Francis S. Vilarrasa, OP traveled with 6 novices from Spain and founded the very first Dominican school to prepare men for the priesthood in Monterey, California. Three years later, in 1854, he moved the formation community, the Western Dominican Province (WDP), to Benicia.
The Master of the Order, Martin Gillet, OP, requested the friars follow the Dominican practice of locating a center of studies near a major university. They moved their community from Benicia to the Berkeley/Oakland area using space at St. Albert Priory. The next year, the WDP purchased a five-acre plot a few miles from UC Berkeley and opened the College of St. Albert the Great. At this time they opened the training to lay students in the area of philosophical study so that the students “may be intellectually fitted to cope with the problems of the modern age.”
The College of St. Albert the Great became the first Roman Catholic school to join the Graduate Theological Union (GTU). In 1976 the school moved to the GTU campus and in order to distinguish its teaching apostolate from the spiritual formation at St. Albert Priory, it changed its name to the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology (DSPT).
Needing to find a permanent location for its growing student body, DSPT purchased a property located just blocks from the University of California, Berkeley where it resides today. With its proximity to UC Berkeley, and being a member of the GTU, DSPT could now offer its students the focused attention of a small school with all of the resources of a prestigious university. This would fulfill the original direction given by the Master of the Order in 1931.