History of the University

The Early Years

Dominican takes its name from St. Dominic de Guzman, who was born in Caleruega, Spain, in roughly 1172.

The history of Dominican University of California can be traced back to 1850. It was in this year that Joseph Alemany was appointed Bishop of Monterey. At the time of this appointment, he was in Italy attending a meeting of the Dominican Order.

As Bishop Alemany was returning to his new post in California, he stopped in Paris and expressed his desire to have a few Dominican sisters join him to teach the children of the forty-niners. Mary Goemaere (1809-1891) volunteered to accompany the new Bishop and to begin a school in his new diocese.

After months of traveling, Sister Mary and two priests arrived in Monterey, where a house served as a convent and school.

Within three years, nine women (three American, one Mexican, and five Spanish) joined Sister Mary to form the Congregation of the Most Holy Name. In 1854, the Dominicans moved to Benicia.

Arriving in San Rafael

Following the leadership of Mother Mary Goemaere, Mother Louis O'Donnell (1887-1929) was responsible for moving the central administration, a school, and novitiate from Benicia to San Rafael in 1889.

In 1890 the Congregation of the Most Holy Name, more commonly known as the Dominican Sisters of San Rafael, filed Articles of Incorporation with the Secretary of State of California.

With the encouragement of faculty of the University of California in Berkeley, a junior college was opened in 1915, and in 1917 a four-year college, named after St. Dominic de Guzman, became a reality.

Dominican Firsts

In 1917, Dominican College was the first Catholic college in California to grant the B.A. degree to women.

To house the college students more land and buildings were needed. In 1918 Meadowlands, the summer home of the Michael de Young family, was purchased.

The first floor of the building was used for classrooms and the two upper stories were converted into living quarters for students. From this homey beginning has emerged the graceful campus we know today.

Within fifteen years Angelico Hall was built for a music conservatory; a large wing was added to Meadowlands; Forest Meadows, an expansive field edged with eucalyptus trees, was purchased for athletics; Fanjeaux was erected for a student residence and for new dining facilities; Guzman Hall was built in 1930 for academic and administrative purposes; and the property which separated Guzman from Fanjeaux, owned by Mr. and Mrs. John Buck, was purchased and named Benicasa.

All this material progress and financial outlay were taking place during the throes of World War I and the frightening years of the Great Depression, which followed shortly thereafter.


Growth in the 50's and 60's

The development of the curriculum, the addition of new fields of study, and the increase in the number and diversity of faculty and students necessitated campus expansion and renovation.

In 1965 Dominican acquired Bertrand Hall after erecting three buildings: Pennafort, a residence hall (1958); Caleruega, a dining hall and kitchen (1959); and Archbishop Alemany Library (1963).

Dominican became fully coeducational in 1971.

Recent Growth

Throughout its years of growth, Dominican achieved professional recognition. The State Board of Education in 1924 empowered the institution to recommend candidates for public school teaching credentials, thus enabling Dominican students to teach in the public schools in California on elementary and secondary levels.

Two years later the college was placed on the approved list of the Association of American Universities. In 1931 Dominican College of San Rafael was recognized by the American Association of University Women and in 1932, established the Marin County Chapter of that group.

That same year the college became a member of the Northwestern Association of Colleges. Today, Dominican University of California is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, and in 1990 its nursing program received accreditation from the National League for Nursing.

It also holds accreditation from the State of California Commission on Teacher Credentialing, and has membership in numerous professional organizations.

On April 29, 2000, President Joseph R. Fink announced a change in status for the 110-year old institution.

Dominican College of San Rafael became Dominican University of California at the beginning of the 2000-2001 academic year.

An identity change does not occur unless there has been a significant transformation over a period of time. The new name recognized Dominican's status as a university with graduate degree programs, a diverse student body, and a global perspective.