A Catholic University in the Mercy Charism

Our History | A Catholic University in the Mercy Charism

The Sisters of Mercy established Mount Mercy Junior College in 1928 with the purpose of filling a need – the need to unite people with opportunity through high quality, values-based education.

Mount Mercy flourished as a junior college, and continued to have success as a four-year institution. Over the years, Mount Mercy has added new programs and curriculum which were reflective of the mission and values of the original institution. Today, Mount Mercy University’s available course offerings are tailored to meet the needs of those who live and work around campus in the same spirit of our founders.


The Sisters of Mercy purchased Mound Farm and Greene mansion in 1907 after leasing the property in 1906, a move that would lay the groundwork for Mount Mercy Junior College, which was opened by the Sisters on September 9, 1928. Students who enrolled in the junior college received a low cost Catholic education from the Sisters, who worked tirelessly to provide a rich education in the name of Catherine McAuley. For the next 30 years, Mount Mercy thrived as a two-year institution for women.


It wasn’t until the 1950s that the Sisters’ vision of a four year college came to fruition. They decided that the community surrounding Mount Mercy would benefit from a baccalaureate institution in the heart of Cedar Rapids, and after receiving accreditation from The Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, Mount Mercy became a four year college in 1960.


The 1960s proved to be a decade of further change for the students, faculty, and staff of Mount Mercy. Regina Hall was built in 1965, providing the first on-campus housing since students first began residence in Warde Hall. Soon after, Mount Mercy opened its doors to both male and female students by officially becoming co-educational in 1969.


Throughout the next 30 years, Mount Mercy met the physical demands of a growing student population. Donnelly Center was opened in 1975, followed by Hennessey Recreation Center (1985), Busse Center (1993), Lundy Commons (1995) and Betty Cherry Heritage Hall (1996). Students utilized these spaces for classes, course work, athletic endeavors, co-curricular activities, and for socializing – and with these new facilities came increased opportunities. By 1997, students had the option to write for the Mount Mercy Times, to participate in a robust athletic program with 13 NAIA varsity sports, and adult students were welcomed into the ADVANCE program, a partnership with Kirkwood Community College.


Many years had passed since Mount Mercy was a junior college, but the feeling of imminent change was much the same in 2006 as it was in 1956. The College had recently completed construction on Andreas House (2001), a residence suite for upperclassmen, and Basile Hall (2003), adding additional classroom and laboratory space for business, biology, chemistry, physics and other programs. On August 23, 2010, the institution was re-designated to Mount Mercy University, making Mount Mercy the only Mercy University in the state of Iowa and one of only four in the Midwest. Construction began on the University Center in the heart of Mount Mercy’s main campus in 2010 and the facility opened in 2011 offering the campus community a beautiful space to socialize and study.


In 2012 the University announced plans to renovate the former army and navy training center at 1650 Matterhorn Drive NE into the Mount Mercy University CRST International Graduate Center. The center began hosting classes in 2013 and is home to Mount Mercy’s low-cost Olson Marriage and Family Therapy Clinic as well as six graduate programs: Master of Business Administration, Master of Science in Nursing, Master of Arts in Education, Master of Strategic Leadership, Master of Arts in Marriage and Family Therapy, and Master of Arts in Criminal Justice. June 2013 marked a special announcement for the University’s athletics— the purchase of 22 acres adjacent to the main campus on 17th Street NE would become Mount Mercy’s first outdoor athletic complex. Demolition began on the property in April 2014. The facility, completed in September 2017, is home to softball, baseball, an all-purpose track, multipurpose practice field, and a soccer field. For the first time in the institution’s history, outdoor athletes have a home field advantage. Mount Mercy University’s ninth president, Laurie M. Hamen, J.D. assumed the role in February 2014 and continues to guide the University with the same strength, courage and vision as her predecessors.