Mother Irene Gill, O.S.U., founded the College of St. Angela as the first Catholic college for women in New York State in 1904, sixteen years before women won the right to vote. On September 12, twelve freshman began classes in Leland Castle. At that time, young women were generally excluded from higher education, making the task set out for the College’s Ursuline foundresses an important one.
In the first decade of the College, Leland Castle served as the living, studying, and recreational center for all students. Later a large gymnasium and classroom building, now known as Chidwick, was constructed, and Maura Hall was built to accommodate the growing student body. Various student organizations were formed, several of which still exist: student government, Props and Paint (now CNR Drama), the student literary magazine Quarterly (now called the Phoenix) and the yearbook Annales.
As the College entered its second decade, a B.S. degree program was established. World War I found many CNR students involved in fund-raising and volunteer work for the war effort. In the early 1920s, the first issue of the campus newspaper, Tatler, was published, and work began on Brescia Hall. The Chapel was completed in 1923.
In the third decade, the sudden decline from national prosperity into economic depression, propelled the campus toward change. To meet the increasingly important need for career preparation, a concentration in Secretarial Studies was inaugurated, more courses in journalism, economics, sociology, and business administration were offered, and a Vocational Bureau provided career counseling and job placement for students and alumnae. Brescia Hall was completed in 1926, the Science Building in 1927, and the Sports Building in 1931.
In 1935, the beginning of the fourth decade, Mother Irene Gill, O.S.U. died. Her legacy was a College with an enrollment of over 700. Mother Irene had lived to see the College become the nation's largest Catholic women's college. The Mother Irene Gill Memorial Library was named in her honor in 1938.
As the Depression drew to a close, rumors of another world war grew. Soon, professors were drafted, and the war itself introduced rationing, blackout shades, and fewer dates for dances. The College offered courses in motor mechanics, Morse code, and civil defense. Students saved, knitted, and worked in factories, while heeding the government's plea to remain in college.
The fifth decade and the end of the second world war brought an emphasis on co-curricular activities that focused on service, as CNR joined the National Student Association and the National Federation of Catholic College Students. In 1949, the Dining Hall (now the Student Campus Center) was completed, and Maura's old dining room was transformed into a ballroom. The College's curriculum was strengthened with the introduction of a core concentration program.
During the College’s sixth decade, three new buildings, Angela, Xavier (now the Mooney Center), and Ursula Halls, were constructed. Reflecting the upheaval of American society and its changing mores, students took a more active interest not only in studies, but also in politics and in the administration of the College. A new form of student government, introduced in 1963, paved the way for greater student participation in policy-making.
The College entered its seventh decade with a strong sense of both tradition and progress. With the late 1960's came a return to the earlier, broader interpretation of the mission of the College. Married women, usually somewhat older than the typical CNR undergraduate, were permitted to matriculate. In 1968, in response to local needs and a reawakened sense of service to educationally disadvantaged women, CNR developed a scholarship program for African-American students from the Westchester area.
A master's degree program in art education was introduced in 1969, followed by the introduction of an M.S. in education in reading, to meet the needs of teachers in the surrounding area. The new graduate programs opened the doors of CNR to men as well as to women students. An enriching diversity of students appeared on campus. During this period, Rogick Life –Sciences Building was completed and Chidwick became the center of the Graduate School.
In 1972, an innovative baccalaureate liberal arts program designed to address the needs of adult learners living in a complex urban world was introduced through the School of New Resources. After the establishment of the School's New Rochelle Campus, the DC-37 Campus at DC-37 Headquarters in Manhattan followed, representing the only full-degree program offered at a union faculty in the country. The contribution of New Resources served to further diversify and enrich The College of New Rochelle.
As the seventh decade drew to a close, New Resources added its third campus at Co-op City, and the College was reorganized into three Schools: the School of Arts & Sciences (continuing the tradition of enrolling only women), the Graduate School, and the School of New Resources, with each school headed by its own dean.
The eighth decade brought the knowledge that society required capable and dedicated leadership in the health care professions. With a vision dedicated to the education of contemporary professional nurses, the School of Nursing was founded in 1976, receiving full accreditation from the National League for Nursing in 1980.
Continuing the College's mission to provide higher education to those who, previously, have not had access to it, the late 1970s saw the addition of four more campuses for the School of New Resources, the New York Theological Seminary Campus in Manhattan, the South Bronx Campus (providing the only four-year college degree program for adults in the South Bronx) and the Brooklyn and Harlem campuses. In 1984, the Harlem Campus was named in honor of civil rights leader Rosa Parks, and in 2000 the South Bronx Campus was named in honor of John Cardinal O’Connor, Archbishop of New York.
The College of New Rochelle has always fostered the belief that reflection on the significance of cultural trends brings greater understanding, appreciation and enjoyment. In 1980, in direct response to a growing interest in the arts throughout Westchester and to offer a new cultural resource for student, faculty and the entire community, the Castle Gallery was founded in the west wing of Leland Castle.
The College continued to evolve and develop during the ninth decade. The School of Nursing added a masters degree program and accelerated degree programs for R.N.s, transfers, and second-degree students.
In 1988, following a dramatic renovation of Xavier, the College opened the College Center. Devoted to the development of women's potential for leadership and full participation in an increasingly technological society, the Center houses Romita Auditorium, an art gallery, model classroom, TV studio, and graphic arts, journalism, photography, and computer labs. In 2000, the Center was renamed at the Helen & Peter Mooney Arts & Educational Technology Center.
As the College moved into its ninth decade, the Dining Hall was renovated to include modern food service stations and an attractive, comfortable seating area, a completely renovated bookstore, student activity rooms, and meeting rooms and lounges designed to hold large groups of people for lectures and special events.
A major renovation of Mother Irene Gill Library was completed in 2002, transforming the library into a state-of-the-art facility able to meet the educational needs of today’s students with 200,000 holdings, 200 data-ports and 40 computer stations offering a variety of computer capabilities, including access to Gill Library’s extensive online databases and the Internet.
As the College, marked its Centennial year in 2004, it celebrated its remarkable growth that had taken it from a college with 12 students to one with four schools and over 4,500 students on six campuses in New Rochelle and throughout New York City.
In 2008, the College marked another milestone with the first new construction on campus in four decades – the completion of the Wellness Center, a $28 million facility, which offers a holistic learning environment that will serve as the hub for integrated interdisciplinary health and wellness education programs, and features a gymnasium with a competition-size basketball and volleyball court and arena-style bleachers for 1,000, interior running track suspended above the gym floor, six-lane NCAA competition-size swimming pool, fitness and weight room, technologically equipped classrooms, holistic meditation room, and a contemplation roof garden.