History & Traditions
The History of Avila University
The road to today’s modern institution of higher learning began in 1836, when the first Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet arrived in Missouri from the order’s home in the Lyons region of France. In 1866, Mother Francis Joseph Ivory came to Kansas City to staff a small school that incorporated as St. Teresa’s Academy (in honor of St. Teresa of Avila) shortly after her arrival.
In 1910, the school relocated to Main Street and in 1916 became St. Teresa’s College, a two-year college for women. The school’s faculty of 15 sisters initially outnumbered the students. Five years later, in 1921, the University of Missouri accredited St. Teresa College. In 1930, the school became affiliated with St. Joseph Hospital’s School of Nursing, a professional emphasis that continues today at Avila.
In 1940, while celebrating the 75th anniversary of the arrival of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet in Kansas City, the school became a four-year institution named College of St. Teresa. Six years later, it received accreditation from the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.
With enrollment increasing, the modern era of Avila began in 1963 when construction began on a much larger new campus in South Kansas City at 119th Street and Wornall Road. With the new location came a new name (Avila College), and classes began with the first building only 70 percent complete.
In 1965, Avila welcomed its first on-campus residents with the completion of Carondelet Hall. Another major milestone occurred in 1969, when the university became fully coeducational. Varsity athletics, an important aspect of life for many young men and women on campus, began in 1974 and the Mabee Fieldhouse, a modern indoor athletics center, opened in 1982. The university’s official nickname was changed to the Eagles in 1990.
Today, Avila continues to grow as a Catholic univeristy and expand as it continues to offer faith and values-based academic excellence in the spirit of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet.
Avila University Traditions
Throughout Avila’s long history, many traditions have developed that honor the spirit of the campus community. From academics and arts to athletics, Avila’s students, faculty and alumni keep these traditions alive.
Mass of the Holy Spirit
The Mass of the Holy Spirit is an annual tradition that is held at the beginning of every academic year to bring the community together to call upon God's Spirit for inspiration for the upcoming year.
Avila kicks off the school year with a party! Students, faculty, and staff come together to enjoy a free lunch and then browse more than 60 student organizations' booths where you can play games and win prizes.
Breast Cancer Awareness Month
Every October, the student organization Peers Educating Avila about Counseling and Health (PEACH) raffles off pumpkins that Avila employees/students have donated to raise money for Breast Cancer Awareness.
Eagle Madness is a pep rally held the Friday of homecoming weekend. Games, food, music, and performances entertain the crowd before the fall sports teams are welcome.
The Advancement office acknowledges donors who have named Avila in their estate plans through a mass accompanied by a choral performance by Avila University Singers and a complimentary luncheon.
Homecoming features numerous events, culminating in the crowning of homecoming king and queen during halftime of the homecoming football game.
Diversity is an important component of the Avila community. During Harmony Month, students, faculty, and staff participate in an ethnic food festival by providing dishes from their country of origin to share with the Avila community.
Avila holds an annual Steer Dinner & Auction to raise scholarship funds. For the third year in a row, Steer raised over $1 million for scholarships that changed the lives of many students.
Students, faculty, and staff break into teams and compete in relay races for a chance to win prizes. There is a cookout, carnival, concert and much more.
Student Scholar Day
A day for seniors to present their final portfolios and exhibits, display their posters and demonstrate their expertise with oral presentations to faculty judges and their peers.
Stress Relief Week
Held twice a year the week before finals, Stress Relief Week helps students relax and take a well-deserved break. Massages, donuts, smoothies, late night finals breakfast, yoga classes, service opportunities and more are part of this special week!
Held the evening before graduation, seniors receive a medallion with an inscribed Avila seal. The flame represents the values Avila community members hold and the commitment to live out those values.
Alumni at Last Bash
Seniors receive an Alumni T-shirt, snacks and beverages to welcome them to the 13,000-member Alumni Association.
Graduates participate in a commencement ceremony, where they receive their diplomas, listen to engaging speakers and get one last chance to say goodbye to their professors.