College of Saint Mary

Teaching Women to Lead Since 1923

Catherine McAuley, founder of the Sisters of Mercy and an early 18th century Irishwoman, had a bold vision. She believed that nothing was more productive of good to society than the careful education of women. Her strength of conviction gave birth to what would become a long line of women's secondary and post-secondary schools around the globe.

Omaha's College of Saint Mary is one of those schools.

Mother Mary Leo Gallagher, another Sister of Mercy, carried on the tradition and opened the doors of College of Saint Mary in 1923. In the old Continental Hotel at 15th and Castelar Streets, the work began. The church schools needed teachers. To be effective in these positions, Mother Gallagher believed women needed a strong liberal arts education. Mother Gallagher accomplished this feat when women had won the right to vote just three years prior. Many at the time viewed educating women as a frivolous gesture, but a woman with a vision will not be deterred.

The dynamic leadership of women such as Mother Gallagher, the first president of the College, and Sister Mary Constance Walsh, the first academic dean, brought high standards to the fledgling two-year teacher's college and led to its growth. Their dedication served as an example for those who followed.

In November 1950, the Sisters purchased 80 acres of land for $150,000 next to a dirt road named 72nd Street and what would then become Mercy Road. The land was split evenly between College of Saint Mary (40 acres) and the Sisters of Mercy (40 acres). A $3 million construction project began in March 1953 and by May 1955, College of Saint Mary was a reality. That year, 255 students enrolled and by 1958 College of Saint Mary had become a four-year fully-accredited college.

Today, the College continues its affiliation with the Sisters of Mercy and is proud of its tradition of women leading the way. 

Mother Catherine McAuleyA community of faith and learning, College of Saint Mary offers an education that inspires academic excellence and celebrates the roles of women as scholars and contributors to society, family, and church.

“Do not fear offending anyone. Speak as your mind directs and always act with more courage when the ‘mammon of unrighteousness’ is in question.”

— Mother Catherine McAuley in a letter to Sr. Mary Ann Doyle, July 1841