History of St. Kate's

Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet

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. 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 during the 1911–12 academic year. In spring 1913, Bachelor of Arts degrees were conferred on the first two students to complete four years at the new institution.

Mother Antonia McHugh, who served as dean from 1914 to 1929, became the first president of St. Catherine in 1929. St. Kate’s has had 11 presidents to date, all women.

A History of Academic Excellence

In 1917, St. Catherine earned full accreditation by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools. In fall 1937, St. Kate’s became the first Catholic college or university in the United States, and the third Minnesota institution, to be awarded a Phi Beta Kappa chapter. As the nation’s oldest and most prestigious undergraduate honors organization, Phi Beta Kappa recognizes achievement in the liberal arts.

The University’s commitment to academic excellence is grounded in the legacy of our founders and exemplified by programs like the Antonian Scholars and Collaborative Undergraduate Research.

Named for Mother Antonia McHugh, students in the Antonian Scholars Honors Program exhibit exceptional academic performance and show promise as leaders and creative thinkers. Antonian Scholars participate in interdisciplinary seminar classes and complete an independent study based on an interest or passion. Creativity and academic learning converge in this unique program.

Through Collaborative Undergraduate Research, students engage in meaningful, in-depth work alongside faculty. Student-faculty teams have presented their scholarship at regional, national and international conferences and have been published in peer-reviewed journals. All students who participate in collaborative research are encouraged to submit their work to the National Conference on Undergraduate Research (NCUR). The average national acceptance rate for NCUR over the last five years is approximately 82%. St. Kate’s acceptance rate is 96%.

Each spring, the University community celebrates the achievements of its students with the annual Honors and Awards Ceremony. In addition to internal honors, St. Catherine hosts chapters of 25 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.

A Commitment to Improve and Grow

The Minneapolis campus began in 1900 when the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet opened St. Mary’s School of Nursing, which later became 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 aims to reshape the education of healthcare professionals at all degree levels.

St. Catherine University became a university on June 1, 2009. The change reflected St. Kate’s transformation into the comprehensive institution it is today — with three schools and three colleges — and our vision to move from a regional presence to national and international pre-eminence. In the thirty years leading up to the change enrollment more than doubled, from just over 2,000 students at the baccalaureate level, to nearly 5,000 students in programs ranging from associate to doctoral.

Throughout our history, the fundamental platform on which St. Kate's was built — our mission, our heritage and our reputation for academic excellence — remains.