Santa Clara University

Points of Excellence

Historic Milestones

Santa Clara University is California's oldest operating higher-education institution, and we cherish our rich history which began with the Mission Santa Clara de Asís in 1777. Since 1851, the academic landscape has continued to change and flourish since the founding of Santa Clara College.



Mission Santa Clara de Asís is founded on the banks of the Guadalupe River, the eighth of the original 21 missions in California.



After the Guadalupe River overflows and destroys the first mission, a temporary church is built.



Father Junipero Serra lays the foundation for the new Mission Santa Clara de Asís far enough away from the river to avoid flooding but close enough to allow an irrigation canal to reach the fields.



Construction of the mission is completed.



Restoration is completed on the mission, which had been damaged by an earthquake in 1818.



Society of Jesus founds “Santa Clara College” on the site of the fifth Mission Santa Clara de Asís, establishing what is today California’s oldest operating institution of higher learning.



The “college” originally operates as a preparatory school and does not offer courses of collegiate rank until 1853. Following the Civil War, enrollment increases. By 1875, the size of the student body is 275. One-third of the students are enrolled in the collegiate division; the remainder attend the college’s preparatory and high school departments.



The Alumni Association is founded.



Construction of the third mission is completed.



The schools of engineering and law are added and the school is renamed “The University of Santa Clara.”



Faulty wiring causes a fire, burning Mission Santa Clara de Asís.

The Leavey School of Business opens, and within a decade receives national accreditation, one of the first business schools in the country to do so.



The sixth Mission Santa Clara de Asís is built on the same location and in a style similar to the 1825 mission.



The University celebrates its 100th anniversary.



The de Saisset Museum opens its doors, offering free admission to SCU faculty and students and the general public. The art and history museum is one of only two museums in the South Bay accredited by the American Association of Museums, serving as an important teaching and learning resource.



Women are accepted as undergraduates, making Santa Clara the first coeducational Catholic university in California.



Santa Clara becomes the first Catholic university west of St. Louis to open a chapter of Phi Beta Kappa.



The University adopts “Santa Clara University” as its official name.



At the Commitment to Justice in Jesuit Higher Education conference held at the University, Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, S.J., Superior General of the Society of Jesus, delivers the keynote address.



The University celebrates its 150th anniversary.



The University welcomes the largest freshman class in school history.



The Harrington Learning Commons, Sobrato Technology Center, and Orradre Library opens. The 194,000-square-foot building features 25 collaborative workrooms, laboratories for faculty development and multimedia, three video viewing and taping rooms, and wireless networking throughout.

Lucas Hall, the new home of the Leavey School of Business, opens, providing students with leading-edge, 21st-century technology. The 86,000-square-foot building hosts 12 classrooms, six executive-style conference rooms, and 16 team project rooms, which are all wirelessly connected and most are high-definition, teleconferencing ready.



The School of Law celebrates its centennial of educating lawyers who lead.



The School of Engineering celebrates 100 years of engineering education excellence.

The Patricia A. and Stephen C. Schott Admission and Enrollment Services Building opens. Bringing a new welcoming experience to the campus for visitors, the building combines the offices of Admission, Financial Aid, the Bursar and Registrar under one roof.

The Thomas I. Bergin Legacy Society—a gift and estate planning society for building the University’s endowment fund—which honors Santa Clara's first graduate and recipient of the first bachelor's degree awarded in California, celebrates its 25th anniversary.

The first themed dorm on campus, Unity—now a unique RLC that focuses on diversity and civic engagement—commemorates two decades of residence living and learning.

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