A Brief History of Aquinas College
The founding of Aquinas College in 1961 was the realization of a long-held dream of the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia Congregation of Nashville, Tennessee: to have a place where the newest members of the religious community could receive their initial degrees to serve in the community’s teaching apostolate. Over the years, this fundamental mission has remained, even as the sisters have continually found ways to serve the educational, professional, and catechetical needs of the Nashville community and beyond.
Since their founding in 1860, the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia Congregation have been devoted to the apostolate of teaching. In order to provide professional preparation for the sisters, the Congregation established St. Cecilia Normal School in 1928. In 1929, the St. Cecilia Normal School became the first institution of its kind to be affiliated with The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.
In 1961, St. Cecilia Congregation opened Aquinas Junior College, which assumed the purpose of the Normal School. Two significant milestones in the institution’s history occurred at this point: the College was established at its present location on The Dominican Campus, and it was opened to the public. The first students in the fall of 1961 included 50 nursing students from St. Thomas School of Nursing, 13 sisters, and five lay women. In 1962, Aquinas Junior College became co-educational.
In 1971, the College was granted accreditation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools to award the Associate degree. In 1994, Aquinas Junior College changed its status to a four-year college when approval was given to offer a Bachelor’s degree in education. In 2012, Aquinas College received approval to offer Master’s degrees in education.
In addition to the current array of offerings in teacher preparation programs, past programs in nursing and other health care fields, business and law enforcement represented the College’s response to the educational needs of the Nashville community and beyond. Sensitivity to the Church’s urgent need for well-formed educators has prompted Aquinas to focus all of its resources on the preparation of teachers at the undergraduate and graduate levels.
By providing a holistic, human formation in the liberal arts that supports the teaching charism of the Nashville Dominicans, Aquinas College fulfills its primary goal, to support Catholic education by preparing the young sisters of the St. Cecilia Congregation to bring Christ into the schools in which they will serve. Lay students who share in this mission are also invited to take part in the same high quality intellectual and professional formation that is found at Aquinas College.