Sacred Heart College
Sacred Heart College was founded by the order of the Roman Catholic Sisters of
Mercy in 1892, as a Catholic girls’ finishing school. Sacred Heart Academy,
as it was first called, hosted 21 students in a small wood frame building on the
R.P. Rankin Farm in Belmont, North Carolina. A year later a motherhouse was built
on the 85-acre property, which became the North Carolina headquarters of the order.
Nearby Belmont Abbey gave the land to the Sisters of Mercy, and the College kept
close ties with the Abbey throughout its existence.
Photograph of Sacred Heart College.
To see more Sacred Heart College ephemera preserved at the North Carolina Collection, click on the picture.
Then ensuing decades saw a growing collegiate atmosphere. In 1909 Sacred Heart
began offering “bachelor’s degrees,” which
for finishing school. The original buildings were demolished in 1928 and new
ones built. The Sacred Heart Junior College was established in 1935, and associate
degrees were first granted in 1937, marking a period of growth that would last
until the 1970s.
In the 1950s Sacred Heart expanded with new buildings: a gym, a grade school,
and a new academic hall. Sister Mary Stephen Monahan became the first full-time
president in 1962, and in that
same year a new motherhouse was built. Eight
years later the first baccalaureate degrees were conferred on Sacred Heart students,
and the college was accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.
Sacred Heart’s troubles first surfaced in 1972, when enrollment dropped
from 600 to 240 students. The number fell to an all-time low in 1974, with just
165 students attending the college. In 1975 Sister Mary Michel Boulus became
president, and started a campaign to raise the enrollment. In 1976 the College
began offering a special education teaching certificate. In 1978 an English
language institute was established for foreign students, many of whom later
stayed to earn Sacred Heart degrees. In 1979 Sacred Heart started offering an
adult degree program. These programs worked for a time, and enrollment crept
back up to 600 by 1979.
Sacred Heart’s last decade was still marked by strife, though it began
some truly innovative programs. In 1981 the College joined a Charlotte-based
bartering program called Tradex, and traded courses at Sacred Heart for services.
A year later the College began offering 12 credit hours of classes free of charge
to Gaston County’s unemployed, as the unemployment rate had jumped to
12 percent that year. Around this time the College started offering scholarships
to Lebanese students, in order to foster international friendships.
Sacred Heart finally closed its doors in 1987. Queens College in Charlotte
or nearby Belmont Abbey College took in 320 Sacred Heart students. To this day
Belmont Abbey College offers alumnae services to former Sacred Heart students.
Source for image on this page: Image from "Sacred Heart Junior College," in the Sacred Heart College
Ephemera Collection, North Carolina Collection, Wilson Library, University of
North Carolina at Chapel Hill. VC378.9
M67 Sacred Heart College.
Kelley, Pam. “2 Colleges to Welcome Sacred Heart Students.” The
Charlotte Observer. July 15, 1987. 1A p.
Nixon, Kathy. “Sacred Heart Recalls its 95 Years as Closing Approaches.”
The Charlotte Observer. July 15, 1987. 10 p.
Powell, William S. Higher Education in North Carolina. Raleigh, N.C.:
State Department of Archives and History, 1970. 44 p.
Williams, Wiley J. “Sacred Heart College.” In Encyclopedia of
North Carolina, ed. by William S. Powell. Chapel Hill, N.C.: University
of North Carolina Press, 2006. . 995 p.
For further information:
Items available in the North
Carolina State Archives
Sacred Heart College Papers.
Photography of Mercedes Hall and the exterior of Sacred Heart College in the
North Carolina State Archives, Office of Archives and History Photograph Collection
Series. Box: Photographs Received in 1984. Folder: Photographs Received in January,
1984. Call number N.84.1.1629-1655.
Items available in the North
Sacred Heart College. Belmont, N.C.: The College. 1965-1975. Call number:
C378 S12H 1965-.
Year book of Sacred Heart College and High School. Belmont, N.C.: The College.
1913/1915. Call number: C378 S12H 1913-.
Catalogue. Belmont, N.C.: The College. 1980/81, 1983/84. Call number: C378
General Catalog. Belmont, N.C.: The College. 1977-1980. Call number: C378
Sacred Heart Junior College. Belmont, N.C.: The College. 1956-1966. Call number:
C378 S12H 1956-1966.
The Sacred Heart Echoes. Belmont, N.C.: Sacred Heart College.
Vol.3, no. 7 (1910,1914), call number: C378 S12Q.
Vol.1, no. 5 (June 1909), call number: C970 P186.
Sacred Heart Junior College and Academy. Belmont, N.C.: The College. 1940/41,1943/44,1952/54,
1955/56. Call number: C378 S12H 1940-.