Jul 15, 2024  
2020-2021 Academic Catalog 
2020-2021 Academic Catalog [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

The College

Saint Mary’s College of California

Saint Mary’s is a comprehensive liberal arts university-offering undergraduate and graduate programs that integrate liberal and professional education built upon a foundation of Catholic, Lasallian, and liberal arts traditions. A challenging curriculum, exceptional faculty, and a focus on student success prepare learners for rewarding careers, and full lives.

The core Lasallian principles of social justice, faith in the presence of God, respect for all persons, inclusive community, and quality education are reflected in every aspect of campus life and learning. Rooted in the Christian Brothers’ commitment to teaching and learning, Saint Mary’s student-centered education shapes individual lives that can transform society.

The Catholic tradition fosters a Christian understanding of the whole person and defends the goodness, dignity, and freedom of each individual in a community that values diversity of perspective, background, and culture.

The liberal arts tradition at Saint Mary’s College seeks to educate and engage the intellect in an attempt to resolve the great questions that arise from common human experience through a search that probes for fundamental principles and causes.

This approach develops the intellectual abilities of the whole person, preparing students for life beyond the knowledge and skills for any particular profession. It develops critical thinking, an understanding of and respect for different ways of knowing, and a desire for lifelong learning.

The College provides a welcoming environment, knowing that the best academic achievement and social and personal development are realized in an environment that is culturally, spiritually, and ethnically diverse, where every voice is heard, and each student has the opportunity to grow, succeed, and serve.

Saint Mary’s faculty are deeply committed to teaching and interacting with students, while also being accomplished scholars. They are active members of a close community characterized by small classes, lively discussion, and deep relationships.

The campus, known for its great natural and architectural beauty in the Moraga Valley, is only 20 miles east of San Francisco. Surrounded by hills and woods, the white buildings with red tile roofs are designed in Mission Renaissance style, with the College Chapel as its architectural and spiritual heart.


Saint Mary’s College of California is one of the oldest colleges in the West. Founded in 1863 by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese as a college for men, the school was originally located in San Francisco, operating for several years under Archdiocesan direction.

In 1868, the De La Salle Christian Brothers assumed direction of the school. Theirs is the world’s largest Roman Catholic order dedicated to teaching, founded 320 years ago by St. John Baptist de La Salle, who devoted his life to the ministry of Christian education, especially for the poor. Brother Justin McMahon, FSC, was the first Christian Brother president of Saint Mary’s, who traveled to San Francisco accompanied by nine other Brothers. Under their leadership, the College’s student body quickly increased from 50 to 200 students, with the first SMC bachelor’s degrees awarded in 1872.

The Brothers added a commercial curriculum to the classical and scientific curricula when they arrived in 1868. The College was incorporated by the state of California on May 20, 1872, and the following year the first master of arts degree was conferred. Since that time the Brothers have directed the College and exercised an indispensable role in its administration, instruction, and funding, working collaboratively with distinguished clerical and lay colleagues who fill many significant administrative and faculty appointments.

In 1889, the Saint Mary’s campus moved from San Francisco to Oakland to the corner of 30th and Broadway, occupying a facility affectionately known as the “Brickpile.” The College operated there until 1928, when it was moved to its current location in Moraga. The original Moraga campus was much smaller than the current campus; 11 of the original buildings, constructed in 1928 and 1929, are still in use today. They include the Chapel, Dante Hall, and Galileo Hall.

In 1940, the Saint Mary’s hillside was graced with the addition of “La Cruz de la Victoria,” the Cross of Victory. The cross has become a familiar landmark among Saint Mary’s students, alumni, professors, and staff. Hiking up to the cross is a popular activity.

After the attack on Pearl Harbor in December of 1941, the United States Navy began using the Saint Mary’s campus for pilot training. The Navy’s presence on the campus led to significant changes, including moving the main entrance to the front of campus. This resulted in the clear view of the Chapel that greets visitors today. The Navy also built Assumption Hall (now a first-year residence hall) and the world’s largest indoor pool, which no longer exists.

Saint Mary’s has evolved and changed over the years, with location, size, and demographics completely transformed. Life for SMC’s first students in the 19th century was quite different from the student’s experience today. Tuition was $60 per academic year for day students and $250 for boarding students. A student’s day was rigidly scheduled, awakened at 6 a.m. for a day filled with an unvarying schedule of study, class, prayer, meals, and recreation, then lights out at 8:30 p.m.

Nevertheless, traces of the College’s past remain-like the ringing of the Chapel bells, the same bells that every Saint Mary’s student has heard and remembers. And the College’s commitment to service, learning, and community remains very true to its origins. As the SMC community looks to the future of Saint Mary’s, we will continue to honor the common thread that connects generations of Gaels.

Chronological History

Saint Mary’s College on Mission Road in San Francisco dedicated on July 9 by Archbishop Joseph Sadoc Alemany.
Arrival of the Christian Brothers, August 11, commercial curriculum established.
Chartered by the state of California, May 20, Saint Mary’s conferred its first bachelor of arts and its first bachelor of science.
First master of arts degree conferred.
Saint Mary’s College moved to 30th and Broadway in Oakland; the Brickpile dedicated on August 15.
Fire severely damaged the Brickpile; the College returned to the San Francisco campus for a year during rebuilding.
Civil and mechanical engineering curriculum established.
Art curriculum established at Saint Mary’s College, the first Catholic college west of the Mississippi to offer a full art curriculum.
School of Commerce established.
Pre-medical curriculum established.
School of Engineering, and School of Foreign Trade established. 
School of Education, and School of Law (evening) established.
The College became the first Catholic men’s college to join the Northwestern Association of Schools and Colleges.
Saint Mary’s College moved to the Moraga campus and was dedicated on September 3; School of Law remained in Oakland, and closed in 1931.
School of Economics and Business Administration established.
School of Arts and Letters, and School of Science (engineering, pre-medical, pre-dental and science curricula combined) established.
World Classics Core Curriculum (now Collegiate Seminar) established.
After the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Navy conducted preflight training at the College.
School of Liberal Arts established.
Brother Mel Anderson, FSC, became president of Saint Mary’s College; 4-1-4 calendar established for undergraduate programs.
Women are admitted to Saint Mary’s College.
Graduate and extended education divisions established.
Intercollegiate baccalaureate program in nursing with Samuel Merritt College established.
School of Extended Education, and School of Education established.
125th anniversary of the College’s founding; its 60th year in Moraga.
Brother Mel Anderson, FSC, D. Litt., L.H.D., retired after 28 years as president of Saint Mary’s, and Brother Craig Franz, FSC, PhD, named new president.
School of Education established College’s first doctoral program, EdD in Educational Leadership.
Brother Ronald Gallagher, FSC, PhD, named new president of Saint Mary’s; Geissberger Observatory opens.
Brousseau Hall christened, honoring Brother Alfred Brousseau.
New home to the Kalmanovitz School of Education-Filippi Academic Hall-opens.
Saint Mary’s College celebrates its sesquicentennial or 150th anniversary.
James A. Donahue, PhD, named new president of Saint Mary’s.

Statement of Mission

Saint Mary’s College in the 21st century celebrates the three traditions that have sustained it since its earliest years and seeks its future in them: the classical tradition of liberal arts education, the intellectual and spiritual legacy of the Catholic Church, and the vision of education enunciated by Saint John Baptist de La Salle and developed by the Brothers of the Christian Schools and their colleagues in a tradition now more than 300 years old.

The Mission of Saint Mary’s College Is:

  • To probe deeply the mystery of existence by cultivating the ways of knowing and the arts of thinking.

Recognizing that the paths to knowledge are many, Saint Mary’s College offers a diverse curriculum, which includes the humanities, arts, sciences, social sciences, education, business administration, and nursing, serving traditional students and adult learners in both undergraduate and graduate programs. As an institution where the liberal arts inform and enrich all areas of learning, it places special importance on fostering the intellectual skills and habits of mind, which liberate persons to probe deeply the mystery of existence and live authentically in response to the truths they discover. This liberation is achieved as faculty and students, led by wonder about the nature of reality, look twice, ask why, seek not merely facts but fundamental principles, strive for an integration of all knowledge, and express themselves precisely and eloquently.

  • To affirm and foster the Christian understanding of the human person, which animates the educational mission of the Catholic Church.

Saint Mary’s College holds that the mystery that inspires wonder about the nature of existence is revealed in the person of Jesus Christ, giving a transcendent meaning to creation and human existence. Nourished by its Christian faith, the College understands the intellectual and spiritual journeys of the human person to be inextricably connected. It promotes the dialogue of faith and reason; it builds community among its members through the celebration of the Church’s sacramental life; it defends the goodness, dignity, and freedom of each person, and fosters sensitivity to social and ethical concerns. Recognizing that all those who sincerely quest for truth contribute to and enhance its stature as a Catholic institution of higher learning, Saint Mary’s welcomes members from its own and other traditions, inviting them to collaborate in fulfilling the spiritual mission of the College.

  • To create a student-centered educational community whose members support one another with mutual understanding and respect.

As a Lasallian college, Saint Mary’s holds that students are given to its care by God, and that teachers grow spiritually and personally when their work is motivated by faith and zeal. The College seeks students, faculty, administrators, and staff from different social, economic, and cultural backgrounds who come together to grow in knowledge, wisdom, and love. A distinctive mark of a Lasallian school is its awareness of the consequences of economic and social injustice, and its commitment to the poor. Its members learn to live “their responsibility to share their goods and their service with those who are in need, a responsibility based on the union of all men and women in the world today and on a clear understanding of the meaning of Christianity.” (From The Brothers of the Christian Schools in the World Today: A Declaration).


The College is, in every sense, a community of scholars. Faculty members are teacher-scholars. They are selected for their dedication to and skill in teaching, and for their desire to share their passion for learning and discovery.

The small size of the College and the commitment of its faculty foster an extraordinarily close and informal relationship between faculty and students. Faculty members are available to students not only in the classroom but outside it as well, for academic advice, guidance, and mentoring. Faculty are expected to teach courses at all levels, from first-year through graduate, and faculty members make themselves available to students at all levels, rather than isolating themselves among small groups of advanced students. Our small class size and faculty advising system foster close and frequent contact between professors and students.

The College values faculty scholarship because it enhances the intellectual vitality of the faculty and directly animates the entire campus community. Scholarly research ensures that faculty members have a thorough and up-to-date knowledge of the subjects they teach, as well as the appropriate pedagogy in those fields. As part of a community committed to shared inquiry and active learning, faculty scholar-teachers provide models from which students can learn the value and techniques of inquiry, and from which they can learn to value the life of the mind.

The College prides itself on a faculty of remarkable distinction and continually renewed commitment to scholarship and teaching.

Academic Organization

Saint Mary’s College is organized into four schools that provide the programs of study for students at the undergraduate and graduate levels.

The School of Liberal Arts offers the degree of Bachelor of Arts in 17 major fields and the Bachelor of Arts in the Integral Program; Master of Arts in Leadership and in Kinesiology; Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing and Master of Fine Arts in Dance; and two BA degree completion programs: one in the Performing Arts and one in Leadership & Organizational Studies.

The School of Science offers the degree of Bachelor of Science in seven major fields. There is a 3+2 program in engineering in conjunction with a number of universities.

The School of Economics and Business Administration offers the degree of Bachelor of Science in three major fields, as well as the Bachelor of Arts in one major field. It offers the degree of Master of Business Administration, Executive MBA, Professional MBA, Trans-Global Executive MBA, MS in Accounting, MS in Business Analytics, MS in Financial Analysis and Investment Management, and MS in Management.

The Kalmanovitz School of Education offers undergraduate courses in teacher education. There are nine programs in the School of Education offering three preliminary teaching credentials, service and administrative credentials, as well as master’s degrees. A Doctorate in Educational Leadership is also offered.

Kalmanovitz School of Education and the School of Economics and Business also publish separate brochures describing these programs.


The administration of Saint Mary’s College is vested in the Board of Trustees and the president of the College, and is empowered by the charter of 1872 granted by the state of California to confer upon students who satisfactorily complete the prescribed courses of studies in the College, such academic and/or professional degrees and/or literary honors as are usually conferred by universities and/or colleges in the United States.

Saint Mary’s College is nationally recognized as a standard four-year college and is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, 985 Atlantic Avenue, Suite 100, Alameda, CA 94501, (510) 748-9001. The credential programs in the School of Education are also accredited by the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing. The business and accounting programs are accredited in the School of Economics and Business Administration by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB). The Saint Mary’s College Museum of Art, housing the Hearst Art Gallery, is the only art museum in Contra Costa County accredited by the American Association of Museums.