Marygrove is the direct descendant of Monroe’s St. Mary Academy, established by the IHM Sisters in 1846 – just two months after their founding.
By the beginning of the 20th century, the Academy was offering college-level courses; in 1905, the sisters built a separate St. Mary College.
In 1910 the State of Michigan empowered the college to grant degrees, and four years later, the State Department of Education authorized it to grant teaching certificates.
In the early 1920s, it became apparent that the college was outgrowing its buildings and that Detroit would be a more appropriate site for a new campus. Mother Domitilla Donohue felt that moving the college to the city would give more women an opportunity for higher education and that the college could itself be a monument to Detroit.
In March 1922, for $241,000, Mother Domitilla purchased an 80-acre wooded tract in a developing area of northwest Detroit for the new St. Mary College.
The purchase price of the land, however, exhausted the money that had been set aside to build the new campus in Monroe, so the congregation launched a Building Campaign Fund in 1923, culminating in a week-long Marygrove Festival at the Arena Gardens in Detroit.
From 1942 until 1980, the IHM Sisters also sponsored the Marygrove College Preschool
The purpose of the preschool was two-fold: to prepare college students to become preschool teachers and to study the young children in order to cooperate with parents in their training. During its peak years, the preschool had a long waiting list for enrollment, with some parents even registering their children at birth.
With the help of the St. Mary Alumnae Association, Michigan parishes, graduates of IHM schools and Detroit business leaders, the festival raised $101,000, but the total campaign fund could not match the cost of the new buildings. With deep faith and courageous spirit, Mother Domitilla and her governing council indebted the IHM congregation for the $4 million necessary to build and equip the college.
The new site suggested a new name, and in 1925, with the laying of the cornerstone of the present Liberal Arts Building, St. Mary College became Marygrove College. The gates of the Detroit campus opened in September 1927, welcoming 287 students.
The educational landscape changed drastically in the state of Michigan as elsewhere in the nation. The high school population dwindled such that all colleges and universities were competing for the same smaller number of students. Financial woes persisted from the mid-2000s through 2019, which forced the College to close its undergraduate programs at the end of 2017 and its graduate programs at the end of 2019.