The University of St. Thomas (also known as St. Thomas) is a private, Catholic, liberal arts, and archdiocesan university located in St. Paul and Minneapolis, Minnesota. Founded in 1885 as a Catholic seminary, it is named after Thomas Aquinas, the medieval Catholic theologian and philosopher who is the patron saint of students. St. Thomas currently enrolls more than 10,000 students, making it Minnesota’s largest private, non-profit university. Julie Sullivan became the 15th president in the history of the University in 2013.
Founded in 1885 by John Ireland, archbishop of Saint Paul and Minneapolis, St. Thomas began as an all-male, Catholic seminary. In 1894, the liberal arts program became an independent college through a gift from local railroad tycoon James J. Hill, who provided funds to establish the Saint Paul Seminary School of Divinity apart from the college. In 1903, the College of St. Thomas established a military program on campus, and it was officially termed a military school by the U.S. War Department in 1906. Initially, the school gave out two-year diplomas in commercial and classical programs before awarding its first academic degrees in 1915. In 1922, military training became optional.
From the late 1920s through the mid-1930s, the Holy Cross Fathers, who run the University of Notre Dame, controlled the college’s administration. The diocese called those priests in to help with the school’s financial problems; those priests were known as a crisis intervention team of sorts for parochial schools of that time. During World War II, St. Thomas served as a training base for naval officers, which kept the school open when men who would have attended college were fighting in the war. After the war, in 1948, the college established « Tom Town » on the eastern end of the lower quadrant, which is currently the site to the O’Shaughnessey-Frey Library and O’Shaughnessey Education Center. Tom Town, made of 20 double-dwelling huts, consisted of white, barrack-like housing units for faculty, students and their families. The units helped to meet housing demand after World War II.
In the latter half of the 20th century, St. Thomas started two of its most notable graduate programs: Education in 1950 and Business Administration in 1974. The school became co-educational in 1977 and although women were not allowed to enroll until then, female students from St. Catherine University (then the College of St. Catherine) often took classes at St. Thomas. Women were also present as instructors and administrators on campus but the staff, faculty, and administration has seen a vast increase in female employment since the move to co-education. In 1990, the College of St. Thomas became the University of St. Thomas.