History of the University of San Diego

Mother Hill with Graduates

The original chapter of the University of San Diego was written on a brisk early winter afternoon in December of 1949, when local dignitaries joined Bishop Charles Francis Buddy and Mother Rosalie Clifton Hill for a groundbreaking ceremony atop a wind-swept mesa overlooking the burgeoning San Diego cityscape.

Mother Hill had a special reason for wanting the campus, which would come to be known as Alcalá Park, to be unrivaled in its exquisite beauty and intricate design.

“There are three things that are significant in education: beauty, truth and goodness,” she said. “But the only one that attracts people on sight is beauty. If beauty attracts people, they will come and find the truth and have goodness communicated to them by the kind of people here.”

The Society of the Sacred Heart concurred with Mother Hill’s sentiments, and volunteered to provide a $4 million endowment for the College for Women. The original furnishings included ornate crystal chandeliers, beautiful tapestries … and of course, library books.

In more modest surroundings, the College for Men and the School of Law began classes in 1954, eventually moving into Thomas Moore Hall, now known as Warren Hall. Other buildings were soon constructed, including the centerpiece of the university, the blue-domed Immaculata Church, which was consecrated in 1959.

In 1972, the colleges merged and formed what is now the University of San Diego. Committed to the Catholic faith, the school’s leaders also embraced the spirit of ecumenism and academic freedom. Currently, over 30 percent of the undergraduates attending USD profess to faiths other than Catholicism.

Today, the University of San Diego is a nationally ranked Roman Catholic institution with more than 800 faculty members and 7,800 undergraduate, graduate and law students.

Governed by an independent Board of Trustees, the university has eight academic divisions: the College of Arts and Sciences, the schools of Business Administration, Engineering, Law, Leadership and Education Sciences, Nursing and Health Sciences, Peace, and the Division of Professional and Continuing Education. USD's values-based education offers students bachelor's, master's and doctoral degree programs. 

The 180-acre campus now houses buildings that encompass more than two million square feet and provide educational, administrative, residential, athletic, dining and support services.

Getting across campus now requires a hike. But thanks to steadfast planning by USD's leaders over the last six decades, the destination remains the same: a consummate liberal arts education.

"There are three things that are significant in education: beauty, truth and goodness." - Mother Rosalie Clifton Hill

Academic Excellence

Angel Statuary

 

Governed by an independent board of trustees, the university has eight academic divisions: the College of Arts and Sciences, the schools of Business Administration, Engineering, Law, Leadership and Education Sciences, Nursing and Health Sciences, Peace, and the Division of Professional and Continuing Education.

USD's values-based education offers students bachelor's, master's and doctoral degree programs.

Our History in Photos

USD History