Webster College history

Webster College was founded as Loretto College by the Sisters of Loretto in 1915, becoming the first senior Catholic college for women in Missouri and one of the first Catholic women’s colleges west of the Mississippi River. It was progressive for its time, providing higher education to women at a time when most prominent Catholic universities were not coeducational.


Change and innovation characterized life at Webster College in the 1960s. In 1964, Webster College launched its first graduate degree, a Master of Arts in Teaching program for teaching professionals in full-time employment. That same year the college opened an elementary school (later known as The College School) where faculty and students could have firsthand experience with curriculum development. The decade was also marked by the decision to eliminate required general education courses and to become fully coeducational in 1968.


Thus it comes as no surprise that the groundbreaking Madison Project found a home at Webster College. Webster’s vice-president, Sr. Jacqueline Grennan, S.L., was instrumental in bringing Dr. Robert Davis and the Madison Project to campus. Grennan, who had experience teaching high school math, wrote extensively on curriculum reform and teacher education. She understood that “the proper objective of good learning is the grasp of the structure of the discipline…and that the proper method of good learning is the discovery by the student of this structure.” 1


In 1967, Webster transferred ownership to a lay board and became the first U.S. Catholic college to become legally secular. At the same time, Grennan (who had become president of Webster College two years earlier) left her religious order but remained at the institution until 1969 when she married and become president of Hunter College in New York.


By the time Webster became Webster University in 1983, the institution had expanded to provide an array of graduate programs for the working adult at metro and military sites throughout the United States and Europe. Today over 100 extended campuses continue the tradition established by the Sisters of Loretto so long ago of taking quality, innovative education to eager students all over the world.




1Sister M. Jacqueline, S.L. (1962, December). An intensive model for implementing curriculum materials reform in elementary education. Unpublished manuscript, Webster College.