History of La Roche College
La Roche College was founded in 1963 by the Sisters of Divine Providence as an independent, private, Catholic college for religious sisters. Sister Annunciata Sohl was appointed the first president of La Roche and served until 1968. By 1965, the College admitted its first lay students and conferred degrees on its first five graduates. Two years later, to accommodate its growing enrollment, the College expanded beyond its leased space to construct its first College building, the John J. Wright Library.
The College is named for Marie de la Roche, a French woman of noble birth, who became the first superior of the Congregation of Divine Providence. From its initial role as a college for religious sisters to its current incarnation as an institution for students from around the world,
La Roche offers high-quality educational opportunities that reflect its Catholic heritage and the dynamism and spirit of its founding and sponsoring congregation.
As is often the case with new institutions, La Roche encountered financial difficulties soon after its founding. The Congregation gave serious consideration to closing the College. However, the institution had already made such an impact on the community that students, state officials and community leaders urged the Congregation and Sister De la Salle Mahler, College president from 1969-1975, to give it another chance. Responding to this outpouring of support, the Board amended its charter in 1970 to establish La Roche as the independent, coeducational Catholic institution that it is today. At the same time, La Roche diversified its course offerings through its affiliation with the Art Institute of Pittsburgh. This gave birth to several new areas of study, including the graphic and interior design programs – that continue to be among the College’s strongest programs.
By 1973, the revitalized College earned accreditation from the Middle States Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools, tripled its enrollment, and built its first residence facility. Sister Mahler had successfully led the College through a period of uncertainty and laid the groundwork for a bright future.
A Growing, Changing Campus
The 1970s saw an enrollment boom that necessitated an ambitious building program. La Roche built two new residence halls in the mid-1970s. Under the leadership of its president at that time, Sister Mary Joan Coultas (1975-80), the College launched its first capital campaign in 1979 to finance the construction of a science building. The success of the campaign exceeded expectations, and the Palumbo Science Center opened in 1980. Sister Margaret Huber was appointed president in 1981 and served the College for 11 years. During this time, the College continued to grow with an expanded, strengthened curriculum and active building program. La Roche marked its 25th anniversary in 1987 with the dedication of the $2.5 million Zappala College Center. The Magdalen Chapel was added in 1990.
Monsignor William A. Kerr was appointed president in 1992 and served in that capacity for 12 years. Monsignor Kerr focused his leadership on expanding the College’s global reach, raising its visibility, enhancing its financial resources and broadening its academic, cultural and athletic programs. One physical manifestation of the success of these efforts was the completion of the 1,200-seat Kerr Fitness & Sports Center in 1993 at the behest of College trustees and benefactors.
In 1997, the College added a residence hall to the campus with the dedication of Bold Hall. In 2002, La Roche unveiled “smart” classroom technology with the completion of a new classroom building, adjacent to the Zappala College Center. The College expanded its capacity for resident students with the completion of Bold Hall II in 2003, an extension to the residence hall built six years earlier. Improvements to the College’s athletic facilities continued through the years and now feature a baseball field, soccer field, softball field, outdoor tennis/basketball courts, dance studio, gymnasium, indoor track, and a weight room.
The Pacem In Terris Institute
The College’s vision and mission reflects its goal to “foster global citizenship,” and La Roche took steps toward that goal when it created the Pacem In Terris Institute (Latin for “Peace on Earth”). This program brings students from conflict, post-conflict and developing regions of the world to study at La Roche and encourages greater global and transcultural awareness throughout the La Roche community.
The Next Chapter
In 2004, the La Roche College Board of Trustees appointed the College’s seventh president, Sister Candace Introcaso, CDP, Ph.D. A member of the Sisters of Divine Providence, Sister Candace began her career in higher education at La Roche in the late 1980s, serving on both the faculty and the administrative staff. When she returned to La Roche as president, she brought with her a wide range of experience in higher education administration, a firm commitment to diversity, and a strong belief that the mission of institutions founded by women religious is extremely important to the landscape of American higher education. She has maintained the College’s global outlook, while at the same time strengthening the focus on serving the needs of the Pittsburgh region, so that today the college is characterized by programming that addresses the changing needs of our nation, a strong international presence, and a renewed commitment to the city that is its home.
Sister Candace has worked tirelessly and effectively to strengthen the College’s ties to the region while positioning La Roche to move confidently into the future. Under her leadership, La Roche College has expanded its academic offerings, seen improvements in campus facilities, received increased private and government funding support, and been named one of the “Best Northeastern Colleges” by the Princeton Review for six consecutive years. Before being appointed to the La Roche presidency, Sister Candace was vice president for planning and assessment at Barry University in Miami Shores, Florida. Prior to joining Barry, she served as assistant vice president for academic affairs at Heritage College, located on the Yakima Indian reservation in Toppenish, Washington. She received her doctorate in higher education administration from The Claremont Graduate University, and she holds a master’s degree in sociology from Fordham University and a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Shippensburg University.
Varied Curriculum and Activities
Today at La Roche College, students find a unique combination of 21st-century education, technology and individualized attention. Fully accredited by several national governing bodies, the college offers more than 50 undergraduate majors, 20 undergraduate minors and three graduate programs. In fact, among major areas of study, La Roche offers all of the current “top 10” most popular career fields among college students, as ranked by The Princeton Review, including Interior Design, Graphic Design, Criminal Justice/National Security, Business, Education, the Natural Sciences, Information Technology, the Social Sciences and Nursing.
As it has grown as an educational institution, La Roche has also expanded the cultural and entertainment amenities it offers in its home community. La Roche fields 12 intercollegiate athletic teams competing in Division III of the NCAA and in the Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference. It hosts numerous high school athletic championships and tournaments at its attractive sports facilities. The College’s Performing Arts/Ballet Program conducts performances on campus and performs each spring at the Byham Theatre in Pittsburgh and introduced its first work on the New York City stage in spring 2008. The works of student and professional artists are regularly displayed in the College’s Cantellops Art Gallery.