Monday, September 30, 2013

A Brief History of the College of Saint Teresa

The College of Saint Teresa was a Catholic women's college in Winona, Minnesota. Founded as a women's seminary, it became a college in 1907 and ceased operations in 1989. John Bellairs taught here beginning fifty years ago this month, between September 1963 and spring 1965.


The Milwaukee School Sisters of Saint Frances purchased land in western Winona, and on December 15, 1886, the Archbishop of Saint Paul, John Ireland, dedicated the building for Saint Mary's Academy.  Later, following additions, it became Saint Mary's Hall, the first building of the College of Saint Teresa [1].

In 1888, the property was transferred to Archbishop Ireland, and the Sisters of Saint Joseph of Carondelet opened a hospital in Saint Mary's Hall in the summer of 1888. The hospital closed after a few months.  Two years later, Archbishop Ireland transferred the property's title to Bishop John Cotter, bishop of the newly-formed Diocese of Winona.  In 1894, Cotter sold the land to the Academy of Our Lady of Lourdes, who named the campus the Winona Seminary for Ladies.  The first classes were on September 4, 1894, with 59 students [1].

College work for Sisters began at the Winona Seminary in 1907 [2], with lay students admitted to college courses in 1909.  In February 1912, the Sisters of Saint Francis of Our Lady of Lourdes sent a formal announcement the institution would be known as the College of Saint Teresa [1].


The college constructed Saint Cecilia and Teresa Halls in the early 1910s. Lourdes Hall, the first dormitory, opened in 1928.  The campus eventually expanded to eleven buildings over 70 acres of land.

The first commencement of college graduates was in 1914, the same year its yearbook, the Aldine, was published.

In 1920 a nursing program was added [3]. The college conferred its first Bachelor of Arts degree in Nursing in 1928 and awarded the Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing in 1946 [4]. Throughout the years, the college's most vital area of study was nursing, having begun at the request of the prestigious Mayo Clinic in nearby Rochester. Its proximity allowed students to get first-hand experience in the medical field.


By the late 1960s, enrollment would exceed 1,300 women, but, following the changes stemming from the Second Vatican Council, nuns across the country left their orders which meant hiring more expensive lay faculty [3].

Student enrollment suffered, too, as the nearby men's college, Saint Mary's College (now Saint Mary's University of Minnesota), became coeducational in 1969.  Competition for students was intense between the two colleges.  While Saint Teresa's eventually did admit some men on a commuting basis, the two institutions did not collaborate on shared semester schedules or course work like other pairs of men and women's Catholic colleges had done in the same era.

Unable to compete or survive, the college graduated its last class in the spring of 1989.


Buildings on campus are now individually owned by Winona State University, Saint Mary's University of Minnesota, and Cotter High School, a private Catholic school. The Alumnae Association of the College of Saint Teresa maintains an office in the former Tea House.


  • [1] Design in Gold: A History of the College of Saint Teresa; Sister M. Bernetta Quinn (1957).
  • [2] Aldine (p. 113); The College of Saint Teresa (1967).
  • [3] "Pieces of the Past: Celebrating Winona's First 150 Years"; Erin Chistenson, Winona Daily News (2001).
  • [4] "The College of Saint Teresa Celebrating 100 Years"; Frances Muraine Bowler Edstrom, Winona Post (July 4, 2007).

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