Two Negrense visionaries dreamt of offering quality education to the people of Negros. Dr. Antonio Lizares and Dr. Francisco Kilayko realized their dreams by putting up a secondary school named as Occidental Negros Institute (ONI) in Talisay in 1941. However, in December of that year, the war broke out and closed down the school.
In 1946, the two founders pursued their dream and reestablished ONI at Locsin Street in Bacolod City. It opened with an elementary Department, High School Department and 3 degree programs in College. Due to the quality of education that ONI offered, a great increase was influx of students, the former venue could no longer accommodate thus a bigger space was needed. Hence, ONI was transferred to the present site at Lizares Avenue in 1948.
ONI continued to grow as an institution of quality education in Negros Occidental. With its mark of excellence in education, the government recognized the institution and elevated ONI to a university status in 1957. Thus,Occidental Negros Institute was renamed as University of Negros Occidental (UNO). This made the UNO as the 1st university in the province of Negros with Dr. Antonio Lizares as its first University President and Dr. Francisco Kilayko as Chairman of the Board.
On May 25,1962, the administration of the university was passed to the hands of the Order of Augustinian Recollects (OAR). UNO was now named as University of Negros Occidental – Recoletos and was placed under the guidance and protection of St. Nicholas of Tolentino, the Patron Saint of UNO-R. Rev. Fr. Federico Terradillos,OAR was named as the first Rector. The administration of the Recollect Fathers made UNO-R as the 1st Catholic University in the Province of Negros Occidental.
In 1996, UNO-R celebrated its Golden Jubilee as an academic institution that has and continues to produce international, national and local achievers in the different fields.
Today, the university stands as one of the models of excellence in education as the Commission on Higher Education has declared UNO-R as one of the three Autonomous Institutions in Region VI in 2008 and has also been categorized as Category A (t). Likewise, most of the colleges have been accredited by PAASCU.
Academic year 2011-2012 marks another milestone in the history of the university as it celebrates its Golden anniversary as a Recollect institution in the island of Negros.