A History of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at St. Joseph’s

The Sisters of St. Joseph established St. Joseph's University in 1916 to better serve the educational needs of women graduating from their high schools across Brooklyn and Long Island. Founded on the values of inclusive love and welcoming the dear neighbor, the University, since its humble beginnings, has provided for the needs of an increasingly diversified student population.

Guided by a fundamental duty to love one another, St. Joseph’s fosters a learning environment open to the exploration and understanding of diverse ideas, traditions and cultures. Our commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion among our students, faculty and staff transcends race, ethnicity, gender, age and marginalized populations.

Female Leadership for Nearly Six Decades

St. Joseph's University appointed its first female president in 1956, naming an alumna — Sister Vincent Thérèse Tuohy ’39, C.S.J., Ph.D. — as its fourth leader. During her time as president, S. Vincent Thérèse launched St. Joseph’s first and second capital campaigns, resulting in the building of McEntegart Hall Library (which opened its doors in 1965) and the Dillon Child Study Center (which relocated to its existing spot on campus in 1968). 

For nearly 60 years, the University was led by a female president. S. Vincent Thérèse was succeeded in 1969 by Sister George Aquin O’Connor, C.S.J., Ph.D. S. Elizabeth A. Hill ’64, C.S.J., J.D. led the institution from 1997 until 2014.

Civil Rights Movement — A Call to Serve

Members of the Sisters of St. Joseph traveled to Selma, Alabama, in the early 1960s to support the civil rights of African Americans. They endured harassment and assaults and were witnesses to brutal and vicious acts of racism. 

The sisters were motivated by a responsibility to serve those in need. Their actions mirrored the mission of St. Joseph's University — by valuing service, social responsibility and integrity. 

In June 2020, members of Sisters of St. Joseph congregations in Brentwood and Rochester gathered in June 2020 for a St. Joseph's University live Zoom presentation of “A Conversation with the Sisters of St. Joseph and Their Work in the Selma Civil Rights Movement.” The sisters shared compelling memories of their experiences working in and around Selma during the early 1960s.

St. Joseph’s Welcomes Its First Male Students

After more than five decades of successfully educating thousands of women for important careers and lives of service, St. Joseph’s admitted its first male students in 1969. This bold move into unchartered territory has resulted in thousands of men and women graduating from the University and changing the world for the better through career success and valuable community service.

Child study major Kenneth Byrne became the first male graduate in 1972 — receiving a standing ovation when his name was called at commencement. Byrne’s milestone graduation led to his 35-year teaching special education and science in schools across New York City.

On the 50th anniversary of the University going co-educational, Byrne fondly recalled his smooth transition to St. Joseph’s as a transfer student and paid tribute to his mentor, Sister Helen Kearney, Ph.D., an assistant professor of child study and a former director of the Dillon Child Study Center. “I got all the essentials at St. Joe’s,” Byrne said, summing up his feelings.

Student Accessibility Services

In a mission spearheaded by the University’s Office of Student Accessibility Services, St. Joseph’s provides equal access to all of its programs and services. By creating a supportive campus environment and employing our student-centered approach, St. Joseph’s maximizes each student’s strengths to ensure they realize their full potential. 

Student Accessibility Services equalize educational opportunities for students with disabilities by supporting educational development and ensuring appropriate accommodations are provided.

Long Island Student Diversity Union

Our Diversity Union delivers an inclusive and welcoming environment where diversity appreciation is celebrated, highly encouraged and cultivated.

Through various events, workshops and programs offered to all St. Joseph’s students, faculty and staff, the University encourages and promotes diversity across the college community. The result is a sense of community and togetherness, united instead of divided by different ethnicities, cultures and viewpoints.

Diversity Union weaves in the University’s commitment to service by supporting Adelante of Suffolk County, a non-profit organization that serves the diverse people of Long Island through a broad range of programs that improve and inspire forward movement in the lives of the families, senior citizens, youth and people of all abilities.

Brooklyn Campus Named a Hispanic-Serving Campus

Our  Brooklyn campus was named one of the “Best Hispanic-Serving Institutions in America” by Niche in 2021, ranking 43rd out of more than 350 schools, and it has been recognized as a Hispanic-serving institution by the Hispanic Association of Colleges & Universities. 

Hispanic students make up the second largest group of learners at the campus.