The University of Mary
– Leading, Serving, Growing since 1959

University Drive SignageSince the University of Mary’s beginnings in the mid-1950s, its history has been one of rapid expansion. Founded in 1955 by the Benedictine Sisters of Annunciation Monastery as a two-year school, the former Mary College became a four-year degree-granting institution in 1959. It achieved university status – becoming the University of Mary – in 1986.

The University of Mary is the only private, Catholic university in North Dakota, incorporating in 1959 with an enrollment of 69 students. From those humble beginnings, the University of Mary has grown to a fall 2007 enrollment of 2,842 – with 31 states represented and 18 other countries, ranging from Brazil to Kenya to Yugoslavia – and to be one of the top 10 employers in Bismarck-Mandan with over 500 employees.

U-Mary Nursing student, 1960sEver mindful of its mission to serve the region’s religious, academic, and cultural needs, the University of Mary continually strives for quality in its academic and co-curricular programs. In all areas of study, special emphasis is given to leadership and entrepreneurship by “America’s Leadership University.” The college that began by offering two programs to help adult nurses and teachers earn undergraduate degrees is now a university with 44 majors, ranging from accounting to theology; master’s degrees in business administration, counseling, education, nursing, management, project management, and occupational therapy; and a Doctor of Physical Therapy.

The University has always been keenly aware of the needs of Bismarck and surrounding area, and has continued its mission by expanding learning options, making education accessible to working adults and supporting lifelong learning. In 1982, the Butler Center for Lifelong Learning opened in south Bismarck. The University of Mary School of Accelerated and Distance Education now offers accelerated undergraduate and graduate programs for adult learners at the Butler Center, along with centers in Fargo; Billings, Mont.; and Kansas City, Mo. Through those centers, the University of Mary offers degree programs in 16 cities and online.

In 2001, the University of Mary unveiled its new vision as America’s Leadership University. In this role, the university is committed to developing future leaders with a commitment to Benedictine values in a spirit of servant-leadership and providing leadership experiences for every student.

U-Mary CommencementThe University of Mary has long been an important aspect of the business community in Bismarck and all of North Dakota. This was furthered in 2006 when the Tharaldson School of Business was launched. Named for North Dakota hospitality entrepreneur and industry innovator Gary Tharaldson, the school is a new model for preparing students for business careers that is uniquely designed to bridge the gap between the academic and business world.

That same year, leadership was taken to a new level when the University of Mary became a member of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division II and the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, setting a new standard of quality in programs campus-wide.

Today, with a student-to-faculty ratio of 16 to 1 and post-graduation placement rate of 98 percent, the University of Mary remains committed to continuing the mission of its founders and to serving the people of the region in a spirit that fosters servant-leadership. For more information on the University of Mary, please visit

Aerial photo of the U-Mary campus

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