Matteo Ricci College formally began in 1975 as a cooperative venture between two Jesuit educational institutions:
Seattle Preparatory School and Seattle University, both founded in 1891.
The College founders desired to establish a program that would move more and more closely toward Jesuit ideals and to form an educational model that would more closely meet the needs of its students from the end of the 20th century into the future.
In form it broke from traditional models by enabling a student to earn both a high school diploma and a Bachelor of Arts in Humanities in a total of six years.
The program has clearly expressed its experimental nature by continuing to change and adapt as circumstances emerge. The focus is on the student: more discussion and less lecturing, extensive student engagement and interdisciplenary exploration.
Thus, the motto of Matteo Ricci College from the beginning: Learning How to Learn.
The first class to graduate on the six year track was the Seattle University Class of 1981.
In 1984, Seattle Prep chose to re-establish a fourth year for students unwilling or unable to move on to the university for a variety of reasons. In response, then Dean Bernie Steckler, sought out closer links to Catholic high schools in the Seattle area by creating what would come to be known as the Consortium: a fourth-year curriculum of demanding, freshman-level college work. Successful completion of these courses would earn a student Seattle University credit as well as the opportunity to pursue the three-year BAH degree.
The five Seattle-area Catholic high schools that have made up the Consortium from 1988 to the present include: O’Dea, John F. Kennedy, Eastside Catholic, Forest Ridge and Archbishop Murphy.
Building on the College's experimental nature, then Dean Arthur Fisher developed with Dean Sue Schmitt, College of Education, a new four-year baccalaureate program to prepare interested students as teachers. In 2002 the four-year Bachelor of Arts in Humanities for Teaching began, and the first class graduated in 2006.
Finally, Dean Emeritus Arthur Fisher began planning for another four-year Humanities baccalaureate degree and, after much development under the current dean, Jodi Olsen Kelly, the Bachelor of Arts in Humanities for Leadership began in 2011 and the first class graduated in June 2015.