Marylhurst History – Excellence Since 1893

Marylhurst History

Marylhurst University announced in May 2018 that the university would close by the end of the year; the last classes were offered summer term 2018. This website is no longer actively maintained; the information presented here is for archival purposes.

legacy-university-seal-MarylhurstMarylhurst University was founded in 1893 by the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary. We are Oregon’s oldest Catholic university, and were the first liberal arts college for women established in the Northwest.

Our founding Sisters believed in educating the whole person through a rigorous liberal arts curriculum. Their mission of serving underserved students continues to inspire us today, as we welcome men and women of all faiths and backgrounds, most of whom are non-traditional students returning to school.

1896: First Graduates
1930: Moving Day
1974: Going Coed
1998: Online Degrees

Marylhurst’s Historical Timeline


  • After serving the community for nearly 125 years, Marylhurst closes its doors


  • Marylhurst dedicates the Belluschi Pavilion


  • Marylhurst dedicates its outdoor performance venue, the Lajos Balogh Performance Shell


  • Marylhurst hosts the Oregon Sesquicentennial Film Festival, marking Oregon’s 150th year of statehood as well as the 150th anniversary of the Sisters of the Holy Names’ arrival in Oregon


  • Marylhurst receives the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning’s Institutional Service Award for “outstanding commitment to the expansion of lifelong learning opportunities and for innovative efforts to improve access and quality in academic programs for adult learners”


  • Marylhurst College becomes Marylhurst University, Clackamas County’s first university
  • Marylhurst establishes an online degree completion program
  • Marylhurst is one of six institutions in the country – the only one on the West Coast – recognized by the Council on Adult and Experiential Learning for best practices in adult learning


  • Marylhurst begins offering online courses


  • Marylhurst College celebrates its 100th year of academic excellence


  • The gymnasium and auditorium in the BP John Bldg. becomes The Art Gym, providing a showcase for Northwest artists


  • Marylhurst College receives accreditation from the Northwest Association of Secondary and Higher Schools, now known as the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities


  • Marylhurst establishes the Prior Learning Assessment program, which provides adult students with the opportunity to earn credit for college-level learning gained through life and work experience


  • Marylhurst becomes a co-educational institution and the first liberal arts college in the country designated as a college for lifelong learning


  • Construction of Shoen Library and St. Anne’s Chapel is completed


  • Marylhurst College becomes an independent corporation with its own board of trustees, separate from the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary


  • Marylhurst College earns accreditation from the Northwest Association of Secondary and Higher Schools


  • St. Mary’s College is renamed Marylhurst College and moves to its present location
  • The first buildings on the new campus – the BP John Administration Building, St. Catherine Hall and Aquinas Hall, all designed by noted local architect Josef Jacobberger – are completed


  • The Sisters purchase 63 acres between Lake Oswego and West Linn and name the pastoral setting Marylhurst, which means “Mary’s Woods”


  • The Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary found St. Mary’s Academy and College in downtown Portland, Oregon as the first liberal arts college to serve the educational needs of Northwest women


  • The Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary arrive in Oregon to serve the educational needs of the community

Our Founders: Sisters of the Holy Names

Marylhurst's Founding Sisters - Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary - 1893On October 21, 1859, 12 courageous young women disembarked in Portland, Oregon, after a 7,000-mile land and sea voyage from Quebec.

Within days, these dozen members of the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary began their educational mission in Oregon. They founded St. Mary’s Academy in downtown Portland.

In 1893 the Sisters were granted a charter by the state of Oregon to confer baccalaureate degrees. The college program, St. Mary’s College, offered the first liberal arts college for women in the Pacific Northwest.

In the early 1900s, after purchasing land south of Portland adjacent to the Willamette River, the Sisters moved their Province Administration and established Marylhurst Normal school, a teacher certification program.

In 1930 the liberal arts college was moved to this location that the Sisters had named Marylhurst. Marylhurst College was born. With a change in Oregon state law in 1950, the Normal School, known at the time as Teachers College at Marylhurst, could be merged with the liberal arts program of Marylhurst College — now Marylhurst University.

Throughout their storied history, the Sisters established a rich heritage of educating the “whole person,” providing a challenging academic experience in an environment where students could grow spiritually and artistically, and cultivate their appreciation for the extraordinary natural beauty of the world.

Learn more about the Sisters: