The Sisters of Notre Dame founded Notre Dame College as a Catholic, four-year, liberal arts institution for women in 1922. The Sisters had fled Coesfeld, Germany, during Bismarck’s Kulturkampf in the 1870s. Many of them had come to Cleveland at the request of Bishop Richard Gilmour, who had sought German-speaking teachers for the parish schools of St. Stephens in Cleveland and St. Joseph’s in Fremont, Ohio.
In 1878, the Sisters established Notre Dame Academy in Cleveland for 14 students. After several relocations, in 1915 a new provincial house and academy were built on Ansel Road. After 1920, boys were no longer enrolled. Soon, the female students and their families clamored for a college to continue their education under the Sisters of Notre Dame.
In April 1921, the Sisters in Cleveland sent a letter to Mother Mary Cecilia Romen in Germany, asking that “work of college grade” be offered in the fall of 1921. In response, the Mother General of the Sisters of Notre Dame decided to visit the Cleveland Diocese, where the Sisters now operated one academy, seven high schools and 25 parochial schools.
On March 26, 1922, Mother Mary Cecilia wrote a letter to Cleveland Bishop Joseph Schrembs asking for permission to open a college for women. Less than a month later, the bishop granted permission.
Under the guidance of Mother M. Cecilia Romen, the College opened its doors to 13 women and 11 novices on Sept. 18, 1922; the articles of incorporation for Notre Dame College were signed and filed with the State of Ohio on March 30, 1923. Mother Mary Evarista Harks became the first president of NDC; Sr. Mary Agnes Bosche was appointed the first dean. A semester’s tuition was $75.
In June 1923, the Sisters leased 39 acres from the Jordan Family along Green Road in South Euclid. A year later they purchased 15 more acres. Construction of the campus began in the fall of 1926. On Sept. 17, 1928, 13 seniors, 16 juniors, 21 sophomores and 32 freshmen began classes in the new Administration Building.
Three residence halls and the Administration Building’s west wing were built in the 1960s. The Clara Fritzsche Library (1971), the Keller Center (1987) and two more residence halls (2009) followed. The College acquired the former Regina High School complex in 2011.