The Sisters of Notre Dame founded Notre Dame College as a Catholic, four-year, liberal arts institution for women in 1922. The Sisters had fled Coesfeld, Germany, during Bismarck’s Kulturkampf in the 1870s. Many of them had come to Cleveland at the request of Bishop Richard Gilmour, who had sought German-speaking teachers for the parish schools of St. Stephens in Cleveland and St. Joseph’s in Fremont, Ohio.
In 1878, the Sisters established Notre Dame Academy in Cleveland for 14 students. After several relocations, in 1915 a new provincial house and academy were built on Ansel Road. After 1920, boys were no longer enrolled. Soon, the female students and their families clamored for a college to continue their education under the Sisters of Notre Dame.
In April 1921, the Sisters in Cleveland sent a letter to Mother Mary Cecilia Romen in Germany, asking that “work of college grade” be offered in the fall of 1921. In response, the Mother General of the Sisters of Notre Dame decided to visit the Cleveland Diocese, where the Sisters now operated one academy, seven high schools and 25 parochial schools.
On March 26, 1922, Mother Mary Cecilia wrote a letter to Cleveland Bishop Joseph Schrembs asking for permission to open a college for women. Less than a month later, the bishop granted permission.
Under the guidance of Mother M. Cecilia Romen, the College opened its doors to 13 women and 11 novices on Sept. 18, 1922; the articles of incorporation for Notre Dame College were signed and filed with the State of Ohio on March 30, 1923. Mother Mary Evarista Harks became the first president of NDC; Sr. Mary Agnes Bosche was appointed the first dean. A semester’s tuition was $75.
In June 1923, the Sisters leased 39 acres from the Jordan Family along Green Road in South Euclid. A year later they purchased 15 more acres. Construction of the campus began in the fall of 1926. On Sept. 17, 1928, 13 seniors, 16 juniors, 21 sophomores and 32 freshmen began classes in the new Administration Building.
Three residence halls and the Administration Building’s west wing were built in the 1960s. The Clara Fritzsche Library (1971), the Keller Center (1987) and two more residence halls (2009) followed. The College acquired the former Regina High School complex in 2011.
Other milestones since Notre Dame College opened its doors:
- On June 15, 1925, Notre Dame College celebrated its first graduates of the two-year (certificate only) teacher training school: Kathleen Foster, Helen Maher, Josephine Ogrin, Estelle Weist and Kathryn Poelking. A year later, 14 students received their bachelor’s degrees and state certificates to teach in Ohio high schools. They were the College’s first graduating class of four-year college degree students.
- On June 9, 1938, Betty Brown became the first black student to graduate from NDC with a degree in art and music. She returned as a faculty member in the early 1950s.
- In 1942, Notre Dame College implemented the war-time accelerated program. The degree could be completed in three years with three 10-week summer sessions.
- On June 4, 1955, Suzanne Gelin earned the first summa cum laude designation in Notre Dame’s history.
- In 1969, the College’s sociology department initiated the Law Enforcement Education Program in which men could obtain an A.A. degree.
- In 1975, the College established the Lifelong Learning Center for the education of mature women and to ease the return to college for women over age 25.
- On May 18, 1975, the first two male students graduated from the College with A.A. degrees.
- In September 1978, Sr. Mary LeRoy Finn opened Notre Dame’s Weekend College to 40 women.
- In May 1983, 12 pioneer Weekend College (WECO) students, who had completed their coursework in July 1982, became the first WECO grads to receive their degrees.
- In the fall of 1991, Notre Dame’s Master of Education program started. Marcia Anselmo and Lu Kinblade were the first M.Ed. graduates of Notre Dame in 1994. Bruce I. Brownfield became the first male to receive the M.Ed. degree at the College a year later.
- In July 1994, the Center for Excellence began operation. Renamed the Center for Professional Development in 1998, it offers programs in teaching, technology and learning.
- In January 2001, the first three men enrolled as undergraduate students, compared to 875 women.
- On May 7, 2005, 118 members of the first co-ed class graduated.
- In November 2005, the Academic Support Center for Students with Learning Differences opened. In 2021 it was renamed as the Thrive Learning Center to better reflect its student-centered purpose.
- By fall 2011, enrollment had grown to a record 2,156 students with 1,346 full-time undergraduates.
- On April 6, 2020, J. Michael Pressimone, Ed.D., became the 15th president of Notre Dame College.
- April 16, 2021, was the inaugural opening of the Notre Dame Center for Intelligence and Security Studies.
- In the fall of 2020, Notre Dame’s new 10-course MBA program was offered to a pioneer cohort of 20 students.
Current and Former College Presidents:
- J. Michael Pressimone, Ed.D., April 2020-present
- John P. Galovic, Ed.D., 2019-2020 (Interim President)
- Thomas G. Kruczek, 2014-2019
- Dr. Andrew P. Roth, 2003-2014
- Dr. Anne Deming, 1996–2003
- Dr. Gay Culverhouse, 1996
- Dr. Robert Karsten, 1995 (Interim President)
- Sister Marla Loehr ’60, 1988-1995
- Sister Mary Marthe Reinhard ’52, 1973-1988
- Sister Mary Luke Arntz ’35, 1967-1973
- Sister Mary Inez McHugh, 1963-1967
- Sister Mary Loyole Gabel ’30, 1958-1963
- Sister Mary Ralph Fahey, 1955-1957
- Mother Mary Anselm Langenderfer, 1949-1955
- Mother Mary Agnes Bosche, 1947-1949
- Mother Mary Vera Niess ’28, 1943-1947
- Mother Mary Evarista Harks, 1922-1943