The Pontifical Catholic University of Puerto Rico is a Roman Catholic university located in Ponce, Puerto Rico. It provides courses leading to Bachelor’s, Master’s and Doctorate degrees in the areas of education, business administration, science, and arts and human studies. The University is also home to a Law School, and in August 2010 it inaugurated a School of Architecture in downtown Ponce. The university’s original name (Catholic University of Santa Maria) was changed in 1950 to Catholic University of Puerto Rico with the graduation of its first class. On January 25, 1991, the name was again changed to its current name, after Pope John Paul II bestowed the title of pontifical.
The university was founded in spring of 1948 by James E. McManus, C.S.S.R., Bishop of the Diocese of Ponce, and James Peter Davis, Bishop of the Diocese of San Juan. It was founded as the Catholic University of Santa Maria. « The name Santa Maria was chosen to honor the Mother of God and to implore her protection and help. » Its first president was Monseñor Vicente Murga. The original campus consisted of a few classrooms provided by the Capuchin Friars (OFM) and the Sisters of Saint Joseph, catholic clergymen and nuns, respectively, in the Colegio San Conrado in Ponce, a catholic primary educational school. This continued until 1949, when the university obtained 120 acres (0.49 km2), donated by the Luis A. Ferré Family. It has been accredited by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools since 1953.
In 1961, the university started the School of Law providing graduate law studies and student exchange programs with other law schools in the United States and in Spain. The school has been host to famous and respected Puerto Rican law professors, including former Puerto Rico governor Rafael Hernández Colón.
In 1976, the university started the School of Medicine as a graduate medical education program, which, when reorganized, became an independent private institution now known as the Ponce Health Sciences University.
In 2009, the university opened a School of Architecture.
In 2011, the university announced it was engaging in a $20 million expansion plan that would result in the creation of three new schools over a ten-year period. The three new schools were reported to be a School of Graphical Design, a School of Fashion, and a School of Cinematic Arts.