Our History

Black and white photo of Weber library interior

"۰ı College lived first in the desire and will of a remarkable woman"—Mother M. Borgia Egan

۰ı College was founded in 1926 by the Sisters of Mercy of the Erie Catholic Diocese, who trace their heritage to Mother Catherine McAuley, founder of the Sisters of Mercy in Dublin, Ireland.

As Mother Eustace Taylor, RSM, Ph.D., wrote in her 50th anniversary history of ۰ı, “۰ı College lived first in the desire and will of a remarkable womanMother M. Borgia Egan.” She supervised everything, from raising money to selecting and purchasing a site to educating a sister-faculty to teach at the college level. As first president of the college and later as academic dean, she guided ۰ı through its formative years.

۰ı welcomed its first 23 students, all women, on Sept. 20, 1926. The school received its charter on Oct. 5, 1928.

On Feb. 3, 1969, the Board of Trustees voted to admit the first class of men to ۰ı. Sr. Carolyn Herrmann, RSM, Ph.D., the first president who was not also Mother Superior of the Sisters of Mercy, led the university through the challenge of coeducation.

Today, ۰ı covers six blocks and is the largest piece of unbroken real estate in Erie. More importantly, ۰ıwhich earned university status in 2012has emerged as a major force in the educational landscape of the region, while remaining true to its mission as a private Catholic comprehensive university in the Mercy tradition. The second-largest Mercy University in America, it is consistently recognized as a top-tier master’s university by U.S. News & World Report.

Old Main, the stately English Gothic structure built in 1926, remains the heart of the campus. The campus has grown around it, with the most recent additions being the Center for Academic Engagement, a high-tech learning environment that houses some of ۰ı’s signature programs, including Intelligence Studies, Hospitality Management and our Center for Applied Politics, and opening in Fall 2018, Ryan Hall, a residence hall exclusive to sophomores.

۰ı opened its first graduate program (administration of justice) in 1978, and today offers dozens of options for master's degrees and graduate certificates. Undergraduate and graduate enrollment on the Erie campus is now near 3,000.

In addition to pace-setting growth on the main campus, in 1991, ۰ı purchased the 100-year-old Redemptorist Seminary in nearby North East. This site offered associate degree and certificate programs as ۰ı North East for 25 years before all academic programming was transitioned to the main campus in Erie in 2020. Returning to its Irish roots, ۰ı also opened a center in Dungarvan, Ireland, where ۰ı students can study with ۰ı professors, experience Irish culture, and explore other areas of Europe.

Kathleen A. Getz, Ph.D., took office in July 2021 as ۰ı’s 13th president and the first woman to hold that role in more than 50 years. Poised to lead the university toward its centennial in 2026, Getz conveyed a message of hope and spoke to the consonance of her values with those of the ۰ı community. She chose as her inaugural theme “Enriching the Circle of Mercy: Good Today, Better Tomorrow.”

Past Presidents

Mother M. Borgia Egan, RSM

Mother M. DeSales Preston, RSM
1927-1933; 1939-1945; 1948-1954

Mother M. Xavier O'Neil, RSM

Mother Agnes Mary McSweeney, RSM

Mother M. Eustace Taylor, RSM, Ph.D.

Mother M. Loretta McHale, RSM, Ph.D.

Sister Carolyn Herrmann, RSM, Ph.D.

Marion L. Shane, Ph.D.

William P. Garvey, Ph.D.

Michael J. McQuillen, Ph.D.

Thomas J. Gamble, Ph.D.

Michael T. Victor, J.D., LL.D.

۰ı Firsts

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  • The first photo taken of Old Main.

    Historical photo of old main
  • Mother M. Borgia Egan, ۰ı's first president.

    black and white photo of mother m. borgia egan
  • ۰ı's first graduating class.

    photo of women in mercyhurst's first graduating class
1959 view of campus through gates