In 1883 Irish immigrant Patrick Roger Cleary (1858-1948) founded Cleary's School of Penmanship. Starting with only two students, he soon attracted more by offering other business related classes. In 1889 the school's name was changed to Cleary Business College and the facility moved to its third location on the corner of Michigan and Adams. The school was incorporated in 1891. In 1933 the Cleary family turned the physical assets of the college over to a Board of Trustees, establishing Cleary College as an independent non-profit institution. The college moved to its present site in 1960. A branch college was opened in Livingston County in 1979. By 1982 the combined campuses served over one thousand students.