Saint Mary’s University traces its roots back to the dream and initiative of the late Msgr. Constant Jurgens, CICM, then Parish Priest of Bayombong and one of the earliest CICM missionaries to arrive in the Philippines. He wanted to establish a school to give the children of his parishioners the benefit of a Christian education. He purchased a lot and some materials for this purpose but then, he was recalled to Europe, thus, it was Rev. Fr. Achilles de Gryse, CICM, his successor, who saw his dream through. Thus, St. Mary’s Elementary School was inaugurated in June 1928. In 1934, with Fr. Godfrey Lambrecht, the High School was opened and in 1947, the College Department, offering A.A., B.S.E., A. B. and Jr. Normal course (ETC). Gradually, the course offerings expanded with Bachelor of Science in Commerce, (1951), Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering, (1955) and the Graduate School, (1962). Through the years, many more Departments, Colleges/Schools were opened with more degrees and title course offerings.
The College’s physical expansion program started with the purchase and development of the campus by the Magat River in 1968. The College was transferred to its new site in 1969. First to rise on the new site was the academic building named Godfrey Lambrecht Hall in memory of the late Rev. Godfrey Lambrecht. This was followed by the construction of the Science Building or Gomburza Hall in 1971 and the Multi-purpose Marian Hall or D Building in 1972.
Over the years, imposing edifices were put up, such as the Gym-Auditorium (1981), Chapel- Library Building (1983), new Elementary Central Building (1985), High School Science Building (1986), Elementary Central Annex (1990), new High School Building (1992), University Building constructed in commemoration of the College’s elevation to University Status (1995), College of Law Building (1996), Hantson Hall (1998), Institute of Science and Mathematics Building (1999), St. Joseph’s Inn (2001), Sacred Heart Center (2002), High School Building (Phase I) 2003, and Balay na Alumni (2003).
To rise up to the challenge of maintaining quality education, the institution has submitted itself for accreditation by the PAASCU. Thus, the PAASCU granted Level I accreditation to the Liberal Arts, Commerce and Education Programs in 1983, Level II in 1985, Level III in 1988 with Level III re-accreditation for the Liberal Arts, Education, Commerce and Accountancy Programs in 2000. The Engineering Program was granted Level I accreditation in l995 and Level II in 2001.The High School Department was granted Level I accreditation in 1988, Level II in 1996 with Level II re-accreditation in 1999.The Grade School was granted Level I accreditation in 1985, Level II accreditation in 1989 with Level II re-accreditation in 1999. For the Graduate School Programs in Arts and Sciences, Education and Business Administration, Level I accreditation was granted in 2000.
Some significant dates/events are: 1967, when the CICM Congregation took over the management and ownership of the school from the Parish; 1969, the College was transferred to its new site; 1984, the St. Mary’s High School celebrated its 50th Anniversary; 1978, the 50th Founding Anniversary of St. Mary’s College; 1994, St. Mary’s College was elevated to University Status with Rev. Fr. John Van Bauwel, CICM, as the First University President; 1995, the 40th Founding Anniversary of the College of Engineering; 1997, the 50th Founding Anniversary of the College of Education; 1998, when Rev. Jessie M. Hechanova, CICM, was installed as SMU’s Second University President and 2001, the 50th Founding Anniversary of the College of Commerce (now, School of Business); 2003, SMU Diamond Jubilee of the founding of SMU.
Thus from its birth throes in 1928, Saint Mary's University has steadily grown over the years and has metamorphosed into one of the more developed and important institutions in the Philippines, particularly in the Cagayan Valley Region.