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. 

Tony Nolan 

Tony Nolan AQ ‘66 has been a member of the Aquinas Historical Committee since 2001. He is a Retired State of Michigan employee and served Aquinas College as a senior lecturer in Sociology and Campus Safety Director from 1999-2009. Tony believes that exploring the past to bring to the present is why Aquinas “makes all the difference in the world.” 

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. 

Paul Bienemen 

Paul Bieneman came to Aquinas in the Fall of 1975 and served as the chairperson of the Geography and Environmental Studies Department. He taught full time until the Spring of 2011 and served on many committees within the college. He has continued as an Adjunct faculty member teaching Physical Geography of Michigan four times a year. 

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. 

Terry Quinn 

Terry Quinn joined Aquinas College in July of 2017 as the new First Lady of the College. She has spent the past 30 years in various leadership roles in Human Resources and Operations after graduating from University of Wisconsin – Oshkosh with an MBA and Loyola University of Chicago with a degree in history. In her new role, Terry has the opportunity to use her love of history, particularly architectural history, to join the AQ Historical Commission to help research and make public the wonderful history of the College as well as the history of Brookby House, the President’s Residence at AQ. 

Chuck Frydrych 

Chuck graduated from Aquinas College in 1963 with a bachelor’s degree in physics. He returned in 1967 and taught physics, astronomy and, for about twelve years, a Humanities course in the core curriculum. 

After retiring from full-time teaching in 2007, he worked part-time for the next three years promoting the Science Initiative. 

As a long-time member of the Aquinas College Historical Commission Chuck enjoys being able to help his fellow commission members promote the many persons and events that helped shape Aquinas College. 

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. 

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!"