bachelor’s degree from Aquinas College in 2000, and she earned her Master’s degrees in 2007 and 2013, respectively. She has worked at Aquinas in the capacities of Writing Specialist, Peer Tutor Coordinator, and Program Advisor for Student Support Services and the Center for Opportunities, Resources, and Excellence since 2000. She taught Achieving Academic Success for three terms and Humanities for one term. She became Chairperson of the Historical Commission in 2017. 

Sr. Mary Navarre 

Sister Mary Navarre taught in both the departments of education and humanities during her nearly three decades at Aquinas College. She is delighted to be able to sustain her friendships and her interest in history, the humanities and the gift of storytelling through membership on the Aquinas College Historical Commission. In remembering and telling our stories, she believes we are held together as a people and imbued with hope and joy. 

Sr. Rosemary O’Donnell 

Sister Rosemary O’Donnell, OP. Sr. Rosemary is a member of the Grand Rapids Dominicans, the founders of Aquinas college. She received a Bachelor’s Degree in English and Speech from Aquinas in 1961 and returned to teach there in 1971 in the Department of Communication. She retired from teaching in 2014. 

Ryan Wendt 

Ryan Wendt has been a member of the Aquinas College community since 1993, when he began his time as a student and was a 4-year letter winner in baseball. Ryans’ skill in baseball is demonstrated by his multiple school records which still stand today. Ryan graduated from Aquinas with a Bachelors Degree and began full-time employment at Aquinas in 1998. Ryan’s passion for Aquinas and its history has resulted in being a member of the Aquinas College Historical Commission since 2012. He has recently become an avid researcher of the history of Aquinas and now conducts presentations on the Yesteryears of Aquinas College on campus and in various venues around Grand Rapids, along with historical campus tours in the summertime. Ryan is currently employed in the Campus Safety Department as the Locksmith and Manager of the AQ bicycle shop, along with teaching a cycling class during the fall semester. 

Brigid Avery 

Brigid hails from the East Side of Michigan but fell in love with Grand Rapids while attending Aquinas College from 1996-2001. After completing an internship in Admissions, she continued working full time, recruiting students and telling the AQ Story. It was in Admissions where she developed a deep love and passion for higher education and programming. Building on this calling, she went on to pursue a Masters Degree in Higher Education Leadership from the University of San Diego (a Catholic college on the coast, where the weather was just slightly improved from West Michigan). After serving as the Development Director for High Tech High, she and husband Jeremy Chesla '01 returned to Grand Rapids and came home to Aquinas where she accepted the position of Alumni Director. In 2015, she transitioned to the Career Services office where she is now the Internship Director. 

Some of her fondest memories of life at AQ involve a sanctioned sleepover in Holmdene after hearing Gary Eberle tell ghost stories, reuniting an alumna and her priest friend through phone calls and written letters, visiting Tully Cross with Sister Alice, and the numerous Saints she has come to know and love like family. She currently lives across the street from Aquinas (she can see inside the new Sister Aquinas Weber Hall from her front porch) with her two boys, Emmett and Leo, puppy Arya, and Jeremy, a firefighter for the city of Grand Rapids. 

Deb O'Donnell

Deb O'Donnell has worked in the Advancement Office for over 25 years. Deb has been the recording secretary to the Aquinas Hall of Fame Committee since its inception. Deb enjoys planning award events over the years and is looking forward to working on the Historical Commission.

Jay H. Graef

Jay H. Graef is a Sophomore History Major, and English Writing minor. He “likes to restore antiques, bind old books, and enjoy the history of Aquinas College, the world, and objects alike!"