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Mission and History

Mission

Christian Brothers University is a Catholic university in the student-centered tradition of the De La Salle Christian Brothers. CBU fosters academic excellence in a range of programs to prepare students from all faiths and backgrounds for careers and lives informed by the Lasallian values of faith, service, and community.

Our Identity

Christian Brothers University is a Catholic university founded on the heritage of Lasallian education. While large enough to provide educational opportunities in the arts, business, education, engineering, and sciences, the University is small enough to promote teaching as ministry and to provide challenging student-centered learning and personal growth. Students of diverse cultures and religious traditions are encouraged to grow in their own faith. The University welcomes students into an educational community of faith and service, one that is committed to academic excellence, the betterment of society and the care of God’s creation.

Core Values

Faith: Our belief in God permeates every facet of the University's life.

Service: We reach out to serve one another and those beyond our campus.

Community: We work to build better communities and a better society.

Lasallian Educational Principles

  • Respect for each individual as a unique person
  • A Christian perspective
  • An excellent education
  • A spirit of community
  • A life of service 
  • A quest for justice and peace

History

Christian Brothers College was founded in 1871 by members of the Institute of the Brothers of Christian Schools, an international Roman Catholic religious teaching congregation.

The Memphis clergy, determined to establish Catholic education in Memphis, envisioned not only elementary and secondary education but college education too.

The closing of the Memphis Female College on Adams Avenue made the property available for a new school. The first president, Brother Maurelian Sheel, came from Pass Christian, Mississippi, along with three other Brothers displaced by Great Chicago Fire. The new college on Adams Avenue was dedicated on Sunday, November 19, 1871. It opened its doors with four Christian Brothers and 87 students.

Early Struggles

The initial decades in Memphis were a struggle for Christian Brothers College. Recovery from the Civil War and Reconstruction was tedious, and yellow fever and financial difficulties plagued the city and the Brothers' community.

Brother Maurelian served as President for 33 years, during which time 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.

World War I strained the Saint Louis District of the Christian Brothers, which governed the Memphis college and another in St. Louis. With so many young men away serving in the military, the District could not support two colleges. In June 1915, Christian Brothers College awarded its last college degrees for several decades.

Elementary classes were dropped in 1922, and the institution operated as a high school only for the next 18 years. During the 1920s and 1930s, the high school's enrollment outgrew the Adams Street facility.

In 1939, a joint public fundraising drive with St. Agnes Academy was initiated with a goal of the then-enormous sum of $250,000. When the drive successfully managed to almost double the goal by raising $452,000, CBC purchased a plot of land in the suburbs on East Parkway. On June 9, 1939, the Brothers laid the cornerstone of a three-story building on the new property and eleven months later held the dedication ceremony for what would come to be called Kenrick Hall. Battersby Hall was constructed soon afterward.

The school re-opened a junior college department and granted Associate of Arts degrees in 1942. But with World War II raging, the next year saw a dramatic decline in junior college enrollment and it was forced to close again temporarily. It reopened in 1947 with 70 students enrolled, half of them war veterans attending under the new G.I. Bill of Rights.

Booming Growth

Throughout the 1940s and 1950s, student enrollment grew, as did the Christian Brothers Community. New housing, classrooms, administrative buildings, and the De La Salle Gymnasium were built during this period.

In 1953, the junior college expanded into a four-year institution so it could serve the needs of the community. The new four-year curriculum began with degrees in Business Administration and Electrical Engineering, with the first bachelor’s degrees in 40 years being awarded in 1955.

Enrollment continued to increase and the number of college students quickly surpassed the high school enrollment, which necessitated an enlarged college faculty. There were no more than three or four Christian Brothers available, so they began hiring lay faculty.

The original bell tower, erected in 1958, was a project of the CBC Mothers’ Club. Brother Lambert Thomas designed it and dedicated it to “all the deceased mothers of Christian Brothers’ students.”

In 1961, Brother President Thomas Matthews wrote that the school was operating at full capacity. “It is quite obvious that there is a need for a new high school,” he wrote. “…[T]here is not sufficient room here to house a college the size that CBC is tending to become, and a high school of 1,000 students.”

In September 1961, a 27-acre plot of land on Walnut Grove Road was purchased. Christian Brothers High School did not open its separate doors until 1965, but in the meantime, it had made a different sort of history. Christian Brothers College had been quietly and peacefully integrated since 1960 when Ernest Donohue transferred from LeMoyne-Owen College, but no secondary school in Memphis, public or private, had been integrated prior to 1963. In August 1963, Brother President Terence McLaughlin accepted the application of Jesse Turner Jr. and made CBHS the first racially integrated high school in the city. Turner graduated as co-salutatorian of the Class of 1967.

In 1970, spurred partially by the imminent closure of nearby all-female Siena College (formerly St. Agnes College, affiliated with St. Agnes Academy), women were accepted as students for the first time at Christian Brothers College—which had been all-male for 99 years. Today, the student population of CBU is half female.

Expanded Academic and Athletics Offerings

An accelerated Evening Program was added in 1978 to meet the needs of adult students; today’s College of Adult Professional Studies is a separate branch of the university with its own faculty and offers bachelor’s and associate’s degrees in Business Studies and Professional Psychology.

Programs at the graduate level were reinstated in 1987, and Christian Brothers College officially became Christian Brothers University in June of 1990. Today, CBU offers master’s degrees in Accounting (MAcc), Business Administration (MBA), Catholic Studies (MACS), Education (MEd, MAT, MSEL), Engineering Management (MSEM), and Physician Assistant Studies (MSPAS).

In 1996-97, CBU athletics entered Division II of the NCAA as a member of the Gulf South Conference. Since that time, the Buccaneers have won 10 conference championships — two in Men’s Basketball (2008, 2013), three in Men’s Soccer (2000, 2011, 2012), and five in Women’s Soccer (2000-2004). The Lady Buc soccer team won the NCAA Division II National Championship in 2002 and was National Runner-Up in 2001. In 2014, CBU was awarded the NCAA Academic Excellence Award in recognition of its 90% Academic Success Rate.

CBU has grown to a student population of more than 1,800 and expanded its degree offerings. Today, CBU offers bachelor’s degrees in more than 60 academic majors and concentrations in the arts, business, engineering, and sciences. A dozen buildings have been added to the campus in the last 50 years, most recently the Cooper-Wilson Center for Life Sciences (2008), the Living Learning Center (2011), and the Rosa Deal School of Arts (2017).

Chronology

1871. Christian Brothers College (CBC) was founded November 19, 1871, by members of the Institute of the Brothers of the Christian Schools, a Roman Catholic teaching congregation. The College opened at 612 Adams, Memphis, Tennessee. CBC functioned as a combined elementary school, high school and college until 1915.

1875. First bachelor degrees offered; 1877 first master degrees offered

1915. Due to World War I, collegiate courses were suspended.

1922. CBC operated a high school until 1940; elementary classed dropped in 1922.

1939. Cornerstone laid for Kenrick Hall on the new campus.

1940. CBC moved from 612 Adams to 650 East Parkway South.

1940. College division reopened as Junior College.

1940. Battersby Hall constructed.

1942. Began granting Associate of Art Degrees.

1943. Due to World War II, collegiate courses suspended until 1946.

1950. Barry Hall constructed.

1950. De La Salle Gymnasium constructed.

1953. Junior College was expanded into a four-year institution.

1954. St. Joseph Hall constructed.

1955. Began granting bachelor degrees in BA and EE.

1958. Maurelian Hall constructed.

1958. Original Bell Tower constructed (renovated in 1992).

1959. Stritch Hall constructed.

1960. Benilde Hall constructed.

1960. CBU Theatre constructed.

1963. Became the first integrated private school in Memphis.

1965. Rozier Hall constructed.

1965. Christian Brothers High School opens separate campus on Walnut Grove Road.

1967. Science Center constructed.

1969. Plough Library constructed.

1970. Became co-educational.

1971. Thomas Center constructed.

1978. Accelerated Evening Program began.

1983. Rosanne Beringer Center for Computer Studies established.

1986. Nolan Engineering Building constructed.

1986. Buckman Quadrangle constructed.

1989. Began MEM and MBA programs.

1990. Christian Brothers College (CBC) became Christian Brothers University (CBU).

1992. Buckman Hall constructed.

1997. Began MEd program.

1999. CBU Apartments constructed.

2001. Began MAT and MSEL programs.

2002. Lady Buccaneers won NCAA DII National Women's Soccer Championship.

2003. St. Benilde Hall renovated for engineering labs.

2004. De La Salle Gymnasium renovated, renamed De La Salle Hall; new Canale Arena opened.

2007. CBU Theatre renovated and renamed University Theater.

2008. Cooper-Wilson Center for Life Sciences construction completed.

2008. Assisi Hall Science Learning Center renovation completed.

2010. Master of Accountancy Program established.

2011. Living Learning Center construction completed.

2011. RN to BSN Nursing Program established.

2011. Physician Assistant Studies (MSPAS) Program established.

2014. New College of Adult Professional Studies established.

2017. Rosa Deal School of Arts construction completed on the former site of Kenrick Hall.