History of Ohio Dominican

Ohio Dominican University has a rich history, notable alumni and significant milestones that have contributed to its success and identity as Central Ohio's only Catholic university.

Our Founding

A black and white photo of two students from the 1950s sitting near the College of St. Mary of the Spring sign that used to sit along Sunbury Road. ODU celebrates Oct. 5, 1911 as Founders Day, but our history dates back as far as 1822 with the formation of our founding congregation, known today as the Dominican Sisters of Peace.

Originally from Springfield, Kentucky, and later Somerset, Ohio, the sisters relocated to Columbus in 1868, identifying a local need for Catholic higher education training for girls and young women.

In 1911, the Sisters would receive a charter from the State of Ohio for what would become the College of St. Mary of the Springs, which operated as an all-women's college until 1964 when it became co-educational. Then, in 1968, the name was changed to Ohio Dominican College, reflecting our Dominican faith and founding by the Dominican Sisters. In 2002, we launched master's degree programs and changed our name (and status) to what we all know and love today, Ohio Dominican University.

ODU Through the Years

We invite you to click on "ODU Timeline" below for more details and highlights from the past two hundred years, and swipe through the photos below to see moments from ODU's history. You can also learn more by visiting the History Wall located on the first floor of the Griffin Student Center near the entrance to the Campus Store.


1822 » The first Congregation of American women begins in Springfield, Kentucky after Sister Angela Sansbury and eight other young women respond to a Dominican priest, Samuel Wilson, who appealed to them to devote their lives as Dominicans religious to do the work of the Church.

1830 » Four Dominican Sisters move from Kentucky to Somerset, Ohio to open an academy for girls, St. Mary’s Academy.


1866 » The Chapel adjoining St. Mary’s catches fire from an unsafe flue, destroying practically everything. The Congregation must decide whether to rebuild or relocate.

1868 » After receiving an offer of 20 acres of land and all the bricks they would need from a local businessman, Theodore Leonard, the Sisters relocate to northeast Columbus and reopen St. Mary’s Academy.

1870 – 1910 » The Sisters embrace teaching as their mission and regard it as the purpose for which the Dominican Order was established. Mother Vincentia Erskine and the Sisters identify a local need for Catholic higher education training for girls and young women.     


1911 » The school is chartered by the State of Ohio as the Literary Institute of St. Mary of the Springs to offer classes.

1912 » Wehrle Art Memorial opens. Dedicated June 24, Wehrle Hall is home to art studios, classrooms, faculty offices and the Wehrle Art Gallery.

1924 » The school formally opens as the College of St. Mary of the Springs, a four-year liberal arts institution.

1929 » The College receives certification from the state to offer Bachelor of Science in Education, Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Music and Master of Music degrees. Construction begins on Erskine and Sansbury Halls. 

1930 » The Great Depression hits and the College faces foreclosure after it defaults on an $800,000 bond. Sisters stand at church doors begging for donations. Columbus attorney James Boulger gets the debt refinanced. 

1934 » The College is given unconditional North Central accreditation.

1941 » St. Albert Hall, featuring classrooms and science labs, opens.

1949 » Financial difficulties plague the College; however, a local lawyer and banker help to pay off the College and Academy loans.


1963 » The College becomes legally and financially separated from the Dominican Sisters congregation and assumes independent governance.

1964 » The College becomes coeducational.

1966 » St. Mary of the Springs Academy closes.

1968 » The College is renamed Ohio Dominican College on July 1.

1978 » Sister Mary Andrew Matesich, OP is unanimously elected president and serves for 23 years until her retirement in 2001.

1980s – 1990s » The institution articulates its mission statement, placing emphasis on serving first-generation college students.


2002 » Ohio Dominican College is renamed Ohio Dominican University on July 1. ODU introduces master’s programs in Business Administration, Liberal Arts and Theology.

2004 » Panther Stadium is constructed and ODU launches a football program. The number of overall varsity athletic teams soon doubles.

2009 » The Bishop James A. Griffin Student Center opens. Named for former ODU Interim President and Columbus Diocese Bishop Emeritus James Anthony Griffin.

2010 » Battelle Hall, a state-of-the art science building, opens. Featuring seven instructional labs, three research labs, six core labs, an autoclave, a cadaver lab and collaborative workspace, the 25,000 square foot facility was funded in part by a $2.5 million gift from Battelle, the world’s largest independent research and development organization.

2011 » ODU’s athletic programs transition from NAIA to NCAA Division II, becoming the only Division II program in the region.

2012 » Renovations to St. Albert Hall are completed as ODU’s Master of Science in Physician Assistant Studies program welcomes its first class.  

2017 » The Dominican Sisters of Peace make a $1.5 million gift to establish programs in healthcare. ODU’s building on Airport Drive is renamed Peace Hall.

2023 » ODU's Master of Science in Anesthesiologist Studies program welcomes its first class as the program launches in the newly renovated Peace Hall.

More About ODU

  • Sister Stephanie Mohun, 1911 - 1914
  • Sister Constance Keelty, 1914 - 1917
  • Sister Justina Hogan, 1917 - 1920
  • Sister Maria Theresa, 1920 - 1923
  • Sister Regina Murphy, 1923 - 1926
  • Sister Adele Heffley, 1926 - 1932
  • Sister Bernardine Lynam, 1932 - 1935
  • Sister Aloyse Fitzpatrick, 1935 - 1944
  • Sister Anacletus Oger, 1944 - 1947
  • Sister Angelita Conley, 1947 - 1964
  • Sister Suzanne Uhrhane, 1964 - 1978
  • Sister Mary Andrew Matesich, 1978 - 2001
  • Jack Calareso, Ph.D., 2001 - 2007
  • The Most Rev. James A. Griffin, 2007 - 2008 (interim)
  • Brian Nedwek, Ph.D., 2008 - 2009
  • Ronald J. Seiffert, 2009 - 2010 (interim)
  • Peter Cimbolic, Ph.D., 2010 - 2017
  • Robert Gervasi, Ph.D., 2017 - 2021
  • Connie Gallaher, 2021–2023

It is widely believed that Janet Leppert (Class of 1939) wrote the words and Sister Francis Borgia Lally (Class of 1929) wrote the music for Ohio Dominican University’s “Alma Mater.”

Janet Leppert was a great writer who earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in Art. Sister Francis was a gifted musician who graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Music. 

Alma Mater of Ohio Dominican 

May fame be yours through all the world 
Attesting to your lasting truth. 
While banners in the wind unfurled 
Proclaim your leadership of youth. 
Proclaim your leadership of youth. 
Alma Mater. 

You’ve taught us how to live aright. 
You've made your hopes our ideals, too. 
And even though so great the heights 
You spur us on ’til death ensue. 
You spur us on ’til death ensue. 
Alma Mater  

Ohio Dominican University shield logoThe Ohio Dominican University logo consists of the name of the university and the date it was founded around an escutcheon, or shield. At the center of the shield is a flame.

The colors of Ohio Dominican are white, black and gold, which are the colors of the Dominican Order and the Papacy.

The black and white colors signify the university’s tie to the 800-year-old tradition of the Order of Preachers, whose members are known for their commitment to the life of study and service through excellence in preaching and teaching the Word.

The inclusion of the papal gold signifies the university’s service to the Church.

The shield is two-thirds black and one-third white, which suggests the habit of the Dominicans. The habit is white and the cappa, or cloak, is black.

The flame, superimposed upon a field of white, carries several meanings. Just as light enables sight, liberal education enables insight and human development.

As an institution of higher education, the university offers to all sincere seekers of the Truth the chance to do so through the liberating education it offers.

A legend about St. Dominic tells that before he was born, his mother had a dream in which she saw a dog carrying in its mouth a flaming torch, the torch of Truth, that his Order would eventually carry into the world.

The flame also symbolizes the fire of the Holy Spirit, Who gives wisdom, understanding, good counsel, courage, knowledge, piety and fear of the Lord.

The hope of Ohio Dominican is that this fire will burn in the hearts of all of its students so that they, using their gifts, might engage in the renewal of the world.

Learn More about ODU's Logo and Brand

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