History of Mary

Historic image of Sisters and students standing outside Boniface Hall at the Mary College Town Campus

A Heritage Rooted in Foundational Teachings and Practice

In 1959, the Benedictine Sisters of the Annunciation opened Mary College, offering four-year undergraduate degrees in nursing and education. Mary College would become the University of Mary in 1986, and today serves close to 4,000 students in multiple locations, both in-person and online. 

That’s the simple Mary story. But while accurate, it doesn’t tell the complete narrative of an institution rooted in traditions that predate its founding by thousands of years.

Our Heritage

Our distinct heritage can be traced to:

  • the Great Commission of Jesus: "Go, teach all nations" (Matthew 28:19)
  • the ancient and venerable wisdom tradition of the Benedictine order
  • the Catholic intellectual tradition which gave rise to the very first universities, nearly a thousand years ago.

We share our story with a brave band of Benedictine Sisters who arrived in Dakota Territory in 1878 to bring ministries of healing and learning, founding hospitals and schools for the people they had come to serve. Through these courageous women, the unique pioneer spirit of North Dakota is ours as well. Today, the University of Mary continues their focus on healing, teaching, and serving others.

One Nursing student looking in microscope with three other nursing students around her in 1960.

Our Timeline

Follow our accomplishments, highlights, and growth from 1959 to the present.

Ours was the glory of work and the joy of living!

Theodore Roosevelt, on his formative year in the North Dakota Badlands

The University of Mary

Faithfully Christian. Joyfully Catholic. Gratefully Benedictine.