Saint Mary's College of California is one of the oldest colleges in the West.
The College was founded in 1863 by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese as a diocesan college for boys; the campus was originally located in San Francisco, and operated for several years under Archdiocesan direction. In 1868, the De La Salle Christian Brothers assumed direction of the school, and its student body quickly increased from 50 to 200 students; the first SMC bachelors’ degrees were awarded in 1872.
These were different times. Tuition was $60 per academic year for day students, and $250 for boarding students (a fee which included washing their laundry). Boarders were required to bring at least three suits of clothing, handkerchiefs, towels and table napkins. A student's day was rigidly scheduled: between rising at 6 am and lights out at 8:30, students had unvarying hours set for study, class, prayer, meals and recreation.
In 1889, the campus moved to the corner of 30th and Broadway in Oakland, to a facility affectionately known as the “Brickpile.” The College operated there until 1928, when it was moved to its current location in Moraga. The original Moraga campus was much smaller than the current campus; eleven of the original buildings, constructed in 1928 and 1929, are still in use today. They include the Chapel, Dante Hall and Galileo Hall.
In 1936, the Saint Mary's hillside was graced with the addition of "La Cruz de la Victoria," the Cross of Victory. The cross has become a familiar landmark among Saint Mary's students, alumni, professors and staff. Hiking up to the cross is a popular activity.
After the attack on Pearl Harbor in December of 1941, the United States Navy began using the Saint Mary’s campus for pilot training. The Navy’s involvement on our campus resulted in some significant changes, including moving our main entrance to the front of campus; this resulted in the clear view of the chapel that greets new visitors. The Navy also built Assumption Hall (now a freshman residence hall) and the world’s largest indoor pool (which no longer exists, although we built a pretty impressive pool to replace it).
Saint Mary’s has evolved a great deal over the years— our location, our size and our demographics have changed completely. But there are still traces of our past all around us— like the ringing of the chapel bells, the same bells that every single Saint Mary’s student has heard. And our commitment to service, learning and community is the same as it was in 1868.