CSB History

Books and media about the College of St. Benedict (some available online, others available e in the CSB Archives)

The History of the College of St. Benedict from 1910-1957, as found in With Lamps Burning by Grace McDonald, O.S.B. 

In League with the Future: The First Fifty Years by Mariella Gable, O.S.B., 1964

History of the College of Saint Benedict by Marcia Halligan (CSB ’69), 1968 

Faith and Learning at the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University, a chapter by Emmanuel Renner, OSB, and Hilary Thimmesh, OSB, in Hughes, Richard T. and William B. Adrian, editors, Models for Christian Higher Education: Strategies for Success in the Twenty-First Century.  Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1997, p. 24-46.

Harvest 1857-1957, a history of the Sisters of the Order of Saint Benedict  

A Visual History of Saint Benedict’s and Saint John’s [PowerPoint], a pictorial history of the two communities, emphasizing the first one hundred years, 2004.

The History of the Pageant  by Mariella Gable, O.S.B., 1978

A Brief History of the College of Saint Benedict

The College of St. Benedict grew out of St. Benedict’s Academy, owned and operated by Benedictine sisters who had arrived in Minnesota in 1857, a year before Minnesota became the 32nd state of the union. This academy, founded in 1880 [originally as Saint Joseph’s Academy and re-named two years later], offered a rigorous classical course of studies and attracted students from Indiana to Idaho and Utah. St. Benedict’s Monastery then opened – with a total of six students – the College of St. Benedict in 1913, the thirteenth Catholic liberal arts residential college for women in the United States. With the liberal arts as the core, the College also committed itself to art, music, and theater, as well as selected professional courses.

In 1961 the Benedictine community incorporated the College, principally to facilitate the process of obtaining a government loan for building a new residence hall. The incorporation did not change the working relationship between the monastic community and the college for several years because most faculty and administrators were sisters. During the 1970s, however, the College tripled its enrollment, resulting in a great increase in lay faculty.

One of the greatest changes in CSB history was the evolution of the cooperative relationship between the College of St. Benedict and St. John’s University. In 1963 fifty-five seniors on both campuses registered for a course on the other campus, but that number grew rapidly, and by 1968 a total of 531 men and women participated in the exchange program. On the recommendation of national consultants, the two colleges considered merging in 1968, but they rejected the idea and chose instead to develop a model of cooperative undergraduate education unique in the United States.

The two colleges now have a common curriculum, a single academic calendar and identical degree requirements, but separate diplomas that acknowledge the coordinate relationship between the two colleges. All academic departments are joint, and classes are offered throughout the day on both campuses. A single provost coordinates the academic program.

Presently, many administrative areas are coordinate, and the two boards meet jointly to exercise government oversight of the coordinate program. At the same time, each board exercises its separate responsibility for those decisions that affect its campus, including the selection of a president.

Because of CSB’s mission of educating women and SJU’s of educating men, the two faculties approved gender as a category of analysis in the curriculum and a minor in Gender and Women’s Studies. Gender has become a category of analysis and reflection both in and out of the classroom. The faculties have also adapted their pedagogy to enhance the learning of women and men. Many student development programs are planned to meet the gender-specific developmental needs of students on each campus. For example, both CSB and St. Benedict’s Monastery give special attention to women’s spirituality, and SJU and St. John’s Abbey have developed a program for Men’s Studies.

The two colleges attract academically strong students whose ability is reflected in the high graduation rates and their successes after graduation.

The College of St. Benedict and St. John’s University have forged an extraordinary educational partnership while still being committed to their rich and separate traditions of liberal arts residential education informed by Catholic and Benedictine values.

Emmanuel Renner, O.S.B.
May, 2001