History and Mission
The history of Manhattanville is, in many ways, rooted in social and educational change.
Beginning as a women’s boarding school founded in 1841 by the Society of the Sacred Heart in New York City, we evolved into a women’s Catholic college. We later developed into a non-denominational, co-ed institution.
A belief in education as a pathway to progress, equality, and transformation has remained the same for nearly two hundred years. Our first graduates in 1918 represented a commitment to women’s education that later expanded to include and uplift a diverse student body. Manhattanville College students were active participants in many social justice movements of our time, including the Civil Rights Movement. They continue to change the world through independent thinking, creativity, and a well-rounded liberal arts education.Manhattanville Timeline
History of Our College
Roots on Houston St.
The Academy of the Sacred Heart was a women’s boarding and day school founded in 1841 by Catholic nuns. After six years in Lower Manhattan, the school switched to a larger location in Manhattanville Village, where it also ran a free parochial neighborhood school. Students completed a curriculum grounded in philosophy, foreign languages, and a well-rounded understanding of other cultures.
Move Out of Manhattan
During World War II, Manhattanville College experienced rapid growth thanks to the number of women who enrolled in the new technical fields the college offered. In 1949, it acquired the former estate of New York Tribune editor and diplomat Whitelaw Reid in Westchester County to accommodate its new student population.
Purchase Campus and Reid Castle
In 1952, Manhattanville College opened the doors of its current campus, transforming Reid Castle into the heart of our institution. Today, you can still walk the grounds designed by famed architect Frederick Law Olmstead and visit historic buildings, like the recently renovated Lady Chapel.
To educate ethical and socially responsible leaders in a global community.”
At Manhattanville, it is our declared mission to show deep commitment to:
Ensuring the intellectual, ethical, and social development of each student with a community of engaged scholars and teachers;
Encouraging each student to develop as an independent and creative thinker in pursuing career and personal goals; and
Providing a diverse, inclusive, and nurturing environment which develops in each student a commitment to service and leadership within a global community.
Roots in Activism
Education for Women
In 1918, Madeleine Smith and Claire Brassil became the first graduates of what would later become Manhattanville College. As a women’s college, we empowered generations of female students to embrace their roles as leaders and actively shape a more just world. In 1969, we expanded to include male students.
A landmark moment for Manhattanville College occurred in 1933 when students came together to write The Manhattanville Resolutions. This document advocated for racial integration, equal access, and active participation in the fight against discrimination. The eight resolutions galvanized other Catholic colleges to push for desegregation.
The sixties represented a time of immense change for Manhattanville College, which became a non-denominational college against the backdrop of the Civil Rights movement. In 1969, eighteen students occupied Brownson Hall to demand increased representation and greater scholarship opportunities for minority students. Their action pushed the administration to address racial justice issues on campus.
Notable Alumni Over the Years
For centuries, students have used our academic excellence and proximity to New York as the launching pad for their professional dreams. As a result, we are the #1 private, non-profit college in New York for Social Mobility by the U.S. News and World Report, with alums reaching the upper echelons of fields like government, advocacy, business, media, and the arts.
Since 1900, the Manhattanville Alumni Association has helped Valiants stay connected to our community. Some of our most notable alumns include:
Dalmazio Santini: Innovative Italian orchestral composer
Eleanor Byrne: Former Manhattanville College president who led faculty and students to participate in the March on Washington
Jamaal Bowman: United States Congressman in the 16th district of New York
Maria Elena Lagomasino: Former director of The Coca-Cola Company, former CEO of JP Morgan Private Bank
Mary T. Clark: Scholar in philosophical history and civil rights advocate
Mary Hamilton: Freedom Rider and field secretary of the Congress of Racial Equality
Mindy Grossman: CEO of the Home Shopping Network (HSN)
Patricia Nell Warren: Novelist and LGBT rights activist
Sila Calderón: Former Governor of Puerto Rico
Ethel Kennedy: Human Rights Advocate
Where We Are Today
Manhattanville College presidents have included prominent civil rights activists, forward-thinking educators, and renowned academics. A strong commitment to equal access and opportunity in education defines our college leadership. Learn more about how Dr. Frank D. Sánchez, our fifteenth president, continues that tradition.
Diversity, equity, and inclusion have always occupied a central space in our community.
Students, faculty, and leadership have participated in demonstrations and advocated for legislation addressing racial equality, poverty, substance abuse, and apartheid in South Africa. Today, we continue to push for a better future as a designated Hispanic Serving Institution through the Clark Center for Religion and Social Justice and other DEI initiatives.
Get to Know Us More
Discover what living the Valiant life is all about and explore our 125+ arts, sciences, fine arts, education, nursing, and health sciences programs. Reach out to find out more about our transformative educational experience.
Become a Part of Our History
We are proud of our history as a college where students can find their voice, empower their peers, and lead actions that push for a more just and equal society. To become a part of it, learn more about our admissions process and see what sets us apart with a campus visit.