History of the University of San Diego

In 1945, two religious leaders stood on a hilltop in San Diego and envisioned building two institutions that would provide the best in sacred and secular learning.

The Most Reverend Charles F. Buddy, first bishop of the Diocese of San Diego, and Mother Rosalie Hill, superior vicar of the Society of the Sacred Heart, founded those colleges a few years later.

The San Diego College for Women opened its doors in February 1952 with 50 students, a handful of professors and a campus still under construction. In the spring of 1954, the men’s institution, known then as San Diego University, had temporary quarters as professors welcomed 39 students in the College for Men and 60 students in the School of Law.

Begin quote Beauty will attract them; goodness will lead them; but the truth will hold them. – Mother Rosalie Clifton Hill

During these early days, Mother Hill and Bishop Buddy brought Alcalá Park to life with seven buildings, still the heart of the campus today.  Founders, Camino, Sacred Heart Hall, Maher and Serra Halls, and for the law school, Warren Hall and the Pardee Legal Research Center, as they are currently known. A sports center and stadium were built for the fledging athletics programs. The Diocese of San Diego built The Immaculata Church, which still serves USD and the surrounding neighbors, and an administration building, which the university later purchased and renovated into USD’s main administration building.

The beauty of USD’s campus - widely admired for its stunning Spanish Renaissance architecture – hints at its heritage. The University of San Diego is named after San Diego de Alcalá, a Franciscan lay brother from the Spanish town of Alcalá de Henares, near Madrid. The University of Alcalá de Henares served as a model for USD’s founders, both physically, through architectural style, and philosophically, through its determination to prevail as an educational institution that serves society’s human condition.

In 1965, the Second Vatican Council encouraged Catholic colleges and universities to “unite in a mutual sharing of effort.” With this directive from the Church the two institutions began the process of combining academic, fiscal and physical resources. By the time the institutions merged in 1972 to form the University of San Diego, the campus had grown to accommodate 2,500 students.

Today, the University of San Diego is a nationally ranked Roman Catholic institution with 440 faculty members, more than 8,500 undergraduate, graduate and law students and over 65,000 alumni. Governed by a board of trustees, the university includes the College of Arts and Sciences, School of Law, School of Business Administration, School of Education and Leadership Sciences, Hahn School of Nursing and Health Science, Shiley-Marcos School of Engineering and the Joan B. Kroc School of Peace Studies.