The Aquinas began as a monthly literary magazine, first published by the students of St. Thomas College in January 1916. Early issues featured editorials, verses, and short stories in addition to college and alumni news. Between 1916 and 1919, June issues of the Aquinas also served as yearbooks.
World War I limited the development of the Aquinas in the late 1910s and early 1920s. In the 1918-1919 academic year, as part of an effort to conserve paper, the Aquinas was reduced to a four-page, monthly newsletter.
Under the guidance of editor Frank O'Hara '25, the Aquinas re-emerged as an 8-page newspaper in 1924 and finally returned to a 32-page magazine format in January 1925.
Beginning in 1931, the Aquinas settled into a large-format, bi-weekly newspaper. In 1936, the publication schedule switched to weekly. The yearly tradition of publishing a satirical April Fools' issue seems to have begun in the late 1930s.
In 1942, under the strain of World War II, the Aquinas was published at longer intervals and ceased publication entirely between December 1943 and September 1945. Regular biweekly publication was resumed in 1946.
In September 1956, the Aquinas once again became a weekly paper, published each Thursday during the academic year. In order for University officials to approve the change, Aquinas staff members had to demonstrate that they could raise additional funding for the paper via local and national advertising. At the time, the paper's press run was 1,100, with copies circulated among University students but also sent to the libraries of local high schools and colleges.
In 1971-1972 and 1972-1973, the editors experimented with a magazine format, noting that "we sensed a general feeling on campus that the old format was becoming stale." The change ended up being only temporary; the Aquinas returned to a weekly schedule in subsequent years.
In early 2000, the Aquinas launched its website, originally at www.scranton.edu/Aquinas. The April 6, 2000 issue was the first to include a URL in the print paper's header. (Early editions of the website have been preserved in the University's Web Archives.)
In April 2004, the University temporarily suspended publication of the Aquinas after receiving a complaint about the April Fool's day issue (see University press releases dated April 8 and May 17). The Student Publications Board was convened to consider the concerns and ruled that the "students' attempts at humor had gone too far." The Board also set conditions for the newspaper's continued publication, including a change of editors. The Aquinas returned on May 13, 2004, with its new Statement of Ethics committing to "an understanding of and sensitivity to the Catholic and Jesuit character of The University of Scranton through its editorial, advertising and management decisions."
In March 2017, the editors of the Aquinas announced that the newspaper would become online-only, with articles published only to the Aquinas website (aquinas.scranton.edu). In the announcement, the editorial staff provided their rationale for the change: "As society has progressed, print newspapers' readership has continued to decline. The Aquinas is no exception, and our staff is cognizant of the way society is trending." The final printed issue was the March 9, 2017 edition.
In addition to reporting on University news, the Aquinas has also served to prepare communication students for careers in journalism. Indeed, several Aquinas editors and reporters continued on to work for local and national newspapers. Aquinas alumni include Francis S. Megargee (later the owner/operator of WGBI radio), Joseph Polakoff, and Edward J. Gerrity Jr.