Mission and History

The name Siena honors St. Catherine of Siena, a 14th century Italian Dominican who dedicated her life to a quest for truth and social responsibility. Similarly, the mission of the institution—to help students become more competent, purposeful and ethical—grows out of the philosophy Siena.

Throughout its history, Siena Heights has built a proud tradition of innovative response to challenging social needs. Originally a college for women who intended to become teachers, Siena broadened its offerings over the years and by the 1950s was recognized as one of the nation’s 10 best liberal arts colleges for women.

Students on bicycles outside Archangelus Hall 1950s,

The mission of Siena Heights University, a Catholic University founded and sponsored by the Adrian Dominican Sisters, is to assist people to become more competent, purposeful, and ethical through a teaching and learning environment which respects the dignity of all.

Siena Heights University Mission Statement

in 1969...

In 1969, Siena Heights became coeducational and expanded its curriculum to include programs in business and human services. In the 1970s, Siena Heights took a pioneering role in providing opportunities for adult students by offering evening and weekend classes and opening degree completion centers in Southfield, Mich., and in Toledo, Ohio.


On July 1, 1998, Siena Heights College was renamed Siena Heights University.


Founded as St. Joseph’s College for women

Renamed Siena Heights College, honoring St. Catherine of Siena, Italy

Became coeducational

Initiated first degree-completion program for working adults in Southfield

Renamed Siena Heights University

Siena Heights University celebrated 100th anniversary.

Past Presidents

Mother Camilla Madden, OP

Mother Camilla
Madden, OP


Mother Augustine Walsh

Mother Augustine Walsh


Mother Mary Gerald Barry

Mother Mary Gerald Barry


Sister Benedicta Marie Ledwidge

Sister Benedicta Marie Ledwidge


Sister Petronilla Francoeur, OP

Sister Petronilla Francoeur, OP


Dr. Hugh Lee Thompson

Dr. Hugh Lee Thompson


Dr. Louis C. Vaccaro

Dr. Louis C. Vaccaro


Former University President Dr. Cathleen C. Real.

Dr. Cathleen C. Real, C.H.M.


Dr. Richard Artman

Dr. Richard Artman


Sister Mary Margaret (Peg) Albert, OP, PhD


Doug Palmer Photo

Douglas B. Palmer, PhD


Archive photos

To learn more about Siena Heights History and view more photos from the archives, please visit our Centennial Anniversary website:

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