Skip to main contentSkip to main navigationSkip to footer content

The History of the University of Holy Cross




University of Holy Cross has the distinction of being the only four-year University on the West Bank of New Orleans as well as one of eight Holy Cross colleges and universities nationwide. It has provided South Louisiana a tradition of academic excellence and has been setting the standard for quality education for nearly a century.

In the Beginning

The history of the University of Holy Cross dates to the 1841 founding of the Congregation of the Marianites of Holy Cross by Fr. Basil Anthony Moreau at Le Mans, France. Two years after their founding, some of the Sisters were ready to leave Le Mans and set up foundations in the New World. In 1848, several Marianites accepted the invitation of Archbishop Antoine Blanc to journey to New Orleans to work with the Holy Cross Brothers in administering the St. Mary's Orphan Boys Asylum. Soon, the Sisters became disturbed at the plight of the young girls who were homeless and destitute as a result of yellow fever. In 1851, the Sisters began to build the Immaculate Conception Industrial School to instruct these orphan girls. The site of this school was in the Ninth Ward. In 1866, this school evolved into the Academy of Holy Angels, a high school for young girls and the parent school of the University of Holy Cross.

Preparing Teachers

To prepare teachers for the many schools the Marianites opened in South Louisiana, the Louisiana State Board of Education in 1916 granted the Marianites the right to open a Normal School, which functioned as Holy Cross Normal. The instruction received at this school assured the young students would be prepared according to the Louisiana State Norms of Education. In 1938, the Louisiana State Department of Education, again at the request of the Sisters, approved a program that would lead to the conferring of the Bachelor of Arts degree. The name of the school was then changed to The College Department of the Academy of Holy Angels, and the first graduation exercises were held in 1942. In 1947, the Ernest B. Norman family presented the Marianites with a gift of forty acres on the West Bank of the Mississippi River to be used for educational and religious purposes. In the early 1950s, lay women who were teaching in schools administered by the Marianites were admitted to the College. In the spring of 1960, the College moved to its new quarters and changed its name to Our Lady of Holy Cross College. In that year, the first lay student received her degree. In the early 1960s, women from both the public and the Archdiocesan schools began to enroll, and in 1967, the first men were admitted. The College was on its way to growth and expansion with this step into coeducation.

The Modern University Takes Shape

A governing board of lay trustees was organized in the late 1960s according to the requirements of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. Until 1969, the office of President of the University was held by the Provincial of the Marianites. In that year, the two positions were separated, and for the first time the Board of Regents elected the President. In the spring of 1971, the first status report was submitted and approved by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. Between 1971 and 1980, the University grew in student numbers and added many new academic and professional programs to the initial Teacher Education curriculum. During this time, the University received accreditation for a ten-year period from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. In 1975, University of Holy Cross awarded its first honorary degree, and, in 1991, the University celebrated its 75th anniversary. To synthesize the best use of faculties on the West Bank, University of Holy Cross and Delgado Community College formed the West Bank Higher Education Union. This partnership pledged cooperation, the exchange of faculty, mutual support of programs, and included detailed agreements for joint degree programs and joint use of libraries. The affiliation ended in 1993.

UHC Today

The first third of the 1980s saw two new steps taken by the College. In September 1983, the Louisiana State Board of Nursing approved a four-year baccalaureate degree program, which was initiated in the spring of 1984. In the fall of 1984, a Master in Education program was initiated. A concentration in Counseling was offered through the Master of Education program until 1998 when a Master of Arts in Counseling was offered. The Thomas E. Chambers Counseling and Training Center was dedicated in 1998. In 2016, the College changed its name to the University of Holy Cross. Today, as in the past, the University continues to meet the growing needs of its students, the civic community, and the Marianite community itself. Rich in its past historical experience, the University looks to the future, professing a philosophy of education that seeks to guide the student toward self-realization and the development of the total person. The University of Holy Cross is also dedicated to helping rebuild New Orleans and relishes its role as an institution charged with training the next generation of our community's workforce.

175 Years LeMans to Louisiana

May 1, 2024 marks 175 years of the Holy Cross Family arriving in Louisiana. In celebration of this momentous occasion, mass will be offered at the Cathedral on Sunday, April 28, 2024. In addition, to learn more about the history of Holy Cross in Louisiana, click on one our Mission Moments.

Mission Moments

Mission Moments - Volume 9 - May 2024

Mission Moments - Volume 8 - April 2024

Mission Moments - Volume 7 - March 2024
Mission Moments - Volume 6 - February 2024
Mission Moments - Volume 5 - January 2024
Mission Moments - Volume 4 - December 2023
Mission Moments - Volume 3 - November 2023
Mission Moments - Volume 2 - October 2023
Mission Moments - Volume 1 - September 2023