Aquinas House was founded in 1953. However, its roots go back to 1924 when a Newman Club was established at St. Denis Parish in Hanover for the young Catholic men studying at Dartmouth. The pastor of St. Denis in those days was Father John Sliney. He, along with the help of Catholic faculty from Dartmouth, helped the Newman Club to grow and to thrive. But, in the mid 1940’s his brother, Father Francis Sliney, succeeded Father John Sliney. He showed little interest in the Newman Club and it gradually deteriorated until 1950, when a young priest named Father William Nolan arrived on the scene. He took a genuine interest in the needs of the Catholic students and the Newman Club began to flourish again.
In 1953, Bishop Matthew Brady, who himself had worked with Newman Clubs, appointed Father Nolan as full-time chaplain to the Catholic students at Dartmouth. He instructed Father Nolan to search for a separate facility to house the Newman Club. Aquinas House, named in honor of St. Thomas Aquinas, patron saint of students, was dedicated on December 8, 1953 at a house on Choate Road, now used as a residence for the Dean of the College. The number of Catholic men attending Dartmouth increased yearly and the house on Choate Road soon became too small. After a land swap with the college in 1961, plans were begun for the building of the present day Aquinas House on Occom Ridge. It was completed in the spring of 1962 and dedicated on April 29, 1962.
Monsignor William Nolan, the founder and first director, remained in his position until 1987 when he retired for reasons of health. Father John McHugh, O.F.M. Cap., succeeded him. Father John oversaw the renovation of the chapel in 1998 and remained as director until August of 2002. Father Brendan Buckley, O.F.M. Cap., who had worked at Aquinas House as an associate chaplain from 1998-2001, returned in 2002 to assume the position of director. He served until 2005.
In September 2005, Bishop John McCormack of Manchester invited the Dominican Friars of the Province of St. Joseph, based in New York City, to serve as the director and chaplains.