Christian Brothers College was founded November 19, 1871, by members of the Institute of the Brothers of Christian Schools, a Roman Catholic religious teaching congregation. The Brothers came to Memphis at the request of the people and clergy of the city, a move which culminated more than a decade of efforts to persuade the Brothers to open a college in Memphis.
Brother Maurelian was appointed the first President. Brother Maurelian's two terms as President totalled 33 years. During his presidency, the Brothers purchased the 612 Adams Street building which was to house the college until 1940 when the college moved to its present location at Central Avenue and East Parkway South.
The college functioned as a combined elementary school, high school, and college, granting both high school diplomas as well as Bachelor's and Master's Degrees from 1871 to 1915, when the college division was suspended. Elementary classes were dropped in 1922, and the institution operated as a high school only until 1940. Reopened at that time as a Junior College, the college began granting Associate of Arts Degrees in 1942.In
1953, the decision was made to expand the Junior College into a four-year institution to more adequately serve the needs of the community. The four-year curriculum began with degrees in Business Administration and Electrical Engineering, with the first graduates in recent times receiving their degrees in 1955. The curriculum was soon expanded to meet the needs for new programs in the fields of Mechanical Engineering and Chemistry. Through the ensuing years the following degree programs were added: Biology, Civil Engineering, Mathematics, English, Physics, Chemical Engineering, History, Psychology, Natural Science, Engineering Physics, Computer Science, and Religion and Philosophy. Teacher Preparation Programs in Secondary education were added in 1969.
An accelerated Evening Program offering a degree in Business Administration was added in 1978 to meet the needs of the adult student, and the Applied Psychology degree was added in 1999. Programs at the graduate level were reinstated in 1987 with the Master's program in Telecommunication and Information Systems. The Master of Business Administration and the Master in Engineering Management were added in 1989. A Master of Education was added in 1997, and the Master of Arts in Teaching and Master of Science in Educational Leadership were offered beginning in 2001. The Master of Arts in Executive Leadership was added in 2005, and the Master of Arts in Catholic Studies was established in 2006. The Master of Science in Engineering Management was also added, with a significant online component, in 2006.
Christian Brothers University became co-educational in 1970. Currently, women make up approximately fifty five percent of the student body. Officially, Christian Brothers College became Christian Brothers University in June of 1990.