The Aquinas Class Ring
I attended Aquinas in its twilight years, 1959 – 1963. Opened in 1905, my class was the last one that saw a full school having classes from freshmen to seniors. There would be no class of 1966 and, as it turned out, the last class graduated in August, 1965.
One of the unique aspects of Aquinas was the student body. Some were great athletes, others great scholars, and some class clowns, while most of us were just plain students attending a high school we enjoyed, and that made our youth so memorable. Many of us were the sons, nephews, cousins, and brothers-in-law of earlier Aquinians, and we were expected to meet their expectations, as well as those of our teachers.
The personalities of young men, from literally all over the city, united to make Aquinas College High School such a great school. Most Aquinians grew into adults while at Aquinas and learned the values taught by the white-robed, black-caped friars we called Dominicans. Aquinas was not just the discipline. It was our fellow Aquinians who added the unique chemistry of their personalities that made Aquinas an extraordinary High School.
The diversity of nationalities belied the “Irish Terrier” mascot sewn on our letter jackets. Amalgamated in our classes were many Americans of Irish, Italian, Polish, and German descent as well as other nationalities. Some were naturalized citizens while others were second and third generation Americans. None of us paid any attention to our classmates’ parents’ nationality or economic backgrounds. We were just all Aquinians who wore ties and carried our rosaries. Our Aquinas Class Ring became a symbol of brotherhood.
The Aquinas Class Ring was rather plain by modern standards when I received mine in 1962. It had no fancy sparkling stone set in the center of a huge gold mount like other high schools. Instead, it was an unpretentious ring similar to a signet ring. The Dominican St. Joseph Province Shield was recessed in the center of the 10-karat ring. The three flowers represent purity while the carpenter’s square dividing the shield represents St. Joseph. A Celtic cross was on one side of the shank and the year 1963 separated by the torch of knowledge on the other. The words “Aquinas College High School” surrounded the Shield. Below the shield was the single word “Veritas”. My initials were engraved on the inside. It was a symbol of Aquinas and a symbol of hope – yes, it also reminded us that we may actually graduate. The Ring Dance, at the old Seneca Hotel, was one of the rites of passage to manhood when we received our Aquinas Class Ring blessed by the priest.
Later, I remember comparing my Aquinas Class Ring with my father’s. His 1929 Aquinas Class Ring was well worn but still showed the same plain elements of symbolism that mine did. One tradition was that a man of Aquinas would wear his class ring until he married, or so we were told. For a reason he never explained, dad wore his Aquinas Class Ring until he died in 1992. He did tell me how he worked to get the money for the ring, and that times were tough. Dad remembered how his brother George (Class of 1938) had worked, and then borrowed a few bucks to get his because it was so important to have one. He also remembered that many could not afford a ring since food on the table was more important during the tough economic times of the late 20’s and during the Depression. Ultimately, the Aquinas Class Ring became a proud outward symbol of friendship and loyalty-not only to Aquinas-but also to the others who wore it.
Whether replaced by wedding bands, college rings, or simply outgrown, Aquinas Class Rings have been kept or passed down as family heirlooms as one of the symbols of an Aquinian becoming a man. Many men of Aquinas still treasure their ring today. The Aquinas Class Ring is a very personal remembrance to the thousands of Aquinians who went to Aquinas College High School.
Thomas Aquinas Burke – Class of 1963
Aquinas College High School
July 25, 2003
From The Patrician, dated November 21, 1947--- I have just put my order in for my class ring. While examining the ring when I was measured, I noticed various crosses and figures on the top and sides of the ring. I'm sure that it would be of interest to other Juniors as well as to myself if you would explain some of the symbolism on the ring.J. D. You know, J. D., for some time I have been thinking about that very same thing. Generally, the moderator gives an explanation, but like everything else, it goes in one ear and out the other. So I shall try to explain some of that symbolism as far as I am able, with the valuable assistance of the Rev. J. F. Gilsenan, O. P., and the Rev. J. G. Crombie, O. P., both of whom gave valuable information on the matter. When you receive your ring (or if you are in a hurry, borrow one from a senior), you will notice that on the face of the ring itself---or the crest of the ring---appears a design which is the seal of the Dominican Province of Saint Joseph, within whose bounds is Aquinas. Within that seal, or rather under it, appears the Latin word Veritas, meaning Truth, which is the motto of the Dominican Order. Around this crest run the words "Aquinas College High School". Now, turn your ring to one side. On one side of the band you will notice a figure that looks like a torch, and around it you can see six small rays emanating in various directions. That torch is the torch of truth; the flame emerging from the torch is the virtue of wisdom, while the rays represent the other six Gifts of the Holy Ghost. Directly under it you will see two numerals of the graduating date. On the other side of the band you will notice the impressive Celtic cross, symbolic of the Irish, and in remembrance of the time when Aquinas was once known as St. Patrick's. The twelve rays proceding from the cross have a two-fold signification: they represent the twelve Apostles, the foundation stones of Christianity, and they also signify the twelve Fruits of the Holy Ghost. Under it you will see the two remaining dates of the graduating class. Incidentally, the shield on the crest, which we said was the shield of the Province of St. Joseph, is also the shield of the Dominican Order. However, there is super-imposed on the shield of the Order a carpenter's square (signifying the job which St. Joseph had), and three lilies to signify the Theological Virtues of Faith, Hope and Charity.
We hope that this explanation will enable you to understand your class ring, and by understanding it, to treasure it highly.