The heritage of Ursuline College, a Catholic liberal arts institution, dates back to 1535 when Saint Angela Merici founded a community of religious women unique for its integration of contemplation and service and for its flexible adaptation to the changing circumstances of time and place. Angela and her companions were known as Ursulines. Together they strove to revitalize a decadent society through an educational endeavor unheard of up to that time, the education of young women.
In 1850, the charism and mission of Saint Angela were brought to Cleveland by Ursulines from France. Remaining true to the vision of their foundress, the Ursuline Sisters in the person of Mother Mary of the Annunciation Beaumont, obtained a charter from the State of Ohio in 1871 to establish the first women's college in Ohio and to "confer all such degrees and honors as are conferred by colleges and universities in the United States." Ursuline College thus became one of the first Catholic women's colleges in the United States organized and chartered explicitly for the purpose of college education and the first chartered college for women in Ohio. From the beginning in 1871, enrollment has been open, then as now, to those of all races and creeds who qualify scholastically. As the city expanded, a move to other locations was necessary. On the Overlook campus (1926-1966) enrollment more than tripled. The relocation of the college in 1966 to its new site in suburban Pepper Pike culminated a ten-year planning program inaugurated by Mother Marie Sands, O.S.U., then President of the College.
In 1968, the College was separately incorporated as an independent, non-profit organization with the Ursuline Sisters of Cleveland continuing to serve as the institution's sponsoring religious community. In January, 1969, a new board of Trustees for the College was formed, comprised of both lay persons and Ursulines.
Beginning in 1969, Ursuline College became one of the first in Ohio to address through continuing education the needs of adult women returning to college. In July, 1975, the Division of Nursing of Saint John College of Cleveland transferred to Ursuline College and has become one of the academic schools of the College.
In 1982, Ursuline College began offering graduate programs. In addition, the college began programs in an accelerated format to respond to the educational needs of working women and men. Today, the College offers graduate study in Art Therapy, Education, Educational Administration, Liberal Studies, Ministry, and Nursing. Throughout all this growth, Ursuline has been able to maintain a favorable faculty-student ratio and to provide the intellectual vitality which is an important part of the Ursuline philosophy of education.