The history of Collège Saint-Jean is inextricably entwined with Edmonton's Francophone community. This institution has marked the sometimes difficult path of post-secondary education in French in Alberta. From its humble origins as a juniorate dedicated to religious vocations, the college has transformed itself according to the needs of the community it serves.
Established in Edmonton in 1911, the bilingual juniorate began offering instruction in French only in 1927. In 1931, a high school program was added to allow all students to obtain the equivalency they needed to be accepted into university. In 1941, when the Jesuit College in Edmonton closed its doors, Collège Saint-Jean opened its doors to students who were not pursuing a religious vocation.
In the early 1960s, women were admitted to Collège Saint-Jean. In the mid-1970s, the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, the founders and owners of the college, decided to sell it to the University of Alberta, which incorporated it into its general operations in 1976.
The McMahon Pavilion is named after François McMahon, the first rector of the Collège Saint-Jean and the Faculté Saint-Jean from 1967 to 1980. The building is actually two separate buildings, built in 1960 and 1964 respectively to accommodate the lack of classroom space.