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The College of Saint Rose was founded in 1920 by the Sisters of Saint Joseph of Carondelet as a Roman Catholic college for women. Its founders selected the name of Saint Rose to honor the first woman saint in the Americas. The primary academic purpose of the College was the full development of the person through a strong liberal arts curriculum. Initially, emphasis was placed on the professional training of teachers and this emphasis was expanded in the early years to preparation for business and other professions.

As needs in the Albany area increased, the College expanded and revised its programs to meet those needs. An evening division was developed in 1946 to meet the needs of World War II veterans and was reinstituted in 1974 to respond to continuing education needs. In 1949, a graduate school was added to provide master’s degree programs. Men were admitted to both the original evening and the graduate division and, in 1969, the College became fully coeducational.

In 1970, the Board of Trustees was expanded to include laypersons in addition to the Sisters of Saint Joseph. With the formal transfer of control to this Board, The College of Saint Rose became an independent college sponsored by the Sisters of Saint Joseph of Carondelet, Albany Province.