Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur 175th anniversary: Emmanuel College -- Mission made manifest

Emmanuel College is a Catholic, co-educational, residential institution with a beautiful 17-acre campus in the heart of Boston's educational, scientific, cultural, and medical communities. Emmanuel provides a welcoming, rigorous, and values-based educational experience rooted in the vision of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, who opened the college in 1919.

The college's earliest roots reach back to 1804 when St. Julie Billiart and Francoise Blin de Bourdon established the Sisters of Notre Dame in France. From the beginning, St. Julie made education a vital part of the congregation's charism. This commitment was partly in response to a scarcity of education in France in the wake of the French Revolution and during and after the Napoleonic Wars. A century later and an ocean away, a similar lack of educational opportunity existed in New England. Although the region was home to many colleges at the turn of the 20th century, there was no Catholic college for women.

Emmanuel's story began in 1912 when the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur purchased 11 acres of land in the Fenway. The sisters envisioned a college that would, as Sister Helen Madeline Ingraham, SNDdeN, would write, "provide a liberal arts education which would lack none of the advantages offered to women by colleges in or near Boston, which would at the same time be integrated with Catholic principles." Dean of the college from its founding in 1919 through 1950, Sister Helen Madeleine has long been considered the founder of Emmanuel for her leadership in moving the college from an idea to a thriving reality. "Establishing Emmanuel," she wrote in her memoir, "was like a mountain that had to be moved. And, then again, it was like a dream."

For more than 80 years, Emmanuel served proudly as a Catholic liberal arts and sciences college for women and enjoyed a reputation for academic rigor and a commitment to social justice. In 2001, it officially became a co-educational institution, expanding its educational mission to include young men in its undergraduate arts and sciences program. This transition, paired with the college's entrance into a unique partnership with Merck and Co., created the conditions for the transformation of Emmanuel's enrollment, campus, and programs.

In the years that followed, Emmanuel College added new facilities, including the Jean Yawkey Student Center, the Maureen Murphy Wilkens Science Center, and the Wilkens School of Nursing and Clinical Sciences. In 2009, the college partnered with the City of Boston and the Yawkey Foundation to restore Roberto Clemente Field, across the street from the campus, to serve as Emmanuel's home athletic field. Emmanuel completed the restoration of the historic Eisner Administration Building in 2013. And in 2018, the college opened its newest and largest building, an 18-story, apartment-style residence hall.

Consistent with its commitment to educating the whole student, Emmanuel College also has made considerable investments to enrich academic programs and the vibrancy of campus life. With a forward-looking and entrepreneurial spirit, Emmanuel in recent years has established new academic programs in rising fields, introduced guaranteed internships throughout Boston, and expanded opportunities for undergraduate students to collaborate with faculty on world-class research and scholarship. Many of these innovative learning experiences capitalize on the college's close proximity to leading organizations in business, medicine, education, finance, technology, social services and other fields.

Beth Ross, Ed.D., who in January 2024 was named the 14th president of Emmanuel, continues to ensure the vitality of the college's mission and the richness of the student experience. In addition, she sustains a steadfast commitment to Emmanuel's core values, which emphasize intellectual inquiry and integrity, a commitment to justice and peace, a strong sense of community, and service to others.

Today, as always, Emmanuel students address complex realities across diverse areas of inquiry, drawing on deep connections formed through the study of the liberal arts and sciences and a chosen discipline. Inspired by Catholic social teachings and the values of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, students honor the dignity of every human person and cultivate a strong sense of social, ethical, and civic responsibility. Emmanuel graduates are characterized by their capacity to apply knowledge to real-world challenges, engage in creative and ethical problem-solving, and make valuable contributions to their organizations, professions and communities.

Sister Janet Eisner, SNDdeN, is President Emerita of Emmanuel College. She is known as "Emmanuel's second founder" in recognition of the transformative leadership she demonstrated during her historic tenure as president of Emmanuel from 1979 to 2022.