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History and Mission

Moving the world through education and opportunity

Iona College opened its doors in 1940 with nine Christian Brothers and six lay faculty greeting the first class. Their goal was to open new paths to economic and social advancement for the sons of New York’s working class. They gave their new college the name of Iona, after a small island off the west coast of Scotland where St. Columba founded an abbey in 563. As did the monks of St. Columba’s time, Iona’s founders believed in the power of education to move the world.
  • The War Years: America’s entry into World War II caused Iona’s small enrollment to decline. Only three members of the entering class went on to receive BA degrees in August 1944. Despite this, the life of the college survived. Student groups such as the newspaper, sports teams and service clubs were active.
  • Post-War: Returning veterans, helped by the GI Bill® and attracted by Iona’s practical majors, soon stretched the College to capacity. In 1948, 71 men graduated; by 1950, the number was up to 300.
  • New Millennium: In the 50 years leading up to the turn of the 21st Century, Iona grew dramatically while retaining its original mission. Today, Iona is a diverse institution of nearly 4,000 students. We offer 45 majors, 35 minors and 30 graduate programs, on a beautiful 45-acre campus.

Gifted Leadership

Guiding Iona through its tenuous start and sudden growth were two gifted presidents: Br. William Barnabas Cornelia (1885-1955) and Br. Arthur Austin Loftus (1904-1979). One a native of Dublin, the other a native New Yorker, they brought intelligence, tact, shrewdness, humility and a true love of teaching to the new enterprise. Ambitious for success and accreditation, they never lost sight of Iona’s Mission: to give students the best secular training while educating the “whole person” – mind, heart and spirit.

GI Bill® is a registered trademark of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). More information about education benefits offered by VA is available at the official U.S. government Web site at