Chimes of the Dominicans ringing in a new era for Aquinas College


Aquinas College's Academic Building

Story by Bridget Gibley, Culture Editor
Photo courtesy Ty Smith

Since Nov. 12, chimes have been ringing throughout campus every day at noon. These are the Chimes of the Dominicans, honoring the Dominican Sisters who founded Aquinas College. 

It has been a year-long process to get to this daily ringing. Trustee emeritus Ken Neyer (AQ ‘67) and his wife Diane have dreamed of having chimes installed at Aquinas for years, and were waiting for the right time for this desire to align with the College’s needs, which happened to be this year. 

Kara VanEgmond, Director of Recognition and Stewardship in the Office of Advancement, explained the origins of these chimes. In the past, the Neyers have funded chimes at their local churches, and they wanted to extend this tradition to Aquinas. It was important to them that the chimes specifically honor the Dominican Sisters, as well as serve as a moment of peace during busy days. 

Many colleges in the area, including Grand Valley and Ferris State, have chimes of some sort.

And now Aquinas joins that list. VanEgmond says, “I think it’s important as a college to establish traditions. It’s kind of a fun thing to add into our story.”

The chimes, which are actually electronic chimes completely controlled by IT Services, can be heard on all ends of campus and play at noon every day as well as special designated times. Such special times might include St. Thomas Aquinas Week or Sister Aquinas’ birthday. 

The chimes play “Adoro Te Devote,” a chant with text by St. Thomas Aquinas. The college presents this tune yearly during St. Thomas Aquinas Week, so this choice (selected by Barbara McCargar, Chair of the Music Department, and Sr. Catherine Williams, Associate Professor Emerita of Music) contributes to the specificity of this new Aquinas tradition.

Whatever students’ backgrounds are, the chimes serve as a reminder that the Dominican Sisters’ intention for the college was inclusivity rather than exclusivity. VanEgmond says the chimes are located in the Academic Building instead of the chapel because Neyer “wanted students of all faiths or no faith to be able to feel connected.” 

The location was also selected because of its centrality to campus, the proximity to ITS, and the fact that every student has contact with the Academic Building, no matter their area of study or residential status. 

One concern about the installation of the chimes was the noise. If they can be heard on all ends of campus, they might be disruptive to both AQ community members and Eastown neighbors. The College has a liaison with the Eastown Community Association, however, who sent regular communications updates to let them know how often the chimes will be sounding. The ECA was also invited to the inaugural playing of the chimes to emphasize that the chimes are for the entire community. 

Students may have noticed that the chimes are not as loud inside the Academic Building. This was intentional; college leadership was conscious of the fact that classes will be going on while the chimes ring. 

While the chimes are new to us now, they will soon become a part of the Aquinas story. VanEgmond says, “It’s a really cool thing for this to be a part of our tradition and our heritage at Aquinas… [in the future], alumni will probably remember hearing those chimes.”

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