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The Founding of Providence College

Providence College was founded in 1917 through a joint effort of the Diocese of Providence and the Dominican Friars of the Province of St. Joseph, with the blessing of Pope Benedict XV and the consent of the General Assembly of the State of Rhode Island.​

The driving force behind the development of the College was the late Rt. Rev. Matthew Harkins, D. D., Bishop of Providence, whose dream it was to create a center of advanced learning primarily for the Catholic youth of Rhode Island. However, the College’s charter demonstrates that the founders intended PC to serve members of all religious faiths as it reads: “no person shall be refused admission . . . nor shall any person be denied any of the privileges, honors, or degrees in said college on account of the religious opinion he may entertain.”

Bishop Harkins’ negotiations with the Dominicans of the Province of St. Joseph and his gifts of approximately 17 acres of land and $10,000 in scholarship funds helped make Providence College a reality. With donations coming primarily from Catholics of modest means, and a pledge from the Province of St. Joseph to provide Dominican administrators and teachers, the College broke ground for the imposing Harkins Hall in 1917. Two years later, in September 1919, it opened its doors to 71 students and nine Dominican faculty members.​