From Ohio History Central
In 1850, the Society of Mary, an order within the Roman Catholic Church, founded the University of Dayton in Dayton, Ohio. Father Leo Meyer, a member of the Marianist order, wanted to open a school in Dayton and arranged to purchase some property from John Stuart, a local Dayton businessman. The school operated as both a boarding school and working farm in its early years and only admitted young men as students. The early years of the school were somewhat precarious, as Meyer did not always get along with local Catholic leaders, the money to pay for the property was difficult to come by, and at one point the school caught fire and was destroyed. Despite these challenges, the school, first known as St. Mary's School for Boys or St. Mary's Institute, survived and continued to grow.
The University of Dayton prospered and grew further into the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The school began admitting women as well as men. In addition to offering undergraduate degrees, the university also began a graduate program that offered both masters and doctoral degrees. At the graduate level, the law school program is probably the most significant. In the late twentieth century, the university became known for its technological advances, with students being required to own computers. In addition to its reputation in educational technology, the University of Dayton is also known for its role in encouraging students to make a difference outside of the college environment, contributing back to their communities. Much of the university's increases in enrollment have occurred in the decades following World War II.
Today, the University of Dayton is the largest private university in the state of Ohio. It has the reputation of being one of the best Catholic universities in the nation.