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St. Mary's Academy, 1859

Graduation Class, 1908


The Holy Names Heritage Center is a beautiful facility on our campus at Marylhurst, Oregon that was created as a resource for education, research and outreach programs to the people of the Northwest. It houses the archives of the Sisters of the Holy Names U.S.- Ontario Province, providing more than 150 years of historical materials principally from eight major communities where the Sisters began missions to educate the people of the Northwest. The Holy Names Sisters Foundation focuses on the Heritage Center as one of its major funds.

Marie Rose Durocher of Quebec, Canada, saw that young women were not being educated for the challenges of life. As foundress of a new congregation of women religious, Marie Rose responded with apostolic zeal. By the end of six years, 30 sisters were teaching 384 students in four schools. A decade later, in 1859, twelve sisters left Longueuil for the near wilderness of the Oregon Territory to found a distant mission in Portland.

These twelve Canadian foundresses, one born in Dublin, brought with them to Oregon a passion for academic excellence and an exceptional appreciation of the arts. The trunks they brought on their journey to the West were not packed with personal comforts, but with books, lesson plans in music, art and needlework. The first faculty of St. Mary’s Academy boasted possession of the first piano that had come around Cape Horn to Oregon, brought by the Sisters when they arrived in 1859.

Elementary schools were established first because they were the critical need of the time. Within a few years, schools were founded in The Dalles, Jacksonville/Medford, St. Paul, Portland, Bend, Salem, Astoria and Eugene in Oregon, as well as Spokane, Seattle and Uniontown in Washington. Many of these schools still exist today. All instruction was planned with the graduation of each student from high school in mind, and the first high school diplomas from St. Mary’s Academy in Portland were issued in 1867. In 1893, St. Mary’s received a charter to grant college degrees. Its name was then changed to St. Mary’s Academy and College, the first liberal arts college for women in the Northwest.



Oregon Partners in Mission  ·  PO Box 411  ·  Marylhurst OR 97036

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