At the invitation of Henry Marshall Tory, first president of the University of Alberta, the Catholic community founded an affiliated college on the University campus in 1926. Recognizing a pressing need for Catholic post-secondary education in the province, Archbishop John Joseph O'Leary responded by inviting the Christian Brothers to administer St. Joseph's College. In the beginning, the College housed up to 100 men in very close quarters and provided university courses in Christian Apologetics, Ethics and Philosophy.
In 1963, administration of the College passed from the Christian Brothers to the Basilian Fathers, who have since expanded the academic programming and overall visibility of the college. More recently, as is the case in most Catholic educational institutions, lay women and men have assumed ever greater responsibilities, and St. Joseph's College is no exception. In administration, academics, and pastoral care, lay persons are living out their baptismal calling in a visible and dynamic way.
Over the years, the physical structure of SJC has also responded to changing student needs. The men’s residence now houses fewer men, but in much more comfortable quarters. The women’s residence, Kateri House, originally housed relatively few (14) students but with the opening of the new building in 2015, can now accommodate up to 284 students.