Avila construction
Avila College being built at its current location in 1962.

One hundred years ago, the school that would eventually become Avila University opened its doors. Beginning as a much more modest operation, the institution was founded as the College of St. Teresa in 1916 as a two-year junior college. At the time, the school was a small faith-based, women-only institution and had only 11 faculty members and seven students. However, this quickly changed. Just a few years later, in 1921, the College of St. Teresa was accredited by the University of Missouri, making it further recognized as a state junior college.

By the end of the 1930s, Avila announced that it would begin offering four-year degrees, the first recipients of which would then graduate in 1942.

Perhaps the most important step in Avila’s scholastic evolution would be in 1948. The College of St. Teresa became the first school in Kansas City to offer a baccalaureate nursing program after St. Joseph’s Hospital was transferred to the college. The department of nursing has since gone on to inspire thousands of nurses over the years and has maintained its role as one of the school’s most seminal and popular departments.

Another considerable change for the university would take place in 1961 when the college announced the acquisition of nearly 50 acres of land at the northeast corner of Santa Fe Road and Wornall Road for its new campus in South Kansas City. In 1963, the College of St. Teresa officially changed its name to Avila College. Honoring St. Teresa of Avila, Avila College eventually became Avila University in 2002. Since then, the former women’s college has become co-educational and has greatly expanded its curriculum. The university offers more than 60 undergraduate majors and five graduate degree programs at its seven schools and colleges. Throughout the last 100 years, Avila University has developed from a humble single-building institute into a formative and groundbreaking piece of higher education in the heart of South Kansas City, and continues to grow.

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