Last modified at 8/3/2012 10:41 AM by Johnson, Bob

Spalding University's mission and its approach to education largely derive from its unique history. Spalding has almost 200 years of academic tradition and service extending back to 1814 when the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth established Nazareth Academy at Nazareth, near Bardstown, Kentucky. The earliest public examination ceremony was held in 1825 with Henry Clay presiding and presenting the awards. The charter enabling the institution to confer academic diplomas was granted by the Legislature of the Commonwealth of Kentucky in 1829. By that time the quality of the school's academic program was already well known to many distinguished Kentuckians whose daughters had been enrolled as students. Among them were Ben Hardin, John J. Crittenden, Zachary Taylor, John Rowan, and James Speed. The name of the university is derived from and honors Catharine Spalding, the founder of the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth, who was responsible for securing the 1829 Charter and is also regarded as the founder of social work in the Louisville area.


As was the case with many 19th century academies for young women, the school not only conducted the standard secondary school curriculum but college subjects as well and served as a training center for sisters who were to teach in other schools. This college-level activity was facilitated, even before the granting of the charter, by the teaching of Bishop J. B. M. David, who had held professorial positions in the major seminaries at Nantes and Angers in France, of faculty members of old St. Joseph's College in Bardstown, and of well-educated members of the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth such as Sisters Ellen O'Connell and Marie Menard.


Before the turn of the century 84 new schools and academies had been established by the sisters in various parts of the country. Early on there also developed a long-term involvement and dedication to nursing and health care. In 1821 the Nazareth sisters took over operation of the infirmary at St. Joseph's College in Bardstown, and it was from that springboard that the health care apostolate was launched. During the Civil War, faculty and staff members of the school served as nursing sisters for both the Union and Confederate armies. Abraham Lincoln issued a letter of protection so that the sisters at Nazareth would not be disturbed. The sisters served both sides with distinction but always for the purpose of better caring for those in pain, in need, and in fear. Six of 39 sisters who served in the Civil War died during that conflict.
In 1920, Nazareth College was opened in Louisville, Kentucky, the first four-year Catholic college for women in the Commonwealth, and one year later Nazareth Junior College was formally opened on the old Nazareth Campus. The two institutions were merged in 1940 into Nazareth College with two campuses. The two separated in 1961 to form Nazareth College at Nazareth and Catherine Spalding College in Louisville but finally merged again in 1969 to form Spalding College. In May 1971 all instructional activity was consolidated on the Louisville campus. In 1973, the university, which had operated under the 1829 Charter to "The Nazareth Literary and Benevolent Institution," the corporation formed by the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth, was incorporated as an independent, urban, coeducational institution in the Catholic tradition for students of all traditions.

In 1984, in recognition of the wide range of programs offered, the institution was designated Spalding University  In addition to selected associate and bachelor’s degrees, Spalding University currently offers a variety of graduate-level programs leading to master's and doctoral degrees. Today the university is maintaining its characteristically innovative stance at the cutting edge of educational service to the greater Louisville community and beyond and has been named the first compassionate university in the nation.