Education, Nonprofits, and Sustainability

College receives $2.5M grant for 'first-ever' program

November 13, 2014
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Aquinas College in Grand Rapids is a Catholic liberal arts school, founded in 1886. Photo via

A college has been charged with creating a "first-ever" academic program with a $2.5-million grant from a local foundation.

Economicology program

Aquinas College and the Aquinas College Foundation said today that the school has been awarded a $2.5-million grant from The Wege Foundation in Grand Rapids to establish the nation’s first college-level economicology program.

The discipline incorporates the principles of economics, environment, ecology, ethics, empathy and education.

Donated on behalf of a vision the late Peter Wege had for Aquinas to develop a comprehensive program focused on balancing economy and ecology, or economicology, the foundation’s grant will fund six major aspects of the program’s implementation: establishing a position for a dean of science and sustainability; maintain an academic master plan aligning with Aquinas’ strategic plan; planning improvements for existing science facilities and development of the Institute for Economicology; and strategic planning to conserve energy through new construction and renovation.

Gilda Gely, provost at Aquinas, said the dean position is an integral part of determining "the future of academia at the college."

“Aquinas has set goals for this program focused on education, community and infrastructure,” Gely said. “This grant and the individual hired will help guide us as we develop the program around these pillars.”

The grant will also support the endowment of a discretionary leadership fund promoting innovation and the development of a sustainable green revolving fund supporting changes to campus facilities that generate cost savings.

"Wege's dream"

Ellen Satterlee, CEO of The Wege Foundation, said the grant will allow the college to begin weaving Wege’s philosophy into the fabric of its culture, ultimately becoming integrated in the identity of the institution.

“Mr. Wege’s dream for Aquinas College was that it would be the ‘best Catholic liberal arts college of its size in the country,’ and he truly believed it was possible,” Satterlee said. “I’m convinced that this grant will continue to move Aquinas College toward fulfilling Mr. Wege’s dream.”

Juan Olivarez, Aquinas president, said The Wege Foundation has long been a generous friend and supporter of the college.

“With this gift, Aquinas will honor Peter’s memory by pursuing his vision of developing a comprehensive economicology program centered on educating the leaders of tomorrow and taking active steps to promote these concepts,” Olivarez said. “We are extremely grateful to The Wege Foundation for supporting Aquinas College with this generous gift.”

Wege ties

The long-standing relationship between Aquinas and The Wege Foundation can be traced back to 1959, when Wege took a leave of absence from Steelcase to help develop the Albertus Magnus Hall of Science as a business consultant. Wege also contributed to several on-campus projects: the Wege Student Center, Jarecki Center for Advanced Learning and the Aquinas College Performing Arts Center.

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