The College was founded in 1928 by the Marist Sisters, a congregation of Roman Catholic women, started in France in 1817 by Jeanne Marie Chavoin and Jean Claude Colin. In the course of its history the College has had three names. It began as Marist Convent High School, later becoming Marist Sisters‘ College and finally Marist College (1996).
“We began with three students” … Just one year after arriving to establish a primary school in Mt Albert Parish, a secondary school took shape. Between 1928 and 1936 it was a boarding school which included primary age students. Later these students were incorporated in Marist Primary school. Numbers were small and the curriculum was limited. The two pioneers were Mother Bernard (Mary Gorman) an indomitable and resourceful Irish woman and Sister Austin, an Australian. Sister Alexius arrived New Zealand in February 1928 to teach in the secondary school and later wrote her recollections of the beginnings of the High School. “Mother Bernard and I were the teachers. [The school] was so small.” Registration was eventually obtained in 1947. The roll grew in 1929 to ten boarders, both primary and secondary. The focus was mainly on commercial subjects. In 1936 the primary school boarders joined the classes at the parish primary school as the secondary school roll began to grow. Over the years the roll grew steadily, and the boarding facility catered for 65 girls at its maximum. These girls came from country areas in New Zealand and from overseas.
From the beginning the College had links to the Marist Sisters missions in Fiji and Tonga, both through students who came as boarders and sisters transferring from one place to another in Oceania and sisters newly arrived from France, England and Ireland. Marist Sisters’ communities had been established in Fiji (1892), Australia (1908), and Tonga (1924). In 1955 there were 93 students at Marist College, in 1963 – 250 students, and in 1974 – 335 students. The roll at Integration into the State system in 1981, was capped at 411, plus intermediate students. The boarding school had closed in 1978 due to a lack of staff to manage it and also because Forms 1 and 2 were brought up from the Primary school.
The maximum of 750 was set in 2010. Each successive wave of immigration to New Zealand society has continued to make the College a reflection of the multicultural nature of Aotearoa New Zealand. At first the College was staffed entirely by the Marist Sisters, who depending on their particular skills often moved between the primary school and the college. The last Marist Sister to be principal was Sr Juliana Massey, also the first ex-student to become Principal. The school has been under lay leadership since 1991. Mrs Marie Nield was the first lay principal. The College was gifted by the Marist Sisters of New Zealand to the Roman Catholic Bishop of Auckland in 2001.
The whole school community, through its general school programme, its instruction and observances, exercises the right to live and teach the values of Jesus Christ. Marist College has daily prayer, regular celebration of the Sacrament of the Eucharist and formal study of a religious education programme.
Each year, Marist College celebrates Marist Day, on or about the Feast of the Assumption of Mary (August 15th). This annual day began in 1978. It consists of Mass with the reception of Sacraments for those who have been preparing, a service component – contribution to a selected charity, followed by a themed fun day prepared by Year 13. A family festival is held each year in March. It celebrates the variety of cultures in the College, including food and cultural performances.