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Mission & History

The Mission of Manhattan College

Manhattan College is an independent Catholic institution of higher learning that embraces qualified men and women of all faiths, cultures and traditions. The mission of Manhattan College is to provide a contemporary, person-centered educational experience that prepares graduates for lives of personal development, professional success, civic engagement, and service to their fellow human beings.

Established in 1853 by the Institute of the Brothers of the Christian Schools, the College continues to draw its inspiration from the heritage of John Baptist de La Salle, the innovator of modern pedagogy and patron saint of teachers. Among the hallmarks of this Lasallian heritage are excellence in teaching, respect for human dignity, reflection of faith and its relation to reason, an emphasis on ethical conduct, and commitment to social justice.

Historical Note

In May 1853, five Christian Brothers moved their small Canal Street school to what was then known as Manhattanville, a section of New York City at 131st Street and Broadway. The Brothers brought with them more than their furniture and their students. They were the bearers of a long educational tradition, going back to 17th century France and their founder, John Baptist de La Salle, designated by the Catholic Church as the Patron Saint of Teachers. He formed a community of religious Brothers who, unlike priests, would devote themselves as teachers to work for the wellbeing of the children of the artisans and the underprivileged. In the process he created a new type of school system that would transform teaching school into a profession and a vocation. The Brothers were urged to go beyond rote memory to “touch the hearts” of the students. Practical subjects were taught that would lead to a useful role in society; religion was taught to impart a commitment to Christian ethics.

Between 1853 and 1863, the school changed rapidly, adding college-level courses in 1859 and first using the name Manhattan College in 1861. It was chartered by the Board of Regents on April 2, 1863 and the first catalog stated its goals — to afford young people the means of acquiring the highest grade of education attained in the best American universities or colleges. While classical languages were thoroughly studied, prominence was given to higher mathematics and natural sciences, thus combining the advantages of a first-class College and Polytechnic Institute.
Manhattan College was an unusual institution. Its sponsoring Board of Trustees combined both secular independent members and representatives of the Brothers of the Christian Schools. It also combined excellence in the traditional liberal arts and sciences and excellence in professional and technical education in a single collegiate institution. As the school grew, new quarters were needed. The cornerstone of the “New Manhattan” was laid in 1922 on property bordered by the Hudson River and Van Cortlandt Park, its present location. The addition of new buildings and student residences has enlarged and enhanced the campus significantly. From this accessible site, the college is able to offer access to the cultural, educational, business and entertainment opportunities of New York City as well as a self-contained suburban campus environment.

Today Manhattan College identifies itself as a Catholic College in the Lasallian tradition. That tradition has continued to characterize the special educational experience offered by the College over its long history. Its constant focus has been the education of the disadvantaged. Manhattan has an enviable record in this regard, albeit engaged in the field of higher education. From its beginning, the College has paid particular attention to educating first-generation college students, and was an early proponent of access to disadvantaged and minority students, establishing special scholarship funds as early as 1938. That still holds true today for the impressive percentage of the student body that come from ethnic minorities. So many of our graduates who later on achieved great things in their careers remember that they might have had to leave school were it not for Manhattan’s financial assistance.

The College continues to realize the objectives stated in its first catalog by maintaining a full range of programs in the liberal arts and sciences joined with professional programs in engineering, business, science and education. The quality of the undergraduate programs has been demonstrated by its record as one of the nation’s leading undergraduate sources of doctorates in the arts, sciences, engineering and education, and it is recognized by the establishment of chapters of such prestigious honor societies as Phi Beta Kappa, Sigma Xi, and Tau Beta Pi. Manhattan participates in the Consortium of Liberal Arts Colleges, an organization of the nation’s leading research colleges, and in the New York Cluster of seven colleges and universities supported by the Pew Charitable Trusts for undergraduate science education (Barnard, Colgate, Cornell, Hamilton, Manhattan, St. Lawrence and Union).
Over the years, an evolution has taken place in faculty representation. The predominantly Christian Brothers faculty has been replaced by predominantly lay teachers, and includes both men and women. The College became coeducational and accepted its first women undergraduate students in 1973. Currently, women number nearly half of the full-time undergraduate student body.

With the opening of Horan Hall (1990) and its twin East Hill (2008), the College now offers a four-year guarantee of resident housing and 80 percent of the student body chooses to live on or near campus, while the rest commutes. Currently, the College has a student body of approximately 3,500: 3,000 undergraduates and 500 graduate students. The student-faculty ratio is twelve to one.