Our History

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Our History

In 1919, the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, an international Catholic religious congregation, opened Emmanuel College as the first Catholic college for women in New England. Deeply committed to education, the Sisters founded the College to provide women with educational opportunities they might not have had otherwise. For more than 80 years, Emmanuel served proudly as a Catholic liberal arts and sciences college for women and enjoyed a reputation for academic rigor and a commitment to social justice. In 2001, the College officially became a coeducational institution, expanding its educational mission to include young men in its undergraduate arts and sciences program. As the College prepares to celebrate its Centennial is 2019, it does so as a thriving, future-focused institution, still deeply committed to the tenets of its founding.

Historic Highlights
In the early years, Emmanuel was a day college preparing women for professional fields such as business, law, medicine and social work. Despite being commuters, students were involved in numerous co-curricular activities including student publications and athletics. The 1920s, 1930s and 1940s saw growth not only in the student population, academic programs and activities, but also in the physical campus, with additional land purchases on Brookline Avenue and Avenue Louis Pasteur. In 1949, the College completed the construction of Alumnae Hall; this science center, the first building constructed on campus after the original Administration Building, signified Emmanuel's strength in the sciences, which continues today. 

During the building boom of the 1950s and 1960s, Emmanuel became a residential college. New buildings included Marian Hall (residential, dining and student center), St. James Hall, Julie Hall, St. Ann Hall, Loretto Hall and St. Joseph Hall. The Cardinal Cushing Library was also dedicated in 1965. By 1968, residential students outnumbered commuters for the first time.

Over the years, the College has responded to shifting demographics in higher education and the world at large with an innovative and entrepreneurial spirit. In the 1970s, Emmanuel began to offer degree completion programs to adult learners and, in 1990, the College expanded its programs to include flexible accelerated formats, with programs in business and nursing offered at satellite centers.

The 2000s saw dramatic growth and innovation, with enrollment tripling in the decade following the College's decision to become coeducational. During this period the College added new facilities including the Jean Yawkey Center (student center) and the Maureen Murphy Wilkens Science Center, and completed a major renovation of Julie Hall, which was reacquired from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in 2002. In 2009, the College partnered with the City of Boston to restore Roberto Clemente Field, across the street from campus, to serve as Emmanuel's home athletic field. In 2013, Emmanuel completed the restoration of the historic Administration Building.

Amid changes, Emmanuel has remained steadfastly committed to its Catholic educational mission and its core values, which emphasize intellectual inquiry and integrity, a commitment to justice and peace, a strong sense of community, and service to others.

Emmanuel Timeline

See highlights from the history of the College from 1919 until the present.

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