A nursing student on the steps of the Minneapolis campus in the 1940s

Our History With Healthcare

In its second century, St. Catherine University continues to build on a tradition of excellence in healthcare education rooted in the liberal arts, Catholic Social Teaching and the 150-year tradition in healthcare of the Sisters of St. Joseph.

1853: The College’s founders, the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, convert their log cabin schoolhouse into a hospital to treat victims of a cholera epidemic.

1887: The Sisters respond to a need for trained nurses in the region, founding the St. Mary’s School of Nursing.

1905: The Sisters establish the College of St. Catherine and affirm the importance of math and science to a liberal arts education by including classes in chemistry, mathematics and botany in its curriculum.

1916: The North Central Association of Colleges accredits St. Kate’s. The college also joins 14 other institutions such as Oberlin College, Kenyon College, Bates College and the University of Chicago as charter members of the Mathematical Association of America.

1929: To date, the College has received $500,000 of support from the Rockefeller Foundation, including $300,000 to develop healthcare programs. St. Kate’s uses this award to build Fontbonne Hall, which houses nursing programs.

1942–48: During World War II, the College responds to a critical nursing shortage by expanding its programs to include a baccalaureate degree in nursing, assuming leadership of the St. Joseph’s and St. Mary’s hospitals schools of nursing and partnering with the U.S. Cadet Nursing Corps to provide students with financial assistance in exchange for nursing services. More than 170 alumnae serve in military hospitals.

1945–47: The College develops an Occupational Therapy program at the baccalaureate level and prepares for AMA accreditation with the help of Dr. Joseph Ryan of the Manhattan Project.

1964: The Sisters opened St. Mary’s Junior College offering associate degrees in healthcare, including the first occupational therapy assistant program. In 1969 St. Mary’s opened the first physical therapist assistant program. All programs were predicated on the belief that effective healthcare practice requires a strong foundation in the liberal arts and sciences as well as professional education.

1974: St. Kate’s opens the Office of Continuing Education and begins formally offering continuing education credits in nursing.

1984: Eight years before the National Institutes of Health establishes an office to study complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), the College creates the Holistic Health Studies program.

1985: The College of St. Catherine acquires St. Mary’s Junior College.

1990: The College collaborates with Fairview Health Services to establish a healthcare ethics program aimed at ensuring a Catholic, professional presence in the healthcare arena.

1996: The Minneapolis campus of St. Kate’s joins forces with United Hospital in St. Paul to offer its certificate programs in Holistic Health to hospital staff — helping to bridge the gap between clinical practice and patient care.

2000: The College establishes the Centers of Excellence to engage students in interdisciplinary collaborations with faculty and community partners, including action-research at the North Point Health and Wellness Center in Minneapolis that contributes to healthcare policy debates.

2004: The College begins offering one of the nation’s first Master of Arts in Holistic Health.

2006: St. Kate’s commitment to education in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) is recognized with grants from the National Science Foundation, 3M, Cargill and the Clare Booth Luce STEM Program, among others. Recent awards include a nearly $500,000 grant to provide scholarships to and enhance programs for women entering the STEM fields.

2007: St. Catherine President Andrea J. Lee, IHM establishes the School of Health with a “moral imperative and unique preparation to reshape the education of healthcare professionals.”

2008: The School of Health receives the College’s largest gift ever — at least $1 million annually from a foundation that will hold the endowment in perpetuity. The school also receives a name, the Henrietta Schmoll School of Health. Henrietta Schmoll is a 1949 graduate of the College and was a trustee from 1980 to 1989. The endowment, which College officials estimate to be worth more than $20 million, will help fund several goals over the next five years, including:

  • An increase of 170 nursing students in a program that routinely fills to capacity
  • Expansion of advanced practice nursing programs
  • Launch of a physician assistant program focused on primary care
  • Enhanced online learning tools
  • Expansion of nursing laboratories

2009: The College of St. Catherine is renamed St. Catherine University. Twin Cities Business magazine names the Henrietta Schmoll School of Health one of Minnesota’s Health Care Heroes for its community outreach efforts.