The Founding of Providence College

Faculty, September 1919

In 1910, after years spent establishing numerous parishes and schools, Rt. Rev. Matthew Harkins, D.D., bishop of the Diocese of Providence, felt the time was right to pursue his dream of establishing a Catholic college in the diocese. He was familiar with the seven-century teaching mission of the Order of Preachers, popularly known as the Dominicans, and invited the Fathers of the Dominican Province of St. Joseph to establish a new college in the city of Providence.

In 1911, the provincial reported to the master general of the Dominican Order in Rome that the Provincial Council had accepted the bishop’s offer but asked that the founding be postponed until the province could provide an adequate staff of professors. In 1911 and 1913, the bishop purchased property in northwest Providence on which to build the college. But the necessary ecclesiastical permissions from the master general and the pope were slow in coming.

Negotiations did not progress until the elections of Rev. Louis Theissling, O.P. as master general in 1916 and, especially, of Rev. James Raymond Meagher, O.P. as provincial in 1913. Both shared the bishop’s commitment to Catholic education. In 1915, Father Meagher and Bishop Harkins began the pursuit of formal permission from Rome in earnest. Even before all the founding documents were received in February 1917, the energetic Father Meagher made several moves to start making the bishop’s dream a reality — the first of which was to call upon Rev. Dennis Albert Casey, O. P., who would go on to become the College’s first president.