HNU Logo

Our History

Founded in 1868 — Over 150 years in Oakland

We use cookies to personalize content, to provide social media features and to analyze our traffic. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. You consent to our use of cookies if you continue to use our website.


Our History

1868September 18, 1868Foundation of Convent of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart at Lake Merritt Campus, Oakland, California1868 HNU Campus
September 18, 1868An album containing portraits of the first boarders of the Convent of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, including Miss Maria Byrne, left, the first student named on a list of enrollees1868 Album page
1876September 19, 1876The Convent school census: 21 Sisters, 2 novices, 2 postulants, 80 boarders (becoming 100 boarders by 1878)
1880September 18, 1880Empowered by the State of California to grant higher degrees
1886September 19, 1886While rowing in August with the Sisters, student Edith Clark dives into Lake Chabot to rescue a drowning classmate who had fallen overboard. Clark’s heroism earns her the U.S. Treasury Department Silver Life-saving Medal
1890September 19, 1890The Convent school “fleet” consists of three rowboats: Marie Rose, Dove, and AloysiusCanoe
1901September 19, 1901Sister Mary Seraphine, known for her beautiful voice, trains students to sing “America” and “Three Cheers for the Red, White, and Blue” for the expected passage of President William McKinley down Webster Street just outside the school grounds
1906September 19, 1906The “great” San Francisco earthquake throws statues and windows to the floor, opens a hole in the roof, and damages rooms. The chapel “suffered severely”
1908September 18, 1908Name of the institution changes to Convent and College of the Holy Names
1910March 16, 1910Secular students admitted to college-level classes for the first time, and the Alumnae Office opens with its new constitution decreeing that the annual meeting should coincide with Founders’ Day (May 10)
1913September 19, 1913A visiting Jesuit lectures on the “new” discipline of psychology
1917March 16, 1917Holy Names Junior College formally inaugurated; first secular students admitted
1918September 18, 1918Students cheer the end of World War IStudents celebrate the end of WWI
1921September 20, 1921The College adds a third year to the curriculum (for nursing students)
1925March 16, 1925The senior college opensHNU Sr College opens
1926September 20, 1926First four-year bachelor of arts degree awarded to Mildred Agnes Smith of Portland, Oregon; HNU’s education program is founded
1929September 21, 1929First baccalaureate degrees awarded
1929September 21, 1929Associated Students publish the first yearbook; classes in the late 1940s will dub it Excalibur
1930March 16, 1930The first College of the Holy Names’ teacher candidates are credentialed by the state of California
1932September 20, 1932First issue of College of the Holy Names Bulletin, predecessor to HNU Today, is published by students to keep Alumnae Association members “alumnae-minded.” The editors wrote: “It is to be hoped that interesting items will be contributed occasionally by those of the long ago, as well as by students of
1935September 21, 1935The seal of the college — with its motto virtus, honor, nobilitas — is in useHNU College Seal
1941September 21, 1941A class off 66 individuals graduates, including 34 lay and 32 religious
1941-1945September 21, 1941During World War II, Homecoming raffle prize winners often receive a war bond
1943September 21, 1943Graduate study begins at the College of the Holy Names when courses are offered for the credential in secondary education
1949March 16, 1949College of the Holy Names becomes one of the charter members of the the Western Association of Schools and Colleges
1955March 16, 1956The co-educational graduate division formally established
1956March 16, 1956Groundbreaking is held Feb. 7 for a new campus in the Oakland hills. Sister Imelda Marie, president for the College, turned the first shovel of soilHNU Groundbreaking 1956
1957September 5, 1957By April, artist Louisa Jenkins of Big Sur, solicited by Sister Mary Luke and assisted by art students, completes the Sophia mural on the southeast wall of Brennan Hall
1957September 21, 1957Bidding farewell to the original Lake Merritt site, campus moves to a new permanent home on Mountain Boulevard
1958September 21, 1958Fall semester begins on the new campus
1958September 21, 1958Under the headline “Campus Living in Modern Style,” a local newspaper trumpets the opening of Durocher Hall in September, noting that it will accommodate 159 studentsCampus Living article
1958September 21, 1958“Energy, zest, and brilliance” is how SF Chronicle’s art critic referred to California mission paintings by Sr. Mary Luke that now line the Founders’ Hall corridor
1959September 21, 1959The Associated Collegiate Press award “First Honors” to the 1959 Excalibur yearbook. The cover design by Editor Carol Hubert ’59 earns honors as a Cover of the Month
1960September 21, 1960Raskob Learning Institute opensRaskob Institute opens 1960
1961September 21, 1961Peter Grothe, special consultant to the Peace Corps credited with drafting the original name and legislation for its creation, presents “a first-hand report on this new aspect of American foreign policy” to the campus
1961September 21, 1961Actor Raymond Burr serves as host for an annual scholarship fundraising barbecue held on campus1961 Raymond Burr hosts fundraiser
1963September 5, 1963Margaret Mealey ’33, executive director of the National Council of Catholic Women, receives one of 18 pens President John F. Kennedy uses to sign The Equal Pay Act that made it illegal to pay men and women working in the same place different salaries for similar work
1965September 21, 1965Organizers of the annual CoHoNa — short for College of the Holy Names — Ball choose the theme “Royalty and Red Velvet” and extend an invitation to Princess Margaret of England and her husband, Lord Snowden, who “regretfully declined”
1968September 21, 1968Campus activists establish THRUST to bring college resources, including literacy expertise, to the communityTHRUST Campus activists
1968September 21, 1968Singer Jack Jones and Count Basie and His Orchestra headline a March 24 Benefit Performance organized by the college and held at the Oakland-Alameda Coliseum
1969September 21, 1969The Kodály music education program opens
1971March 6, 1971The College name changes to Holy Names College and becomes fully co-educationalHoly Names College name change
1972September 21, 1972Painted scenes from Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales—then valued at over $25,000—that once graced the lobby of San Francisco’s Canterbury Hotel are donated to the University and displayed in Brennan Hall (today they hang in the Valley Center for the Performing Arts)Cantebury Tales
1975March 16, 1975As part of a popular HNU speakers series, pioneering hospice psychiatrist Dr. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, author of On Death and Dying, speaks on campus (Photo: Ken Ross)Dr. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross
1977March 6, 1977An interdisciplinary, team-taught program in Humanistic Studies becomes the cornerstone of the undergraduate curriculum
1981September 16, 1981The Weekend College (WECO) opens, offering working adults classes on Friday nights and Saturdays – the first such program west of the Rockies for working adults
1982September 22, 1982Carol Corrigan ’70 appointed to President Ronald Reagan’s Commission on Organized Crime (she was then deputy DA for Alameda County)
1987September 22, 1987The writing across the curriculum program is adopted to ensure that development in writing is a component of all undergraduate programs
1987September 22, 1987Then-San Francisco Mayor Dianne Feinstein speaks on campus for HNU’s Eighth Annual Symposium for Business LeadersDianne Feinstein
1987September 21, 1989The writing across the curriculum program is adopted to ensure that development in writing is a component of all undergraduate programs
1989September 21, 1989College faculty ranked No. 1 in the West by U.S. News and World Report
1994March 16, 1994Valley Center for the Performing Arts opens, providing the campus and community with a state-of-the-art facilityValley Center for the Performing Arts opens
1994March 16, 1994HNU joins the National College Athletic Association and is a founding member of what is now the California Pacific Conference (CAL PAC)
1994September 21, 1994HNU students make first annual visits to: Tutwiler, Mississippi, to build homes with Habitat for Humanity; and to Fort Benning, Georgia, joining protesters who demand the closing of the School of Americas, where Latin American government soldiers train
1996September 21, 1996A 12-by-12 portion of the AIDS Memorial Quilt goes on display in the VCPA for World AIDS Day
1997March 16, 1997The Sophia Center graduate program in Culture and Creation Spirituality begins1997 Sophia Center
1997March 16, 1997Master of Science in Nursing program begins
2000September 21, 2000Accelerated business degree program, Excel, is introduced
2004March 16, 2004The name of the institution is changed to Holy Names University
2005September 21, 2005Following Hurricane Katrina in August, HNU welcomes 25 students displaced from their home institutions in New Orleans; eight choose to remain at HNU
2007March 16, 2007HNU celebrates its 50th anniversary in the Oakland Hills
2008March 16, 2008HNU celebrates its 140th anniversary in Oakland
2009September 21, 2009Brennan Hall transformed into a 15,800 square f00t, full-service Student Center
2012March 16, 2012HNU’s application to the National Collegiate Athletic Association, Division II is accepted
2012May 13, 2012Newscaster Gwen Ifill, of Washington Week and PBS News Hour and the first African-American woman to host a prominent political talk show, delivers the Commencement address
2012November 6, 2012HNU introduces the Early Admit Program guaranteeing admission to 9th graders from Oakland and West Contra Costa school districts
2012December 6, 2012By the University’s final year as a California Pacific Conference member, 54 HNU Athletics teams had claimed championships and seven had earned Conference All-Sports Awards
2013November 6, 2013U.S. News and World Report recognizes HNU as the most diverse university in the nation for 2012-13
2014November 6, 2014Author and Olympic sprinter John Carlos, renowned for raising a fist on the medal stand in 1968 in Mexico City, spoke on campus about his book The Sports Moment that Changed the World
2016November 6, 2016Holy Names University Athletics is accepted for full membership in the NCAA Division II
2018November 6, 2018Holy Names University celebrates its 150th anniversary in Oakland
2018November 6, 2018Prompted by a growing teacher shortage, HNU offers 50 percent tuition reductions to new students planning to teach in public schools, thanks to generous funding from the estate of R. H. “Rock” and Jane Gilmore Logan
2018December 6, 2018For a third consecutive year, an HNU Athletics team makes an NCAA Division II postseason appearance—men’s golf in 2018 and 2017 and men’s cross country in 2016
2018December 12, 2018Pitcher Aiden McIntyre ‘18 makes Hawks history as the first HNU student-athlete drafted by Major League Baseball