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The Mercyhurst North East campus was home to the College of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, also known as St. Mary's Seminary, for 110 years before the seminary closed its doors in the mid-1980’s. For five years, the 84-acre complex sat empty while prospective buyers considered it for a senior citizen complex, a correctional facility and the production site for horror films. But the Fathers wanted to ensure that the rich educational history of the site would be carried into the future, so they approached Mercyhurst about purchasing the property.

Until college trustees voted on the matter, North East businessman Robert Miller put a $50,000 deposit down to hold the facility, and the North East community raised $500,000 toward its renovation. Mercyhurst North East opened its doors in 1991 as an "opportunity and career college" dedicated to providing post-secondary education for capable learners who seek to learn job-entry skills. In essence, the goal was to fulfill a community college role in the Mercyhurst tradition.

The original mission of Mother Catherine McAuley, foundress of the Sisters of Mercy, was to assist those who were interested in improving their lives. Mercyhurst North East seeks to extend the Mercyhurst University motto of "Carpe Diem" ("Seize the Opportunity") by offering an accessible and affordable post-secondary education focused on associate degree and certificate education. To give opportunity and support to those with a sincere desire to improve themselves exemplifies the tradition of the Sisters of Mercy and encourages a greater spectrum of individuals to avail themselves of a post-secondary education in a private college environment.

The purpose of Mercyhurst North East is clear: to provide an accessible and affordable education, while preparing students to successfully manage future academic, career and life challenges. This is the structure that fulfills the vision and Christian commitment of Mercyhurst University to the intrinsic value of each individual.