Our History

A portion of the Coeur de Catherine mural

With two beautiful campuses in the Twin Cities, St. Catherine University is home to more than 5,200 students in a wide array of disciplines and degree levels. At its heart, the spirited College for Women and the legacy of its founders informs every facet of the University.

Presidents

1919–1937
Antonia McHugh, CSJ

1937–1943
Eucharista Galvin, CSJ, Ph.D.

1943–1949
Antonius Kennelly, CSJ, Ph.D.

1949–1955
Antonine O’Brien, CSJ

1955–1961
Mary William Brady, CSJ, Ph.D.

1961–1964
Mary Edward Healy, CSJ, Ph.D.

1964–1979
Alberta M. Huber, CSJ, Ph.D.

1979–1984
Catherine T. McNamee, CSJ, Ph.D.

1984–1997
Anita M. Pampusch, Ph.D.

1998–present
Andrea J. Lee, IHM, Ph.D.

Our founders

St. Catherine University (formerly the College of St. Catherine) was founded in St. Paul in 1905 by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, under the leadership of Mother Seraphine Ireland. The University is named for St. Catherine of Alexandria, the fourth-century Egyptian lay philosopher who suffered martyrdom for her faith.

A site for the University was chosen atop the city’s second-highest hill, in the area now known as Highland Park. The first benefactor was Hugh Derham of Rosemount, who contributed $20,000 for the first building. The building, named Derham Hall, opened in January 1905, offering classes to high school boarding students and lower-division college students.

Upper-division college courses were first offered in the academic year of 1911–12. In spring 1913, Bachelor of Arts degrees were conferred on the first two students to complete four years at the new institution.

A history of academic excellence

In 1917, St. Catherine earned full accreditation by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools. In fall 1937, the Phi Beta Kappa Council voted to grant a charter to the College of St. Catherine, making St. Kate’s the third college or university in Minnesota and the first Catholic institution in the United States to be recognized by Phi Beta Kappa.

The University’s commitment to academic excellence is grounded in the legacy of our founders and best exemplified by the Antonian Scholars Honors Program. Named for Mother Antonia McHugh, the program has more than 100 undergraduate students enrolled. Antonian Scholars participate in interdisciplinary seminar classes and, during their senior year, complete an independent study based on an interest or passion. Creativity and academic learning converge in this unique program.

Each spring, the University community rejoices in the achievements of its students with the annual Honors and Awards Ceremony. In addition to internal honors, St. Catherine hosts chapters of 23 national honor societies across a broad range of disciplines. At St. Kate’s, we understand the vital role that collaboration and communal support plays in our students’ success.

Changes over time

The Minneapolis campus was founded in 1887 by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet as St. Mary’s School of Nursing, later named St. Mary’s Junior College. In 1986, St. Mary’s Junior College merged with what was then called the College of St. Catherine. This connection to St. Mary’s School of Nursing makes St. Catherine the oldest healthcare educator in Minnesota.

St. Kate’s strengthened its commitment to excellence in healthcare education in September 2007 with the launch of the Henrietta Schmoll School of Health. The School’s ambitious mission is to reshape the education of healthcare professionals at all degree levels. In 2009, the Henrietta Schmoll School of Health received the largest endowment ever given to the University — an estimated $20 million. The endowment is slated to fund several goals over the next five years such as an increased enrollment capacity for the prestigious nursing program and the development of a physician assistant program.

Becoming a University

St. Catherine University became Minnesota's newest university on June 1, 2009. We are proud of our robust and diverse enrollment; our foremost women's college, educating women to lead and influence for more than 100 years; our vibrant Henrietta Schmoll School of Health engaging top students in healthcare access and leadership. We’re showcasing our strengths through a new structure — with four Schools that serve as homes for our academic programs and three Colleges through which prospective students seek admission. Although the name has changed, the fundamental platform on which St.Kate's was built — our mission, our heritage and our reputation for excellence — remains.

Learn more about the transition to University »