Holy Angel Academy opened on June 5, 1933 in the old convent of the Holy Rosary Parish Church in Angeles. It had 32 high school freshmen, plus 25 sophomores, 13 juniors and eight seniors who had transferred from another high school across town
In sophomore class was Javier Nepomuceno, son of former town mayor Juan De Dios Nepomuceno, who founded the school with the help of parish priest Fr. Pedro Pablo Santos. Javier's need for a better and more accessible school coincided with Don Juan's vision of a school for the town's less privileged students, as well as with Fr. Santos's advocacy to promote Catholic education, and the result was Holy Angel Academy. It was, according to historian Dr. Luciano Santiago, the first Catholic school in the country that was founded by a lay person (not by a diocese or a religious congregation). It was also the first Catholic high school that was co-educational (not exclusively for boys or exclusively for girls).
The first principal was Laguna-born Ricardo V. Flores, who was Javier's teacher in his previous school. The first teachers, aside from Flores (who taught economics and United States history), were Encarnacion Aranda (physics, biology, mathematics), Maria Dimalanta (English), Milagros Romero (history) and a Miss Rodriguez (literature, general science).
Each student paid a tuition fee of P4.00 a month; there were no miscellaneous fees. "The salaries of our teachers were higher than those in the other private school in the town," Flores later wrote in his memoirs. "Yet our tuition fees were the same."
Aside from good salaries and low tuition fees, Holy Angel set three other traditions in its very first school year: academic excellence, extra-curricular activities, and Catholic faith.
That year, the school acquired government recognition after all its sophomore, junior and senior students passed the required government exam, despite being in the thick of preparations for a major cultural presentation. The school also started its First Friday devotion to the Sacred Heart.
In 1938, Pope Pius XI appointed Fr. Santos Bishop of Nueva Caceres (Naga), leaving Holy Angel in laymen's hands. In 1940, the school moved to its new permanent address, occupying a building that came to be known as Main Building (until 2008, when it was renamed Juan D. Nepomuceno Building).
When World War II broke out, the Japanese used the building as private quarters, leading to suspension of classes for the duration of the war. After the Americans liberated Angeles in January, 1945, a US bomber crashed on school grounds. US soldiers occupied the school building while they did mopping-up operations in Angeles. The school reopened in June, 1945.
The school steadily grew after the war. In 1947, it offered evening classes for students with day jobs at Clark Field, and a junior college with a two-year education program leading to a non-degree Elementary Teacher's Certificate (ETC), which capitalized on the post-war government policy of free and compulsory primary education.
The first college, College of Commerce, opened in 1948, with alumnus Javier Nepomuceno as first College Dean. In September that year, HUK rebels invaded the town through the school campus, trapping more than 600 evening high school students.
In 1950, Holy Angel offered Liberal Arts with a two-year course Associate in Arts (Preparatory Law). Acting Dean was Jose Suarez. (It became a College in 1959.)
In 1952, the College of Education opened, with Angelina Ramirez as Dean. In September that year, a fire destroyed the main building. Classes and library facilities were transferred to an annex, which later became the Social Hall (San Francisco de Javier Building today).
In 1960, Grade School opened. Juan D. Nepomuceno became President of Holy Angel Academy, with Ricardo Flores succeeding him as Director.
On December 6, 1961, Holy Angel Academy became Holy Angel College (HAC).
In 1964, Commerce graduates posted a 100% passing rate in the CPA board exam.
In 1965, the College of Engineering opened after the pioneer General Engineering (GE) students reached third year. It was divided into civil, mechanical and electrical engineering departments, as well as a school of surveying.
The same year, the Graduate School opened, with Dr. Lourdes Reyes as first Dean. It offered MA in Education major in Elementary Education.
In 1969, the pioneer graduates of Civil Engineering posted a 100% passing rate in the board exam, boosting the reputation of the school especially coming on the heels of its perfect score in the CPA board exam.
Classes suspended when President Marcos declared martial law in 1972, resuming only after Mr. Flores secured a military permit to operate.
On April 22, 1973, founder Juan D. Nepomuceno, 81, passed away, three years after the death of spouse Teresa. Comptroller Geromin Nepomuceno succeeded his father as President. Two years later, he died while at work in his office. Ricardo Flores became President.
In 1979, Mamerto Nepomuceno became the President of Holy Angel College. On December 4, 1981, the school was granted university status. Mamerto Nepomuceno was installed as first University President. The Archbishop of San Fernando, Oscar V. Cruz, declared HAU a Catholic university.
Mamerto Nepomuceno was succeeded by Sister Josefina G. Nepomuceno, OSB in 1985. Her term was marked by reform, renewed emphasis on the school's Catholic character, and aggressive pursuit of academic excellence. She also steered the University past some of the worst natural and man-made calamities that ever hit it, including crippling faculty strikes, protracted student boycotts, and the devastation of Mount Pinatubo's eruption.
In 1993, the Philippine Accrediting Association of Schools, Colleges and Universities (PAASCU) granted accredited status (Level I) to four college programs of the University: Arts and Sciences, Business and Accountancy, Education and Engineering.
PAASCU upgraded the status to Level II in 1995, as S. Josefina ended her term. Bernadette Nepomuceno was named Acting President. A Management Team was constituted to assist her. She was formally installed as University President in 1999. PAASCU granted HAU a Level II reaccredited status the same year. Two programs were declared centers of development (COD) by the Commission on Higher Education: Electrical Engineering and Industrial Engineering.
In 2001, the University intensified its advocacy to promote local history and culture by hosting the First International Conference on Kapampangan Studies. This was followed by the establishment of the Center for Kapampangan Studies in 2002.
On October 22, 2002, CHED granted HAU a deregulated status. On October 27, 2003, CHED upgraded the status to autonomous. In 2004, PAASCU gave HAU a "clean" Level II reaccredited status.
In 2006, Dr. Arlyn Sicangco-Villanueva succeeded Bernadette Nepomuceno, who resigned. Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo formally swore her in on February 1, 2007. The same year, PAASCU granted a Level I accredited status to the Hospitality Management program, a candidate status to Elementary Education, Master in Education and Master of Business Management programs. CHED declared the University's Information and Communications Technology program a center of development, and the pioneer Nursing graduates also scored an impressive passing rate in the government licensure exam.
In 2008, the US-based International Assembly for Collegiate Business Education (IACBE) accredited all business and business-related programs of the University-the first in the Philippines and the Far East. CHED also declared the University's Teacher Education program a center of development, and PAASCU granted a Level I accredited status to the High School program.
In 2009, CHED extended the University's autonomous status until 2014 in recognition of its accomplishments and adherence to quality assurance. The University's 75th foundation anniversary festivities climaxed with the publication of the official HAU history book Destiny and Destination: The Extraordinary Story and History of Holy Angel University 1933-2008. That same year, CHED conferred on the University's Hospitality Management program a center of development status-the first in the Philippines.
For three successive years, the University conferred its first honorary doctorates on the country's top technocrats: Manuel V. Pangilinan in 2009, Washington SyCip in 2010 and Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala in 2011. The 2012 recipients of honorary doctorates were the Magsaysay awardees Christopher and Ma. Victoria Bernido.
The University has also institutionalized the following awards: the Order of St. Michael the Archangel (for contribution to Catholic lay education), the Order of St. Gabriel the Archangel (for achievement by an alumnus), the Order of St. Raphael the Archangel (for contribution by a former employee), the Laus Deo Semper Award (for community service), and the Juan D. Nepomuceno Cultural Awards (for research & scholarship and arts & culture).
In 2012, the University's High School and Hospitality Management programs received Level II accredited status from PAASCU.
The two terms of Dr. Villanueva as University President were marked by more innovations, including a full accountability in financial and operational systems, performance-based rewards and incentives, new levels of academic excellence, and a massive physical development program that saw a radical transformation of the campus, with new and impressive structures such as the Chapel of the Holy Guardian Angel, University Theatre, University Libraries, St. Joseph Hall, and the Paseo de San Angelo (also known as the Boulevard).
On May 4, 2012, PLDT Chairman Manuel V. Pangilinan was elected Chairman of the Board of Trustees, succeeding Archbishop Paciano B. Aniceto, D.D. who retired.