Mount Mercy Through the Years

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 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.

1970 – 2000

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. In July 2006 the campus community welcomed the leadership of Dr. Christopher Blake as the eighth president of Mount Mercy, succeeding Dr. Robert Pearce. President Blake’s innovation and guidance was immediately felt on campus. In the next four years, Mount Mercy would add graduate programs in business, education, marriage and family therapy, and nursing, and for the first time in its history offer athletic scholarships. On August 23, 2010, Blake led the institution’s re-designation to Mount Mercy University, making Mount Mercy the only Mercy University in the state of Iowa and one of only four in the Midwest. Under President Blake’s leadership, the College would adopt a new campus master plan, designating the construction of a University Center and Plaza and Walk. Groundbreaking for these projects began in June 2010, heralding the first of many changes to the physical environment on the hill.