Founded in 1950 by the Catholic Bishops of Adelaide and Port Pirie to provide services for country students attending the University of Adelaide, the College has since catered for students attending Flinders University, the various campuses of the South Australian College of Advanced Education institutions (CAE's), University of South Australia and the Institute of Technology students.
The campus is situated atop Montefiore Hill in North Adelaide. It overlooks both the Adelaide Oval, the Adelaide city centre and the Adelaide Hills. The statue of Light's Vision is situated opposite the college grounds.
The administration building and surrounding grounds were the residence of Sir Samuel Way, a South Australian legal practitioner, former member for Sturt, Attorney General, Chief Justice of South Australia and Lieutenant Governor of South Australia. Gleeson House was the former residence of the Darling family. Roche House was designed in 1904 for A. Earnest Ayers. Hannan and Beovich houses were constructed during the 1960s to meet the growing number of residents and to provide a then-modern style of living for residents. The late 2000s saw various refurbishments to these buildings, including the installation of cooling equipment in rooms and also the modernisation of bathroom facilities. Other buildings have been purchased or rented in the College's history, including one each on Strangways Terrace and opposite the College on the eastern side of Palmer Place.
Until the end of 2001, the College was administered by Jesuits, with a Rector and Chaplain living on the grounds. Fr Shannahan, an Eastern-States diocesan priest, assumed the duties of Rector between 2001 and 2004. With his departure, the Jesuit presence within the College concluded. From 2005 onwards, the College has been presided over by dedicated Catholic Heads of College, Mr. Sam Armstrong (2005) and Professor Denis Ralph. Three Marist Brothers arrived in 2006, and assist with the spiritual and pastoral life of the college.
Students entering the Hannan and Beovich Houses of the College see the College motto Lucere et Ardere over their heads, which means to enlighten with knowledge and enliven with faith (incidentally, also the motto for St Mark's College, Port Pirie).
Aquinas College is named in honour of Saint Thomas Aquinas, a Dominican medieval philosopher and teacher.
Aquinas College competes in an inter-college sport competition known as the High-Table Cup against the other residential colleges in Adelaide, their main rival being St. Mark's College. The College grounds house a multipurpose court and gymnasium (the former squash courts). During 2013/2014, there was construction on a second court next to the maintenance workshops.
In 2007 the property at 44 Jeffcott St., which was surrounded by the college on three sides, was purchased from the Anglican diocese of Adelaide. It is now the residence of the Marist Brothers who live and work at the College.Fr Finn SJ (Fr. Finn, the founding Rector, is the only priest after whom a college house is named)
Fr Theo Overberg SJ
Fr Michael Head SJ
Fr John Shanahan
From 2005 onwards, after the last priest retired as rector, the position of Rector was replaced with Head Of College2005 Mr. Sam Armstrong
2006-July 2011 - Professor Denis Ralph
July 2011-2013 - Dr Colin MacMullin
2014 Br John Furlong FMS
2015-current Br Paul Gilchrist FMS
Professor Ralph is a Fellow of Flinders University, and attended Aquinas College in 1967 and lived in B40.
This role was introduced in 2015 in an administration restructure. With Br Gilchrist taking over the role of Head of College, Br Furlong will take on this role.
The position of Dean of Studies and Deputy Head of College was created in 2006 and is currently held by Mrs Carolyn Mee. This position replaced the position of Students Services Manager, which was held by Mr Gavin McLaughlin until the end of 2005, when Br. Furlong arrived to get acquainted with the College for the start of the 2006 academic year. The Dean assists students with their pastoral, academic, and general needs, and is largely responsible for the welfare and well being of the female students of the college. Mrs Mee took up the role at the beginning of the 2014 and has continued since.
The Dean is also acting Head of College, during the latter's absemce.
In 2007, the position of Assistant to the Dean was introduced, held by Sam Sheridan, also House Coordinator for that year. In 2008, which was temporarily held by Christina de Angelis from January until June. Her successor Carolyn Mee commenced at the beginning of 2009 and ceased in 2014 when she took on the role of Dean.
The most recent college Chaplain was Br. Rod Thompson FMS, who joined the college in 2006 and left at the end of 2008. Prior to this, it was Fr. Joe O'Mara (and sometimes the rector himself) who used to be responsible for chaplaincy and pastoral issues within the college. There was talk of bringing in a female Chaplain, who would be able to communicate effectively with the College girls. The postilion of Chaplain is presently filled by Br John Furlong.
Sister Margaret visits the College regularly and assists students with essay drafting and proofreading of assignments.
The House Coordinators are a group of 10 senior students who assist with the social well-being and pastoral care of college. In an emergency, they are also responsible for liaising with fire or police personnel. University of Adelaide Security generally patrols the premises after hours and they work with the Coordinators over minor security incidents. Until 2006, the House Coordinators were known as House Tutors; the reason for the name change was because tuition was not the area which the Coordinators were responsible for. In 2007, Academic Tutors were created to aid the Dean of Studies in the academic aspects of the college.
Outside of Semester periods, a relief Coordinator is appointed to take general care of the college and is generally a current senior or trustworthy student.
The College provides tuition for all first year students in a range of studies. In 2016, 2 Senior Academic Tutors, Danika Spilsbury & Patrick Bush have been appointed to manage the 32 Academic Tutors, all of whom are current junior and senior students within the college.
The Student Club, of which all Aquinas students are members, is run by senior and junior students for the benefit of its members. Students pay a yearly fee and this income helps support the running of the Club and associated services. The responsibilities of the student club include:promoting the welfare of students
working closely with College social and sporting committees and providing help during their events
liaison between the College Administration and the student body
maintenance of College equipment, such as gymnasium and sports equipment