The University of Saint Joseph, founded by the Sisters of Mercy in the Roman Catholic tradition, provides a rigorous liberal arts and professional education for a diverse student population while maintaining a strong commitment to developing the potential of women.
The University is a community that promotes the growth of the whole person in a caring environment that encourages strong ethical values, integrity and a sense of responsibility to the needs of society.
Core values of the University of Saint Joseph
Catholic Identity: The University of Saint Joseph is grounded in its heritage as a Catholic institution, expressing the Catholic tradition in an ecumenical and critical manner.
Commitment to Women: The University of Saint Joseph encourages, inspires and challenges each woman to develop every aspect of her personhood - intellectual, spiritual, social, emotional and physical.
Compassionate Service: The University of Saint Joseph promotes, supports and facilitates caring service as an integral part of all teaching and learning experiences.
Academic Excellence: The University of Saint Joseph provides a value-centered education that prepares students as global citizens, lifelong learners and informed decision-makers.
Respect/Integrity: The University of Saint Joseph demonstrates respect and reverence for all people and fidelity in personal witness.
Hospitality: The University of Saint Joseph is a welcoming community where its relationships are based on openness, inclusivity and mutual respect.
Multiculturalism/Diversity: The University of Saint Joseph is committed to fostering the growth of an inclusive community that welcomes differences among community members and benefits from them.
History of the Sisters of Mercy
The roots of the University of Saint Joseph can be traced to the Sisters of Mercy, a religious order founded in 1831 by Catherine McAuley. The mission of the Sisters of Mercy was to teach and care for the sick, poor and needy in Ireland. Catherine McAuley’s devotion to the Sisters of Mercy mission quickly spread to England and eventually found its way to the United States.
The first Sisters of Mercy arrived in the United States from Ireland in 1843 at the invitation of the bishop of Pittsburgh, Pa. Their energy in ministering to the sick and economically poor attracted many new members. By 1854, Sisters had come from Ireland to settle in New York and San Francisco, Calif., and continued to spread throughout the country, establishing schools and hospitals.
In 1932, the Sisters of Mercy of Connecticut set out on a remarkable journey. Their mission: to establish the first liberal arts college for women in the Hartford area, founded on the principles of service and leadership, one that would develop the potential of women in a complex and evolving world.
Guided by a vision of academic excellence, the University has flourished and is now nationally recognized for its outstanding programs in education, nursing, human services, the humanities and the sciences. Graduates of these programs have proven themselves vitally important to the people and the economy of our community and continue to serve in significant ways throughout their lives.
In 1925, the Sisters of Mercy of Hartford began preparations to extend their contribution to education in Connecticut to the college and university level. They obtained from the Connecticut State Legislature a charter granting power to confer degrees and, in 1932, began a junior college for women at Mount Saint Joseph Academy, West Hartford. Within two years, it developed its four-year liberal arts program, acquired its own campus and changed its name to Saint Joseph College. Since that date, it has expanded its facilities, programs and enrollment. In 2012, Saint Joseph College became the University of Saint Joseph, a change that reflected the advanced programs and degrees offered. In 2014, the University conferred its first doctoral degrees to graduates of the new School of Pharmacy.
History of campus buildings
McDonough Hall (1936)
From 1932 to 1950, Sister Mary Rosa McDonough was Saint Joseph College’s first dean. She planned and oversaw the construction of the original buildings and is considered to be the principal force behind the development of the Institution. The Administration and Science Building, as McDonough Hall was initially called, contains classrooms and offices. It was renamed in Sr. Rosa’s memory in 1969.
Mercy Hall (1936)
The second of the original campus buildings is named in honor of the founding Sisters of Mercy. Originally it contained the chapel and all housing for administrators, faculty and students. Today it has classrooms, offices such as Admissions, and the Crystal Room, where the University holds events.
Rosary and McAuley Halls (Student Residences, 1955)
These first residence halls set the pattern of clustering dormitories on the west side of campus. Rosary Hall is named for the prayer that honors the Blessed Virgin Mary; McAuley honors Catherine McAuley, who founded the Sisters of Mercy.
Pope Pius XII Library (1960)
Rising enrollment required a separate library building by 1960. The facility was named to honor Pope Pius XII, who as Papal Secretary of State visited campus in 1936. He was especially interested in Catholic education and met with students in Mercy Hall.
Assumption Hall (Student Residence, 1962)
As more students wanted to live on campus, Assumption Hall was built. The name was taken from another event in the Blessed Virgin Mary’s life, when she was taken to heaven.
McGovern Hall (Student Union, 1962)
McGovern houses the dining hall, student lounge, bookstore and student affairs offices. It is named for Patrick McGovern, who emigrated from Ireland at age 14 and spent the next 77 years in Hartford. An astute businessman, he eventually earned $30 million, which he generously shared. His niece was the wife of Trustee Maurice O’Connell, and it was through this relationship that the McGoverns were introduced to and donated to the school.
Gengras Center (1965)
As advisor and trustee, E. Clayton Gengras had a long association with the University. His cousin was chairman of the State Health Department’s Council on Mental Retardation and chaplain of the Holy Innocents Guild, dedicated to the spiritual welfare of the mentally disabled. This family connection led to Gengras’ gift for construction of this laboratory school for exceptional children.
Madonna Hall (Student Residence, 1966)
Another residence hall on the west side of campus, Madonna takes its name from a title given to Mary.
Connor Chapel of Our Lady (1966)
Although Joseph and Jane Cullen Connor did not have children, they wanted to assist young adults in West Hartford, where they lived for many years. They donated one of the largest gifts the institution ever received - a chapel in the shape of a cross in whose sanctuary the congregation gathers around a central raised altar.
Health/Counseling Center (1989) (“The Little Red House”)
Students come to this building, which they affectionately call “The Little Red House,” for health treatment and access to counseling. The Center was built in 1985 as the sales office for The McAuley, a retirement community immediately to the east. The building was converted to the health and counseling center in 1989.
President’s Residence (1991)
Built in 1987, the house was purchased in 1991 for the use of the first lay president. Although it is in a neighborhood off Asylum Avenue, it connects to campus and is a short walk to the president’s office.
O’Connell Center (Sports Facility, 1993)
The University’s gym, pool, fitness center, running track and dance studio are housed in this building. Dr. Maurice O’Connell was a trustee and husband of Vitaline McGovern, whose family name is found on the student union. Dr. O’Connell was particularly interested in physical fitness.
The School for Young Children at Beach Park (1999)
Even in its early years, the University was interested in providing high-quality schooling for children. This also allowed hands-on training for students preparing for careers in early childhood education. Originally housed in the lower level of Mercy Hall, the School for Young Children moved in 1999 to the former Beach Park School on Steele Road. The 1926 building, which is near campus, has been renovated and is under a 50-year lease from the Town of West Hartford.
Carol F. Autorino Center for the Arts & Humanities (2000)
Carol Autorino, class of 1993, served as trustee, committee member and alumnae consultant to the Arts and Humanities Center project. After her sudden death in 1997, her husband made a major gift to the Arts and Humanities Center, which consists of Bruyette Athenaeum and Lynch Hall.
Bruyette Athenaeum (2000)
The Arts Center is named for Gene and Kathleen Barry Bruyette ‘49, whose gift made the Center possible. It contains Hoffman Auditorium, the Art Museum, classrooms and the Consolata O’Connor Archives.
Lynch Hall (2000)
Helen Lynch ‘41 was a high school business teacher for many years. Her dedication to education and her alma mater is reflected in the name of Lynch Hall, a gift made in honor of her family. It houses classrooms and faculty offices for the School of Humanities and Social Sciences.
North and South Residence Halls (2008)
The newest residence halls were opened in fall 2008. Upperclass students who live there enjoy apartment-style living in a suite of bedrooms, a common area and a kitchen where they can cook.
School of Pharmacy (2010)
The School of Pharmacy is housed at 229 Trumbull Street, Hartford, in the XL Center. This location is in the heart of downtown Hartford, close to the region’s major health facilities. The newly renovated space is equipped with classrooms, research and teaching laboratories, a library, faculty offices and student services designed for the University’s first doctoral program.
Center for Applied Research and Education (2014 )
In May 2015, the University opened the Center for Applied Research and Education. It expands USJ’s Gengras Center School, which serves children 5-21 with intellectual and other disabilities, including autism. The 22,000-square-foot facility includes: a new gym and art room, expanded applied behavior analysis services, more therapy space and four new classrooms.
Lourdes Hall (expansion 2016)
After extensive renovations, Lourdes Hall re-opened in January 2017 as an 11,000-square-foot facility for the new Physician Assistant program. The project also added 4,500 square feet to the former convent. New features include state-of-the-art classrooms, a physical assessment laboratory and patient exam rooms.