Our History

Reverend Walter W. Curtis

Most Reverend Walter W. CurtisSacred Heart University was founded in 1963 by the Most Reverend Walter W. Curtis, second bishop of the Diocese of Bridgeport, to provide an institution of higher education that would serve the people of the diocese and region, regardless of sex, race, creed or religion. In October 1962, Bishop Curtis announced both the plan to open a college the following September, and its name, “Sacred Heart.” The choice of the name had a dual origin: it was the name of the bishop’s first pastorate in Bloomfield, N.J., and was a pledge from the bishop attesting to the value of such an institution.

Signs of the University’s growth and vibrancy are evident. Enrollment has risen from the original class of fewer than 200 undergraduate students to approximately 8,500 full-time and part-time undergraduate and graduate students. Over the years, Sacred Heart has grown to become the second-largest Catholic university in New England and, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education, one of the fastest-growing Catholic Universities in the country.

The University has enhanced the undergraduate student experience in many notable ways. In 1990, it accepted, for the first time, students who wanted the residential experience. It now has 11 residential areas, with approximately 92 percent of first-year students and 57 percent of all undergraduates residing in University housing.

‌New degree programs and majors in relevant disciplines are regularly added to our curriculum, and the University now offers more than 70 undergraduate, graduate, doctoral and certificate programs on its main campus in Fairfield, Conn., and satellites in Stamford, Luxembourg and Ireland. The University consists of five colleges and two schools: College of Arts & SciencesSchool of Communication & Media ArtsSchool of Computing, the AACSB-accredited Jack Welch College of BusinessCollege of Health ProfessionsCollege of Nursing, and Isabelle Farrington School of Education. Sacred Heart was recently ranked Top 4 most innovative university as well as one of the best universities in the North, according to U.S. News & World Report’s guidebook, Best Colleges 2018. This is partly due to the University's remarkable expansion, innovation and growth over the last decade.

The University offers Division I athletics with 32 varsity teams. The William H. Pitt Health and Recreation Center is currently available to all students, but will become the exclusive domain of the D-1 athletes when the University completes construction on the Bobby Valentine Athletic Center in fall 2019. This state-of-the-art recreation center will be open to all students and will include a suspended track, bowling lanes and a climbing wall.

The campus currently comprises more than 300 acres of land, including The Great River 18-Hole Golf Course and the former global headquarters of General Electric, which is now SHU’s West Campus. West Campus currently houses the College of Education, with plans for the College of Business, including the School of Computing and the new hospitality, resort and tourism program, to move to that site. West Campus will be an innovative campus with a maker space for engineering students and incubator space where business students can work with local business people on projects.

‌The Frank and Marisa Martire Business & Communications Center is the current home of the Jack Welch College of Business and School of Communication & Media Arts. Our newest academic building, The Center for Healthcare Education, opened in the fall of 2017 with 117,000 square feet of exceptional laboratory and learning facilities. In addition, the campus boasts two new residence halls. ‌Located in the heart of campus, Jorge Bergoglio Hall houses over 200 students in two-bedroom pods with a shared bathroom. And located in our newly constructed Upper Quad, Pierre Toussaint Hall, formerly known as the Jewish Home property, is the beginning of a new residential village that will include student housing, an old fashioned-themed dining hall, JP’s Diner, and other dining options.

An ever-widening outreach to the community balances the University’s commitment to academic excellence. More than 1,500 students, faculty and staff members volunteer in excess of 100,000 hours to community service each year.

To read more about our history, download "1963", by Michael W. Higgins, Ph.D., Distinguished Professor of Catholic Thought.

Old photo of SHU Campus