Mission & History


Our Mission

Grounded in its Lasallian, Catholic, and liberal arts heritage, Saint Mary’s College is a student-centered learning community committed to transformative, equitable, and inclusive teaching, the passionate pursuit of knowledge, and expansive access to a practical education that empowers students to make lasting change in the world. Dive deeper into the mission on which the College was founded, and you’ll see how these principles guide the educational work of Saint Mary’s:   

  • To probe deeply the mystery of existence by cultivating the ways of knowing and the arts of thinking.
  • To affirm and foster the Christian understanding of the human person which animates the educational mission of the Catholic Church.
  • To create a student-centered educational community whose members support one another with mutual understanding and respect. 

Explore these ideas in depth by reading the full mission statement.  And experience that mission in action for yourself on campus—in the classroom, in conversations, and through coming to know the Saint Mary’s community. 

Read Our Full Mission Statement

Original Saint Mary's College Building

Our History

From our earliest days, Saint Mary’s has been committed to making exemplary education accessible to all. When Joseph Alemany, San Francisco’s first archbishop, first conceived of our college in the 1850s, he envisioned an affordable school for the children of working people—the miners, mechanics, and farmers of the rugged West. This was the mission inscribed into the cornerstone of our first campus, laid on August 3, 1862: “for the instruction of the youth of California, not in literature merely, but what is greater, in true Christian knowledge." For 160 years, Saint Mary’s has emphasized service, pursued justice—social, economic, and racial—and developed respectful partnerships with underserved communities. We have engaged tens of thousands of students in an intellectually rigorous, transformative whole-person experience. Each generation of faculty and staff has encouraged a culture of collective inquiry and innovative thinking that spills out of our Moraga classrooms and into the wider world

Our Core Traditions

Students discussing a topic in a seminar class

The Lasallian Tradition

The Lasallian tradition is to broaden the reach of education, promote social justice, and pursue scholarship in a community of equals.

The Catholic Tradition

Every member of the SMC community is treated with dignity and has a license to explore the tension between faith and reason, law and morality, individual liberty, and social justice.

The Liberal Arts Tradition

Our students become disciplined, expansive thinkers capable of exemplary scholarship and meaningful action.

Statue of De La Salle in front of the Chapel

Our Christian Brothers

Founded by St. John Baptist de la Salle, the Brothers of the Christian Schools is the world’s largest Roman Catholic order dedicated to teaching. At Saint Mary’s, the Christian Brothers guide our community with a passion for education and service.