In 2003, Franciscan University of Steubenville published Faith and Reason: An Illustrated History of Franciscan University of Steubenville. Father Terence Henry, TOR, the fifth president of the University, wrote in his foreword, “Among the many valuable reasons we study history is to learn how we have reached our present state, to be inspired by the human drama of great and ordinary people, and to achieve perspective and wisdom in facing the challenges that confront us in our day.”
This 75th Anniversary Edition accomplishes those important goals. It also reminds us that no matter what stature and greatness we achieve, Franciscan University must always seek to “begin again,” as St. Francis of Assisi would say, and move ever forward in the love and power of the Holy Spirit as we educate, evangelize, and send forth joyful disciples of Jesus Christ.
I first came to Franciscan University of Steubenville when I was a mere 21 years old, so over half of my own history is tied to this community: I was here as a student starting in 1986, I was ordained a priest in Finnegan Fieldhouse in 1996, I held numerous roles on campus including teaching in the Theology Department, directing the study abroad program in Gaming, Austria, and speaking at summer conference for over 25 years, and currently, I serve as president.
Father Kevin, Father Mike, Father Terry, Father Sean—I have been blessed to know all but two of my predecessors as president. I worked closely with Father Terry and Father Mike and was honored to preach at Father Mike’s memorial Mass in 2017. A full 77 percent of our alums have graduated since I arrived as a student. Two of my old classmates are now professors here, my classmates’ children are students, and now even my former students are sending their children to Franciscan. I’ve seen a lot and have been a part of so many amazing things here at Franciscan.
In Faith and Reason: An Illustrated History of Franciscan University of Steubenville, you can read of about the amazing events and people that have made this University what it is today. Covering the founding of the College of Steubenville in 1946 to the start of our 75th Jubilee on December 10, 2021, these inspiring historical highlights reveal that from its earliest beginnings, God’s hand has been upon this school, leading, guiding, protecting, through lean times and good times.
Although this book is organized around the presidencies of the seven friars who have led Franciscan University, I am sure I speak for my predecessors in acknowledging that no president built this place alone. We owe a huge debt of gratitude to those friars who labored alongside in this mission without recognition … to the diocese and community of Steubenville for welcoming us with open arms … to faithful faculty and staff who stuck with us through ups and downs … to the parents and students in 1946 who took a chance on a fledgling college—and those who stepped out in faith with us in fall 2020 in the midst of a global pandemic … to the kind benefactors whose belief in our mission helps fuel our growth and expansion. My profoundest thanks to you and prayers for you!
But above all, Franciscan University of Steubenville owes great gratitude to God. Only he could have made what one friend calls the “miracle” of Franciscan come about, transforming minds, hearts, and souls with his truth and love. And only God will sustain us as we continue responding to his call, the same call he gave St. Francis, to “Rebuild My Church.” May we always do so with joy, hope, and peace!
Come, Holy Spirit!
Father Dave Pivonka, TOR ’89
Franciscan University of Steubenville
December 10, 2021
God creates, guides, and provides. We watch. We set down what we see in episodic form, and we call it history. We declare the beginnings and endings of every story, and we publish our books.
But God continues, and in creation, the stories never really come to a conclusion.
Thus, we make books of history, and we expand our books of history. And of the expansion of books there is no end, as long as there is someone to write and others to read.
This is the second edition of Faith and Reason: An Illustrated History of Franciscan University of Steubenville. Matthew Bunson wrote the book in 2003. It was an honor for me to be invited to bring Dr. Bunson’s work up to date for 2022. The book has proven to be as dynamic as life on campus has always been.
This edition is unlikely to be the final word. God is not finished with Franciscan University, and we do not tire of telling the story.
December 10, 2021
The Franciscan Friars who founded and have operated Franciscan University of Steubenville since 1946 are members of the Third Order Regular of St. Francis of Penance (TOR) of the Province of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus. The Third Order traces its origins to St. Francis of Assisi who founded a single Franciscan family, with three branches, in the 13th century. The first was the Order of Friars Minor, for men; the second was the Poor Clares, for women; and the third was for men and women living in the world. During St. Francis’ time, many members of the Third Order were not married, performing works of charity and mercy while gathered together in communal life. From this beginning emerged the male branch of the Third Order Regular of St. Francis of Penance, following the amalgamation in 1448 of various smaller communities of men spread across Italy. Over the next centuries, the TORs founded communities throughout Europe and in Africa, South America, Mexico, India, Sri Lanka, and the United States. The province from which the founders of Franciscan University were sent was established in 1910 at Loretto, Pennsylvania, with the call to assist the apostolate of Catholic education.
Throughout the entire history of Franciscan University, the friars have been the great constant in the lives of the school, and above all, the students. When Father Dan Egan, TOR, arrived in 1946, he brought with him little save for his determination to establish a school worthy of the authentic teachings of the Church and the spirit of St. Francis.
Over the next seventy-five years, the Franciscan friars who followed in Father Dan’s footsteps have remained faithful to that commitment. There have been some 135 friars who have served or are serving at the University. They have taught theology, philosophy, mathematics, accounting, chemistry, physics, and a host of other academic fields. Above all, however, each friar has been a powerful and prayerful influence on the students, in ways far removed from the classroom. Their ministry has shaped the development and the futures of thousands of young men and women, students who will always remember their days on campus with gratitude and fondness.
Thanks in large measure to the friars, Franciscan University is a place of learning and of faith, a place where fides et ratio, “faith and reason,” exist in harmony. At the heart of the school remains a true Franciscan and Catholic spirit.
The College of Steubenville opened on December 10 in downtown Steubenville with 258 students led by president, Father Dan Egan, TOR.
First Founders’ Day Dinner held. First Board of Advisors established.
First graduation celebrated with the commencement address given by Ernest T. Weir, chairman of the board of National Steel. Alma Mater dedicated in honor of the first graduating class.
Father Regis Stafford, TOR, appointed acting president so Father Egan could devote himself to planning the new hilltop campus.
Bishop John King Mussio, who first conceived of the idea for the College, received an honorary doctor of law degree and delivered the commencement address.
Women’s Club founded.
Baron Basketball Team, coached by Hank Kuzma, achieved a 24-1 record and recognition as the Number One Small College Basketball Team in the U.S.
Father Egan died in a fire, and his passing was mourned by all of Steubenville. Father Kevin R. Keelan, TOR, succeeded him as president.
North Central Association of Colleges and Schools granted the College formal accreditation.
New hilltop campus opened with Egan-Stafford, Starvaggi, Antonian, Marian, and St. Francis Halls.
Father Columba J. Devlin, TOR, appointed third president of the College.
Trinity Hall student residence completed.
St. Thomas More residence hall completed.
Graduating class topped 100 students for the first time.
Board of Trustees established to provide additional leadership to the College.
Father Kevin Keelan, TOR, returned for his second term as president. Christ the King Chapel dedicated.
J.C. Williams Center opened. Enrollment reached an historic high at 1,333.
Student Pro-Life Club formed following Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion.
Father Michael Scanlan, TOR, appointed fourth president. Master’s in education offered in conjunction with University of Dayton.
Charismatic Priests Conference held on campus, the first of many Catholic conferences for adults to follow. Innovative student faith households launched.
BA in theology added. Mother Teresa accepted the Poverello Medal during commencement. First Catholic Youth Conference held on campus.
Student Volunteer Program of Service to the community initiated.
First College-wide convocation held with an address by Father Michael Scanlan, TOR, on the school’s identity and direction.
The College of Steubenville became the University of Steubenville through the addition of MBA, MA Theology, and MS Education Programs. The Strong in the ’80s Capital Campaign surpassed its goal of $1 million.
Student Work Opportunity Program initiated. Stony Hollow Boulevard renamed University Boulevard.
The University’s entire short-term debt paid off by a benefactor. Vaccaro Field completed through donations from local citizens. Franciscan University Press inaugurated.
The University received a 10-year accreditation from the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools. Franciscan Way rerouted; plaza constructed. Catholic FIRE Ministry launched to preach Faith, Intercession, Repentance, and Evangelization.
The Board of Trustees voted to change the name of the University to Franciscan University of Steubenville; it was made official by the state of Ohio in April 1986. Pre-Theologate Program for men discerning the priesthood began.
Father Michael Scanlan, TOR, presented Pope John Paul II with an honorary degree and spiritual bouquet from Franciscan University students, faculty, and staff. Father Scanlan published his popular autobiography, Let the Fire Fall.
The John Paul II Library and St. Mary of the Angels Chapel, a replica of the Portiuncula in Assisi, completed. The Tomb of the Unborn Child erected. 700 alumni came home for the University’s 40th Anniversary.
The Ohio Valley Skating Rink renovated into the St. Joseph Center. Accounting students offered free IRS tax filing assistance to Ohio Valley residents through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program for the first time.
President Father Michael Scanlan, TOR, and the entire full-time theology faculty and all Franciscan friars made the Profession of Faith and took the Oath of Fidelity. University named to the John Templeton Foundation Honor Roll for Character Building Colleges and Universities for the first time. Father Scanlan jailed with Steubenville Bishop Albert Ottenweller for a peaceful pro-life demonstration at a Youngstown, Ohio, abortion clinic.
Record enrollment set with 1,768 students from 49 states and 37 countries. First time listed in Barron’s 300: Best Buys in College Education.
Listed among America’s top liberal arts schools by National Review. The Austrian Study Abroad Program began at the Kartause Maria Thronus Iesu in Gaming. The Steel Cross and bronze Stations of the Cross erected.
Father Matthew Finnegan Fieldhouse completed. The Language and Catechetical Institute (LCI) began in Gaming to train catechists for Eastern and Central Europe.
The average SAT score of incoming freshmen topped 1,000. Mission of Franciscan University published. Listed among the top liberal arts schools by National Catholic Register.
Urban Mission Ministries became an associate to more closely collaborate in serving the local poor. An Economic Impact Study indicated that Franciscan accounted for over 5,500 local jobs and more than $100 million in local spending. Christ the King Chapel addition completed. Distance Education began offering graduate and undergraduate courses on audio cassette. First off-campus youth conference held in Louisiana.
Celebrated 50th anniversary with over 1,000 alumni and supporters. Helped establish the International Theological Institute (ITI) in Gaming, Austria. Dedicated Our Lady of Praise Grotto.
Named to the John Templeton Foundation Honor Rolls for Education in a Free Society, as one of the top 13 universities in the nation. New residence halls dedicated to St. Maximilian Kolbe and St. Clare of Assisi.
First time ranked in U.S. News & World Report’s America’s Best Colleges “top tier” of Midwestern universities.
25th annual conference season offered nine adult conferences and three on-campus youth conferences as well as eight regional youth conferences. Twi-Lite Motel purchased for use as student housing. Listed in the Templeton Foundation’s Colleges That Encourage Character Development.
Building on Faith Capital Campaign concluded at $18.75 million, by far the largest amount raised to date. Father Michael Scanlan, TOR, stepped down after 26 years as president of Franciscan University and was named the school’s first chancellor. Father Terence Henry, TOR, took the helm as the fifth president of Franciscan University. SS. Cosmas and Damian Science Hall dedicated.
Received $600,000 Fides et Ratio Grant award to further integrate mission with admissions process, curriculum, and faculty development in light of John Paul II’s Fides et Ratio.
Handcrafted chalice and paten—from the Fides et Ratio Grant Evaluation Committee—first used at spring semester opening Mass. Rome Program inaugurated for MA theology students.
Launched the Commuter Grant Program, which gave a 50-percent tuition discount to aid local students. John Paul II Library underwent major renovation. Franciscan affiliate purchased the Holiday Inn, part of which became St. Anthony of Padua residence hall. First Dinner With 12 Strangers with local families hosting 450 new students in their homes at the end of Orientation Weekend.
Classes cancelled so students and faculty could attend a campus Mass offered by Bishop R. Daniel Conlon of Steubenville to pray for the repose of John Paul II’s soul.
Franciscan marked 60th year. J.C. Williams Center expanded. $25 million Campaign for Franciscan University launched to increase scholarships, renovate Egan Hall, and build a new friary. Vatican Pontifical Council for Culture asked faculty for a preparatory paper on the Franciscan perspective of beauty for a dicastery meeting.
Barons re-entered intercollegiate sports as provisional members of the NCAA Division III. SS. Louis and Elizabeth Residence Hall opened. Purchased adjacent Belleview Golf Course and Green Strip properties. New Institute of Bioethics started to defend Catholic teachings on life issues. Named one of 21 “faithfully Catholic universities” recognized in the inaugural edition of Cardinal Newman Society’s Guide to Choosing a Catholic College.
Dr. Patrick Lee appointed to the John N. and Jamie D. McAleer Chair in Bioethics, the first fully endowed chair in the University’s history. Parkview Circle purchased and renovated into apartment-style student housing and renamed Assisi Heights. Barons admitted to the Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference. Total campus acreage reached 239, doubling in size in 10 years.
Friars moved into the new Holy Spirit Friary. University celebrated Father Scanlan’s 50th anniversary as a professed Franciscan. Vatican Apostolic Penitentiary designated Portiuncula Chapel as a place where the faithful can receive a plenary indulgence. Franciscan named a “top 10 conservative college” by Young America’s Foundation. Pontifical Council for Culture held From Sea to Shining Sea: Faith and Culture in North America Conference at Franciscan.
New limestone, brick, stone, and steel entrance constructed on University Boulevard. Franciscan joined the social media world with Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, and YouTube accounts. 35th year of conferences celebrated with over 40,000 adults and youth at conferences in the U.S. and Canada. Capital Campaign raised $31 million, surpassing $25 million goal.
Father Michael Scanlan, TOR, 79, retired after 11 years as chancellor and moved to the TOR Motherhouse in Loretto, Pennsylvania. Baron mascot redesigned. First Franciscan student received Fulbright grant. Center for Leadership launched to better prepare students to serve in every occupation proper to the Christian laity. Became full member of the National Collegiate Athletic Association, eligible to participate in NCAA championships. Franciscan named for first time to Kiplinger’s 100 Best Values in Private Universities. Launched the Online MSEd, first fully online degree program.
Faculty approved new liberal arts core curriculum based on the Western intellectual tradition, Franciscan educational heritage, and Catholic mission of the University. Franciscan University filed a federal lawsuit against Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to have the HHS mandate declared unconstitutional and the government enjoined from requiring employers to provide insurance coverage for abortion-inducing drugs, contraceptives, and sterilization. Dr. Scott Hahn appointed to the endowed Father Michael Scanlan Chair of Biblical Theology and the New Evangelization. Century Club renamed Baron Club and continued raising money for athletic endeavors.
Franciscan’s federal HHS Mandate lawsuit dismissed by the Southern District of Ohio on the grounds of “ripeness.” Father Sean O. Sheridan, TOR, announced as sixth president of Franciscan University. Father Terence Henry, TOR, named chancellor to assist with donor and alumni relations. Veritas Center for Ethics in Public Life founded.
Celebrated Ex corde Ecclesiae’s 25th anniversary with the Fidelity and Freedom Series. Named for the first time by Forbes to America’s Top Colleges, the top 10 percent of America’s 4,726 degree-granting institutions.
Groundbreaking for Franciscan Square construction on University Boulevard. Theology professor Dr. Scott Hahn and sociology professor Dr. Anne Hendershott and others interviewed on Franciscan as a “pocket of inspiration” for the FOX News documentary “Losing Faith in America?” Bishop Jeffrey Monforton of Steubenville opened the Holy Door in Christ the King Chapel, ushering in the Jubilee Year of Mercy.
First Hilltop Communities Block Party held for Steubenville hilltop neighborhoods. Dr. Patrick Lee, director of the Center for Bioethics, testified at the U.S. Capitol on the ethical implications of using fetal tissue in biomedical research. First student-run conference, “Woman: Gift in Culture and Church,” defended the vocation of women in light of Church teaching.
Father Michael Scanlan, TOR, 85, died on January 7, and his viewing, wake service, and memorial Mass were held at Franciscan with a Mass of Christian Burial in Loretto. Inaugural GRACE (Gallery of Research, Artistry, and Community Engagement) showcased student and faculty academic work. National conference marked 25th anniversary of the Catholic Catechism as a key tool for sharing the faith.
Academic departments reorganized into schools of Theology, Professional Programs, Natural and Applied Sciences, Humanities and Social Sciences, and Online Programs. Former hotel renovated into St. Junípero Serra Residence Hall. Egan Plaza transformed with five mini-plazas for study and socializing. Actor Jim Caviezel and EWTN host Raymond Arroyo discussed the Paul, Apostle of Christ film live from Finnegan Fieldhouse. Dr. Mark Miravalle recognized for his prolific scholarship with the St. John Paul II Chair of Mariology.
Father Sean O. Sheridan, TOR, resigned as president. Father Dave Pivonka, TOR, appointed seventh president of Franciscan University. Archbishop Bashar Matti Warda, CSsR, the Chaldean archbishop of Erbil, Iraq, and Father Pivonka signed a Memorandum of Understanding committed to cultural and educational exchanges.
COVID-19 pandemic caused classes to move online following spring break. Franciscan dealt with pandemic fears and economic impact by taking a Step in Faith: offering free tuition to all new students for fall 2020. Summer conferences went virtual with Night of Hope. Barons began play in the Presidents’ Athletic Conference. Father Dave Pivonka, TOR, released Metanoia, a 10-part documentary series. Father Pivonka and Dr. Bob Rice started “They That Hope” podcast.
Rebuild My Church Strategic Plan approved by trustees. George D. Rice Music Center dedicated. Fall enrollment topped 3,400 (on-campus and online graduate and undergraduate students, full time and part time). Leadership Institute and Center for Criminal Justice, Law, and Ethics launched to better form Catholic leaders. Public kick-off of $75 million Rebuild My Church Capital Campaign. Celebration of 75th Anniversary Jubilee of Franciscan University began December 10, 2021.
Franciscan University of Steubenville traces its origins to the rapid growth of the Catholic Church in the United States throughout the first half of the 20th century. The need for a new diocese in Ohio was so pressing, in fact, that in 1944 —in the midst of World War II—Pope Pius XII established the Diocese of Steubenville. On March 4, 1945, the diocese’s first bishop was announced, then Monsignor John King Mussio of Cincinnati. Consecrated a bishop on May 1, 1945, Mussio was installed officially as bishop of Steubenville on May 23, 1945, launching a new era for the Church in the area.
It was apparent immediately to the bishop that there were few opportunities for the local young adults to receive a quality education. Adding to the demand for some kind of a local college was the return of thousands of men and women from the war. The ex-servicemen and women were eager to go back to the colleges they had left to go overseas or to make use of the GI Bill to pay for their education. They left Steubenville to enroll in college, and many never returned.
Embracing the optimism in the country that accompanied victory in World War II, Bishop Mussio concluded that the time was ideal for a Catholic college in that region of Ohio. He envisioned such a school offering a quality education to everyone, but he was also firm that any college would be under Catholic leadership and would be founded on Catholic teachings. Local leaders in Steubenville were quite receptive to the idea, despite the fact that unsuccessful attempts had been made in previous years to start local colleges in eastern Ohio, such as at New Athens and Barnesville.
Encouraged by the response, the bishop began looking for a religious community to operate the new school. He first approached the Jesuits and was told that the diocese would have to pay a million dollars up front to bankroll the enterprise. Unable to meet such an expensive request, the bishop turned instead to the Franciscans. The bishop was already familiar with the minister provincial of the Sacred Heart Province of the Third Order Regular Franciscans (the TORs), the Very Reverend John Boccella, TOR, whom he had met at his own installation. At the event, Father Boccella had even asked the bishop what the Franciscans could do for him.
As Bishop Mussio was soon made aware, the Third Order Regulars had already achieved surprising success with St. Francis College in Loretto, Pennsylvania, and in his discussions with Father Boccella, the bishop was told that the friars not only greeted the challenge of starting a college in Steubenville, they offered to provide their own financing. On June 7, 1946, Father Boccella and the Provincial Council accepted officially the request of the diocese to found a Catholic college in Steubenville. The friar chosen for the enormous task was Father Daniel W. Egan, TOR.
On July 2, 1946, Father Egan arrived in Steubenville with $348,000 in borrowed funds. A native of Boston, he had been a very successful accountant when called to the Franciscans in 1928. Ordained to the priesthood in 1935, Father Egan distinguished himself in the order as an academician, as well as a dean and later vice president of St. Francis College. His first task upon arrival in Steubenville was to secure a central administrative building in downtown Steubenville that might also provide classrooms, a library, and a chemistry lab.
While on a visit to the diocese a short time before Father Egan’s arrival, Father Boccella had been taken on a tour by Bishop Mussio to select likely candidates for the College’s headquarters. The most suitable building was the one-time Knights of Pythias building, 420 Washington Street, a location that affirmed to the people of the city that the College would truly be an institution for the entire community. Father Dan purchased it for the considerable sum of $70,000.
While ideally located, the building needed various renovations and posed a number of challenges, not the least of which was the reputation of the lower floor that housed an infamous nightclub called Walker’s Cafe. The club had been a speakeasy during the Prohibition era and never lost its rather scandalous reputation. Once converted by the College to better uses, Walker’s Cafe became the library, although for some time after the arrival of the school, would-be patrons walked in for a drink, discovered books and students, and asked what on earth had happened to the bar.
Work on the renovation of the building commenced on August 25, 1946, when Walker’s closed. As work progressed, Father Dan acquired several other buildings, including two houses on North Fourth Street, one to serve as a residence for the friars and another across the street to provide a biology building. Behind it was situated a two-story Army barracks intended to serve as a classroom building. The buildings were known by the rather grand name of North Campus.
Father Egan was assisted in his work from September 1946 by Father Regis Stafford, TOR, as the friars settled into residence on Fourth Street and began the added work of winning the acceptance of the people in the city. In August 1946, Father Egan delivered a speech to the local Kiwanis Club. He described his vision for the College with words that had a timeless relevance:
The College has a two-fold purpose . . . to give those who enroll here a thorough sense of values designed to train men for a full life which occupies 24 hours a day, not simply eight hours spent in the shop or office. It also aims to contribute to the development and the welfare of a man’s nature, recognizing that he has not only a body but an immortal soul.
On December 10, 1946, the College of Steubenville opened its doors and marked the occasion with a celebration of a Solemn High Mass in the Immaculate Heart of Mary Chapel. The main celebrant was Father Boccella, with the sermon delivered by Father Adrian Veigel, TOR, then president of St. Francis College. In his sermon, Father Veigel declared:
. . . it is most consoling to realize that another institution has come into existence whose philosophy of life will be one with the Philosophy of Christ; whose teaching will be moulded and founded in the teaching of Jesus Christ; whose educational purpose and goal will comprehend not merely the training of individuals but rather the education of the whole man never for a moment losing sight of the profound truths that man is composed of body and soul . . .
There were 258 initial students (including 7 women). Most were veterans of the war making use of the GI Bill. They were instructed by 10 faculty members, many of whom also filled various administrative duties. The tuition was $9 per credit. By the end of the first year, the student body had grown to 417 and the faculty to 17.
From the first days of the College, there was a feeling of making do. The administrative building was notoriously dirty, even after the renovation, with the staff unable to open the graphite-coated windows. There were also no books in the library, nor were there any laboratories. The classrooms were decidedly makeshift, converted from a Quonset hut and a former Army barracks, both of which were laughingly called firetraps. So precarious did the College’s survival seem that it was not unusual for students to telephone early on Monday mornings to make certain that the school was still open.
Not surprisingly, the early years were characterized by an abiding trust in Divine Providence. The friars had no money to pay for their own meals, surviving like the original Franciscans on the generosity of the community. Local groceries allowed them to buy food on credit, gladly receiving payment in tiny installments when a few dollars could be gathered together. An accountant by training, Father Dan developed cordial relationships with local banks, such as the Miners and Mechanics Bank, Union Bank, and First National Bank. The generosity of the banks permitted the school to operate on a shoestring budget, borrowing money to pay off other loans and to cover the payroll during frequent financial shortfalls. On more than one occasion the young financial officer, Rose DeFede, went to Father Regis to announce that the bank account was empty and payroll had to be met in a few days. The ever-practical friars never hesitated in telling her to cut the paychecks, trusting entirely in Providence. Without fail, the money materialized just in time.
To assist the material needs of the College, Father Dan made application to share in the program headed by the War Assets Administration. The department made available to public institutions some of the vast amounts of government property, furniture, and equipment that were made surplus by the end of the war. The administration granted to the College a research radar laboratory building from Wright Patterson Air Base in Dayton, Ohio; it was used by the College from 1948 as the Liberal Arts building on North Fourth Street. Across the street was the home being used by the friars. That same year, the College acquired a home in the residential section of the city to serve as the very first of the College’s dormitories, under the name Alpha House. It was joined by a campus fraternity soon after, the Delta Sigma Fraternity House, and Weir House, a women’s dormitory.
Throughout the first four years of the College’s existence, the school was divided into several campuses spread out over eight blocks of the city. Owing to the considerable walking distances between the campuses, students were given the unusually long period of 15 minutes between classes.
The curriculum reflected the determination that the College should be authentically Catholic, with mandatory courses in theology and philosophy; non-Catholics were exempted from theology requirements, but they still had to take courses such as Basic Truths 101, Character Formation 102, and six hours of Social Psychology. There were also traditional liberal arts requirements, such as six hours of Latin, Greek, or mathematics; six hours of history, literature, and modern languages; and six hours of lab science. A total of 138 hours were needed to graduate. Majors included economics, history, political science, biology, chemistry, and later education and engineering. The school’s Self-Survey Report declared in 1959:
Since the day the first faculty meeting was convened at the College of Steubenville, the common aim of all members of the instructional staff could be expressed thus: to create in the student a better understanding of himself, his relationship to God, and his fellow man, to the end that he would become a better human being and more valuable to society. The faculty, therefore, became convinced that thinking is a vital need in all areas of life and should be the first fruit of a college education.
Father Dan stressed the commitment to authentic education in 1949 when he delivered the first report on the status of the College. He wrote, “It is the position of the Institution that academic freedom has limits beyond which freedom becomes license. This position is based on the premise that there is such a thing as objective reality, truth that is truth regardless of what the human mind may think to the contrary.”
The first catalog of the school reiterated the commitment to Catholic teachings and Franciscan influences. The catalog declared, “The philosophy of life of St. Francis of Assisi ennobling work and study motivates and directs the lives of the Franciscan fathers conducting this college and is communicated by word and example to those coming under their influence.” Professors were urged to begin their classes with prayer, and every school year was inaugurated with Mass in the chapel next to the administration building.
The College operated for its first two years under the charter of St. Francis College. In 1948, it was granted articles of incorporation by the state of Ohio, with permission to confer bachelor degrees. In 1949, the College was permitted to become the 48th member of the Ohio College Association, a major step toward full accreditation by the North Central Association in 1961.
Father Dan Egan, TOR, speaking on the occasion of the first Commencement Exercises of the College of Steubenville in 1950.
In June 1950, the first class celebrated its graduation. The seniors were honored with 17 different events, including a solemn Mass at St. Peter’s Church and a June 8commencement at Steubenville High School. It was appropriate that the principal speaker was Ernest T. Weir, one of the most respected business leaders in the area who had been active in founding the Weirton Steel Company and the municipality of Weirton, West Virginia. Many men employed in his mill were members of the graduating class; they had attended classes full-time during the day and worked full-time on the night shift for four straight years.
The first graduating class was also unique in the maturity of its members. The graduates had been soldiers and were mostly Ohioans. Many were married with children. By 1950, the new freshmen classes were changing the composition of the student body. More West Virginians were enrolling, largely from nearby Weirton and Follansbee, and the number of women students was increasing steadily.
From the start, Fathers Egan and Stafford had labored to win the acceptance of the local community. Bishop Mussio had been assured of the support of local business and political leaders who recognized the advantages of a local college. The friars became fixtures in the city and were given a warm welcome by stores and groceries. One of the best examples of community support was the expansion of the library. Upon its founding, the library received contributions from Marietta College, Duquesne University, St. Francis College, and other institutions who parted with any duplicate books in their collections. This was a good start, but the school was in chronic need of new volumes. To improve the situation, a “Book Day” was organized in the city, encouraging local professionals and clergy to make donations. In one evening, 3,000 books were donated, including volumes from the Steubenville Herald Star and the Steubenville Public Library. By 1958, the school library boasted over 28,000 catalogued books and periodicals.
Another area of galvanizing local support was in athletics. Father Egan encouraged an Athletic Department that included intercollegiate football and basketball, adopting the name of the Barons in honor of the famed Revolutionary War era Catholic leader Baron von Steuben, the namesake for Steubenville.
The Baron football team suffered through several losing seasons—save for 1947 when it had a record of 4-4-1—and was disbanded in 1950 because of the prohibitive costs of the sport. The basketball team, meanwhile, was surprisingly successful throughout the decade, once winning 56 home games in a row under Coach Hank Kuzma. In 1958, the team had a record of 24-1 and earned the title “Number One Small College Basketball Team in the U.S.” from the Associated Press.
Two other events that fostered local ties were the founding of a Board of Advisors and Founders’ Day. The board was organized initially as a self-perpetuating source of advice and encouragement for the school and was comprised of 21 members who gave of their time out of concern for the mission of Catholic education. The number of members was later increased, but in 1949, it was made up of 8 Catholics and 13 non-Catholics. In its first 10 years, the board helped direct fundraising and encouraged the long-term development plan crafted by Father Dan. Two early notable members were Michael Baker Jr., who prepared the master plan for development and drafted the various architectural plans for new buildings, and Michael Starvaggi. An Italian immigrant who worked his way to the position of leading industrialist, Starvaggi was one of the great supporters of the school. He established, through the Starvaggi Foundation, four annual $500 scholarships, helped promote the expansion of the campus in its new home on the hilltop in the 1960s, and underwrote the cost of Starvaggi Hall (which housed the library and nursing departments for many years and today serves as the administration building).
On December 7, 1949, the ballroom at the Fort Steuben Hotel became the site for the first-ever Founders’ Day and the first conferring of the Poverello Medal. The medal is bestowed on a worthy person or organization that demonstrates the Christ-like charity of St. Francis of Assisi and is the highest non-academic honor bestowed by the College. The first recipient of the Poverello Medal was the Fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous. Founders’ Day has been held ever since, and the list of recipients of the Poverello Medal now includes Mother Teresa, Dorothy Day, and Ronald McDonald House. [See Appendix for a complete list of medal recipients.]
What was apparent by the end of the 1950s was that despite its distinctly humble origins, the College was growing rapidly both in terms of students and status. Indeed, the expansion of the College was essential. The question was whether remaining in the city was feasible. Father Dan had hopes for long-term expansion, and in 1954, he seized a genuine opportunity. With the help of Michael Starvaggi, the College purchased 40 acres of land for a brand-new campus overlooking the Ohio River a mile from downtown Steubenville. Collateral was raised for the new campus with the assistance of Pietro DiNovo, a popular car dealer who raffled 10 cars from 1958-60 and raised $80,000 for the school. To devote himself full-time to the expansion, Father Dan asked that Father Regis be appointed acting president of the College in 1955.
Sadly, Father Egan did not live to preside over the new era. On the evening of March 30, 1959, a fire erupted in the friary. Father Dan was caught in the smoke and died of asphyxiation. The entire city mourned his passing, including the Steubenville Herald–Star, which honored him as “a vital part of the entire area and a constant fighter for the welfare of its people.” His fellow Franciscans also held him in high esteem. Father Theodore Bradower, TOR, declared that Father Dan “had a heart of gold. He was a brilliant and outstanding president, respected and loved by his Franciscan community.” The city also turned out in large numbers for the funeral, lining Fourth Street to St. Peter’s Church.
Father Dan was remembered by those at the school for his practical skills as a leader and also as a truly brilliant homilist. Throughout the 13 years of his leadership, the College had been tiny, but it was blessed by an abiding Catholic spirit and a genuine commitment to the future. The hilltop campus reflected his vision, although it was left to his successor to bring the plans to fruition.
Following the death of Father Egan, the school was overseen by Father Joseph Sullivan, TOR, who served as interim president until a permanent president could be appointed. Seven months faded during which the grief and shock of Father Dan’s passing slowly waned. On October 23, 1959, the announcement was made that Father Kevin Keelan, TOR, had been named Father Egan’s successor, the first of two terms Father Keelan would serve as president. He had previous connections to the College, serving as dean from 1953-1956. He also understood that his most important task as president was to fulfill Father Egan’s plans for a new campus.
In 1960, a groundbreaking was held for a complex of six new buildings on the hilltop. Bishop Mussio was in attendance as were various local leaders and supporters of the school. Construction proceeded apace through the winter of 1960-61. The weather was especially severe for several months, with numerous storms and freezing temperatures. Workers plowed ahead, however, and by late spring the campus was ready to be occupied by the College. The new school held the distinction of having the first campus in the country powered entirely by electricity.
Priority was given to three buildings on the site. First, there was Holy Spirit Monastery, funded by the TOR Franciscans, to serve as the campus residence for the Franciscans. There was also a library and administration building paid for with a large financial gift from Michael Starvaggi and his wife. Finally, there was a classroom building named in honor of Father Egan with one wing named for Father Stafford. Eventually, half a dozen buildings were constructed between 1961-1962: Holy Spirit Monastery (now Friary), Starvaggi Hall, Egan and Stafford Hall, Marian Hall, St. Francis Hall, and Antonian Hall. The Holy Spirit Friary was designed by Father Theodore Bradower, TOR, a Franciscan who taught in the Philosophy and Art Departments at the College from 1953-74.
The move to the new campus in the summer of 1961 marked a new era in the history of the College. The school had moved a little over a mile, but the campus perched on a bluff overlooking the Ohio River signaled a significant change in the relationship between the city and College. For 15 years, the students, faculty, and friars had been a fixture in downtown Steubenville. It was inevitable that this relationship would change as the College departed for the hilltop. The school was now positioned to continue expanding and moving forward, but for those who had worked in the city campus, the first days left indelible and very fond memories of the earlier time.
Father Keelan, meanwhile, was encouraged further by the formal accreditation of the school by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools. He was now able to extend recruitment beyond the Ohio area to the Eastern and Midwestern States. The anticipated increase in students meant as well that new dormitories were needed. After taking over as president, Father Keelan first rented a floor of the Fort Steuben Hotel for the 1959-60 school year. The students then moved to the campus and into the Marian and St. Francis Halls that were built in 1961.
To prevent a sense of isolation between the College and both the city of Steubenville and the diocese, Father Keelan continued to stress Founders’ Day and gave his approval to the annual Christmas Parade. Every year until 1969, students worked through the fall to create floats that were then paraded through downtown Steubenville.
The new campus was launched officially in October 1961 with the arrival of the 250 resident students and 600 commuter students. More facilities were going to be needed soon, but Father Keelan never had the chance to bring them to completion. In June 1962, he was elected minister provincial of the Sacred Heart Province of the TORs and was replaced as president by Father Columba Devlin, TOR. Father Keelan’s tenure had witnessed the fulfillment of Father Egan’s grand design for the hilltop campus, the consolidation of the expansion, and the start of a new, unprecedented period of growth.
Father Devlin had been serving as president of St. Francis College in Loretto at the time of his appointment as president in Steubenville. From the moment of his inauguration in October 1962, the school moved ahead with further growth. Father Devlin first acquired 27 additional acres for the campus. He then expanded the current buildings, launched construction on two more residence halls, Trinity Hall (1963) and St. Thomas More Hall (1964), and later formulated plans for the new J.C. Williams Student Center. As with the Holy Spirit Friary, the J.C. Williams Center was designed by Father Ted Bradower, TOR. Four different architectural renderings had been proposed and all rejected for various reasons, so it was left to Father Ted to create a design that could be adopted. He drafted a design that met all the needs of the students, including a basketball court, exercise room, and even a poetry forum. Above all, Father Devlin concentrated on the new chapel: Christ the King Chapel.
Given the expansion of the College throughout the 1960s, logic dictated that priority should be given to improving facilities for students. Father Devlin, however, recognized that what was required above all was a spiritual center for the school. He thus pushed aggressively for the new chapel, and construction was completed in 1969.
The chapel was of a daring and sweeping architectural design, and from the first, it was the most distinctive building on the campus. It was also a decisive statement that the College was more than a place of learning like the thousands of other schools around the country. It was authentically Catholic and found its true source of direction from Christ. Today, Christ the King Chapel remains the most distinctive structure on the campus, towering above the skyline and announcing the true purpose of the University.
The new buildings were put to excellent use as the student body continued to increase every year. In 1965, the graduating class topped 100 students for the first time, and total enrollment peaked in 1970 with 1,111 total students, permitting the College to pay off its debts. Assisting the process of financial consolidation was the presence of a Board of Trustees. First established with lay members in 1966, the board helped give additional leadership to the College and was a valuable resource to Father Devlin (and subsequent presidents) in the work of fostering authentic Catholic education.
By 1969, the campus boasted Starvaggi Hall for administration and the library; Egan and Stafford Hall for classrooms, laboratories, and faculty offices; Antonian Hall for student dining; St. Thomas More and St. Francis Hall housing the men’s dormitories; Marian Hall and Trinity Hall housing women’s dormitories; the Holy Spirit Monastery; and the distinctive Christ the King Chapel. The dormitories were so packed that in 1965 it had been necessary to house three students to a room. The College solved this problem temporarily by adding to the dorms.
Concurrent with the physical development of buildings and the increasing student body were additions to the faculty and success in athletics. Psychology and sociology were added to the already extensive program options, and many young professors—in French, mathematics, history, biology, and education— joined the faculty for what was anticipated would be an unending period of success. Progress in education was matched by the basketball team under Coach John Bayer. The Barons entered the NCAA Division II Regional Tournament twice in four years.
For those who served on the campus during Father Devlin’s tenure, the chief memory of the friar was his remarkable ability to make straightforward decisions. He settled troubling issues swiftly, fairly, and directly, but he was also a humble Franciscan and a dedicated priest. His reputation for competence was such, however, that it was only a matter of time before he was called to higher duties. After seven years as president of the College, in 1969 Father Devlin was elected minister provincial for the Sacred Heart Province of the TORs, ending his tenure in Steubenville. It was never forgotten that he had presided over a period of ceaseless activity, progress, and expansion.
After leaving the College, Father Devlin completed his term as provincial and then, in 1975, served as a hospital chaplain in Pittsburgh. He subsequently returned to the College as vice president of development. In 1980, he went back to hospital chaplaincy and passed away on September 3, 1981.
Swiftly following the election of Father Devlin as provincial in 1969, the Board of Trustees announced that Father Kevin Keelan was returning to the College. Every expectation upon his inauguration was that the College’s advance was a permanent state of affairs. For reasons far beyond Father Keelan’s control, however, the apparently endless period of development could not be sustained. A financial and cultural storm broke during his second presidency, and the College was soon beset from different and unexpected directions.
First, the College was no longer the sole educational center in the Steubenville area. Four other state-supported schools had been established in the previous years, all of them offering lower tuition. Local high school students suddenly had an alternative to the College of Steubenville, so recruitment from within the Steubenville community proved increasingly difficult.
The crisis of recruiting was deepened by cultural changes and unrest that were so common in the early 1970s. The abolition of the draft in 1973 meant that young men no longer entered college to escape military service. As this was a problem encountered by virtually every college and university, competition proved fierce among recruiters. Compounding the problem of finding new students was the sociological phenomenon of a general decline in births at the end of the baby boom. The simple reality was that the population of college-age students was significantly smaller than a generation before.
Even more troubling was the turmoil caused by the ongoing Vietnam War and flourishing of the 1960s counterculture that threatened the welfare of students and the Catholicity of the College. The social upheaval was characterized by a pervasive unease in higher education, grim suspicion of authority figures, and above all a rejection of authority in every sense. For a Catholic college, the risks of embracing such a mindset were especially perilous.
Inevitably, financial shortfalls from the drop in enrollment were felt at every level. While Father Kevin remained absolutely committed to the ideals of the College, he had little choice but to surrender to financial need. The declining student body prompted layoffs among the faculty and staff and cutbacks in programs and a number of adjustments to campus life.
Father Kevin scaled back school spending, increased class size to create a higher student to faculty ratio and reduced the number of classes. Enrollments nevertheless continued to dip, with many classes boasting only a dozen students. In an effort to attract a wider cross-section of students, the curriculum was revised. The once solid requirements of philosophy and theology were abolished: Philosophy ceased being mandatory at all, and only six hours of theology were necessary for graduation.
Signs of the seriousness of the problem were evident in several ways. Enrollment for the fall semester in 1972 dropped to 629 resident students and 332 commuter students, a notable decline from the previous year. On February 15, 1973, a letter was sent out to some members of the faculty that their contracts would not be renewed for the next year. Deficits were also growing, making a stark statement of how the times had changed since the surplus years of the 1960s. Many meetings of faculty and administration had little on the agenda about teaching; instead, they informed of new cutbacks.
For many who were on the campus, the most emotionally shocking symbol of the crisis was seen in the dormitories. Where once there had been three students to a room, now some of the dormitories sat empty. The darkest moment arrived when the administration took the step of placing a For Sale sign in front of St. Thomas More Hall.
Protests over the Vietnam War and other social issues were commonplace on campuses across the nation. The College of Steubenville was spared at least this facet of social upheaval with only one major anti-war rally—mounted by 30 students in 1969—troubling the atmosphere on campus. Far more serious were the efforts from some quarters to erode the authentic Catholic spirit of the school.
Encouraged by the changes in the curriculum, some students petitioned that co-ed dorms be introduced. Father Keelan refused the appeal and resisted the spiritual decline. In words that anticipated the renewal that was to come over the next years, Father Kevin declared,
Some are of the opinion that unless we change our beliefs we will not survive as a college. I am of the opinion that unless we reconsecrate ourselves to the truth of our beliefs, we do not deserve to continue as Catholic and Franciscan.
Still, the atmosphere continued to be a dispirited one among both students and faculty as doubts had emerged concerning the longtime ability of the school to remain open. The lowest point came during opening day of the 1973 fall semester when a meager six students and eight members of the faculty attended the first Mass of the term. This was followed in early 1974 by a poll of the faculty assessing the level of commitment on the part of the school to the Christian ideal. Around 75 of the faculty responded to the poll, with half of the teachers of the view that the College was failing in its commitment. Opinions differed among alumni, faculty, and staff members who were on the campus during those years concerning the level of spiritual decline, but one thing was certain. Positive changes—in the spiritual, intellectual, and administrative life of the College— were essential if the school was to survive the tumult of the times. The roots of the Franciscan and Catholic spirit of the College were deep and still alive. But winter had descended, and springtime seemed far away.
Toward the end of the school year in 1974, a notice was posted on the board at the Franciscan residence of Holy Spirit Monastery. It stated that Father Kevin was stepping down as president of the school to answer the call to serve in parish ministry. In this way, the announcement was made that he had asked the Board of Trustees to search for a new president. Father Kevin’s second tenure as president had come to a close.
After departing the College, Father Kevin served, as he had hoped, in parishes in Pittsburgh and New Jersey. He later assisted Franciscan seminarians and served as chaplain to Franciscan sisters. He was always remembered for his labors as president of the College, despite the fact that he had never wanted the post, preferring to be a pastor, a teacher, and a simple friar. He died on July 22, 1994, at the age of 72; he had been a Franciscan for half a century.
By June 1974, the search committee looking for a new president for the College had interviewed several candidates. Only one of the four candidates held the opinion that the College could actually stay open without being combined with some other state school. In fact, it was the opinion of at least one of the candidates that the school could not be saved and that his job as president would be to end the life of the College of Steubenville.
The lone dissenter among the candidates who were interviewed was Father Michael Scanlan, TOR, a name familiar to everyone in the College. He was a graduate of Williams College and the Harvard Law School and had served in the Air Force before entering the TORs in 1957. Ordained in 1964, he expressed a great desire to undertake missionary work for the order in the Amazon, but his superiors had other ideas. Instead of heading to Brazil, he had been sent to Steubenville to take over the job of dean of faculty at the College of Steubenville, from 1964-1969. He was also well known as one of the leaders of the Catholic charismatic renewal and was currently rector of St. Francis Seminary in Loretto, Pennsylvania.
In his interview, Father Scanlan was quite clear in his belief that the biggest problem facing the school was neither its academic nor its financial concerns but the spiritual health of the institution, its students, and faculty. He then declared his commitment to bring a renewed spiritual vitality, a return to Franciscan roots, and a commitment to the Gospel. “The climate,” he said, “had to be spiritual, with theology as the principal focus.” It was a bold statement to make to a committee that was not entirely made up of Catholics, but that afternoon, when they took their vote, it was decided unanimously that only Father Scanlan’s name should be passed on to the board. Two weeks later, Father Scanlan presented his views to the trustees. After their vote, Father Columba Devlin informed Father Scanlan that the Board of Trustees had appointed him the new president.
Three weeks before starting his new ministry, Father Scanlan journeyed as a pilgrim to Assisi. He knelt before the San Damiano Cross and reflected upon the words of our Lord to St. Francis in the wreckage of San Damiano Church: “Rebuild my house, which lies before you in ruins.” In this one declaration of Christ to St. Francis—with its implications not just for a little church in Italy but also for the universal Church Christ had founded—Father Scanlan’s reflections crystallized on the task that had been given to him with the College: Renewal of the faith environment so that an authentic spiritual renewal, a spiritual transformation, might be accomplished in every corner of the campus. It was a renewal that would place its greatest priorities not on a curriculum or school administration but on the students themselves.
From the start, Father Scanlan was aware of the situation not just at Steubenville. Catholic higher education in general was facing severe challenges, and many Catholic colleges and universities had abandoned or were de-emphasizing their Christian identity. This made them susceptible to the unstable currents of the time and left their students defenseless against tendencies toward permissiveness and secular materialism. Arriving on the Steubenville campus, Father Scanlan made it clear that as far as the College was concerned things were going to be different.
On Saturday, October 5, 1974, Father Scanlan was inaugurated president of the College of Steubenville. His inaugural address provided a clear sense of direction for the school and anticipated virtually all his hopes for the spiritual renewal of the College:
I would like to speak to you today about the identity of the College of Steubenville. I hope to avoid a multiplicity of nice sounding words and general qualities and goals that apply to all colleges. I hope I will convey to you a distinctive identity. St. Matthew’s Gospel tells us men do not light a lamp and put it under a bushel basket, but rather a lamp is placed on a stand where it gives light to all in the house. I contend that the College of Steubenville, for many of you, is like a lamp under a bushel basket, and it needs to be placed on the lampstand …
The light under the bushel is what this College is in its deepest identity. The adjective “Franciscan” summarizes what we are at our roots and what we will be if we but stir up the Spirit already in us. And we need to stir the Spirit—for we haven’t always been true to our Franciscan identity—and indeed, I just directly ask forgiveness and apologize to anyone who has been hurt because of these kinds of failures which come so easily in human enterprise …
The College must constantly become new again. It is called to re-express continually eternal values in the present day with the present people to meet today’s life. This is where a college meets the needs that other religious bodies cannot. The principle of newness at Steubenville is based on the newness of God. He is new every morning. He creates the world again today through the presence of his Spirit. He is the God who moves within us in unexpected ways to meet the situation we didn’t expect. He fills us with HOPE —hope is not a dream but part of making dreams become reality.
This is essential to our college because without Newness, the conclusions of God’s revelation become frozen structures and burdens. Without the Newness of the Spirit, Ecumenism becomes a dilution of truth and values instead of an affirmation of what is best in our spirituality. We are already into many new ventures here—in Academics/Cultural Life/Religious Renewal/the challenging establishment of Christian community/Student Life and Services. Without this element of newness, all the other values somehow lack – they limp, they die. It is the newness, the newness of God, the newness of his presence in our lives that refreshes us, that stimulates us, that leads us to celebrate. That is why we can celebrate this day, we can celebrate this future, we can believe in it.
One of his first acts upon assuming duties as president was a substantive and a ceremonial one—he walked to St. Thomas More Hall and removed the For Sale sign. He announced with this gesture that the time of fear and uncertainty was over. Springtime had arrived.
Father Mike, as he was soon called, spent the first three months of his tenure with the students. He ate in the cafeteria with them, played tennis, touch football, basketball, and volleyball with them, and attended every party he could find. The experience was an enlightening but disturbing one, and he was convinced even more clearly that his proposed approach was absolutely essential: The College of Steubenville needed a profound Catholic renewal and a return to its Franciscan roots.
Father Mike considered student life his top priority because of the appalling state of the social and spiritual environment on campus. Students faced a discouraging atmosphere plagued with alcohol and drug use, sex, and parties. Such activities, however, only masked what Father Michael correctly diagnosed as a desperate loneliness haunting the lives of many students. That had to change. As he wrote in his autobiography, Let the Fire Fall:
Alcohol and drugs were the currency of college social life. Alcohol flowed freely at every party, much too freely. Many of the students routinely got drunk on Saturday night and slept all day Sunday . . . Alcohol, drugs, sex, and destructive anger were symptomatic of pervasive loneliness and isolation in student life. Scores of students told me they had no friends on campus, no one to talk to. Some didn’t even know the names of other kids who lived on their hall in the dorms. Many were using alcohol and drugs to medicate their depression.
Emblematic of the spiritual environment was the poor attendance at Sunday morning Masses. In fact, a Student Life administrator sent a proposal to the new president requesting that Mass be moved to afternoon. The reasons cited in the proposed move were the large numbers of inactive Catholics on campus and the reality that students were too exhausted from Saturday night parties to attend. Other petitions soon followed, such as a renewed demand for unlimited open visitation in the dorms and an end to the campus curfew.
Father Mike launched his plan for renewal on a Friday in December 1974. He made the announcement that a general meeting of the entire college community was to take place that afternoon. Rather than merely refusing the Mass proposal, Father Mike declared that he would be celebrating the liturgy himself, and the liturgy would be one and a half hours to have time for preaching, singing, and praise. He then not only rejected the other petitions, he inaugurated a system of “households,” an innovative residence life program requiring students to form small groups for ongoing communal prayer, sharing, and mutual support. Not only were the “households” to be an experiment starting in the following spring, by the next fall they were to be mandatory—with no exceptions.
Instituted in 1974 by Father Michael as part of his wider plan of spiritual renewal, households subsequently became a fixture of life on the campus, even though they were no longer mandatory after the first three years. After arriving as president of the University, Father Michael was surprised to discover that few students knew many other students in their own dorms. They passed months in their dorm rooms without even learning the names of their fellow students next door, across the hall, or on the same floor. The level of isolation was absurd to Father Michael, and households were intended to reverse that terrible situation. As Father Mike put it, “We needed a family spirit, but it was a stretch to call it a little family. I thought the word household best expressed sharing a common life.”
The first households were very much a work in progress, with the level of student enthusiasm doing much to determine future success. When the students embraced the concept and gave of themselves, the households were successful; conversely, resistance often contributed little to the lives of the participants. Over time, the students came to realize that taking part actually did assist in ending feelings of isolation and loneliness. Today, activities in households include active shared prayer, a weekly meeting, and celebration of the Lord’s Day. In practical terms, household members share meals, attend Mass and pray together, and take part in group sports such as flag football. Households also offer students a place where they can rely on each other to talk about their problems and daily lives. In effect, households are small prayer communities that augment the wider life of faith on the campus. Each household has its own name, such as “One in the Spirit,” “Servants of the Savior,” “Misericordia Divina,” and “Totus Tuus, Maria.” Households remain a popular element of life at Franciscan University, with around half of the resident students joining each year.
Father Mike knew, of course, that households were only one small facet in his plan of renewal. As he wrote, households could help support an environment of faith, but were not of themselves an environment of faith. To give impetus to renewal, Father Mike stressed the Mass, but he also put the empty St. Thomas More Hall to another innovative purpose. After hauling down the For Sale sign, he extended an invitation to members of the Catholic charismatic renewal movement to settle in Steubenville, so long as they could pay their own way. They happily accepted and, under the direction of Father David Tickerhoof, TOR, opened the Christian Renewal Center, which became a profound means of sparking spiritual energy on the campus. The vibrant and very active faith of the center’s members—along with the growing number of students who joined them—was initially quite incongruous with the demoralized and highly secular culture of the times. Slowly, however, the spirit of faith proved contagious, and the dominant campus culture was entirely transformed.
In 1975, the Renewal Center began hosting international conferences on renewal when the National Service Committee of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal asked to use the campus for a conference for priests. Possibilities for future success were apparent three weeks before the conference when a major problem had developed: So many priests had registered that the largest auditorium on the campus was too small to hold the more than 500 registered priests. A large tent had to be rented for the occasion, a symbol of the success of the conference. Every summer, the tent was raised (eventually replaced by an air-conditioned facility), and it has been estimated that by 2021 over 15,000 priests, deacons, and seminarians had attended the conference.
Other conferences followed, such as the Defending the Faith Conference and the St. John Bosco Conference for Catechists and Educators. Of special note was the summer youth conference that was started with one session in 1976 and was attended by 1,000 young people. The intent was to attract Catholic young people interested in sharing in prayer, singing, and praise. The “Steubenville” youth conference soon became so well-attended that it expanded from one weekend to four, three for high-school age youth and one for young adults. By 2022, that original conference had grown to 5 youth conferences for teens on campus with another 17 regional conferences across the U.S. and Canada.
One of the important results of the conferences, beyond offering the graces of ongoing conversion, has been the opportunity for student recruitment. Many young people attended the conference and discovered that Steubenville was the ideal place for their college education. Not surprisingly, recruitment targeted young Catholics who were active in the charismatic renewal or who wanted to attend a college dedicated to authentic Catholicism. The influx of excited new students became a self-fulfilling source of further recruitment as word spread across the country about the opportunities and atmosphere at the school.
The zeal that surrounded the conferences was also present in the recruitment process. It was the belief of Father Michael that recruiters should be more than merely spokespeople for a college. They were to be filled with the same spirit and robust Catholicism that students would find on the campus. Recruiters thus traveled across the country speaking at prayer meetings and conventions, staying in homes instead of hotels, and demonstrating by their actions more than their words what the College was about.
The changes and the renewal were steady, but they did not happen overnight. The restoration of campus life meant that other improvements were delayed, and the transformation came at a high price. By January 1976, the enrollment had dropped further to 179 resident students, and the total number of students was now only 837. Enrollment was so low that some faculty assumed the College’s days were numbered, and one faculty member actually made the proposal to a committee that students be assisted in enrolling in other schools as the College was obviously on the verge of death. Two other faculty members attempted to mount a no confidence vote in Father Scanlan.
Others disagreed with Father Mike’s program, and many members of the student body, the faculty, and the administration resigned or left for other schools. Some of the administrators chosen to replace them also departed. Resentment was also felt locally and among some alumni when the expenses involved in athletics and low attendance at games prompted the school to abandon its participation in basketball in 1981.
Slowly, painfully, Father Mike assembled a team that could implement his vision for the school as a place of vigorous Catholicism and academic excellence. Nevertheless, the focus on the spiritual renewal left administrative and academic needs unresolved. The steady departure of staff and faculty only exacerbated the situation and prolonged delays. Father Michael was supported throughout these challenging years by the Board of Trustees and remembers that the most difficult moments came only during the uncertainty before prayer. Of personal pain, of course, was the decision that had to be made at times to fire members of the faculty and administration unwilling to embrace the new direction for the school. Father Michael wrote:
Renewal is seldom a matter of abandoning the dead for the living, but rather of forsaking the good for the better. Everyone supports renewal in the abstract. When the details come along, people differ. And whatever path to renewal is chosen, some people will pay a high price for change. Often the institution will pay a price too.
The fruits of the effort at renewal were apparent as early as 1976. In that year, two events—often forgotten in the gloom of the period—took place. First, at the commencement ceremony for the 1976 school year, Mother Teresa of Calcutta received the Poverello Medal. The school also launched a bachelor’s degree in theology, marking a significant addition to the curriculum. At the time of Father Michael’s arrival in 1974, philosophy was no longer required and the two courses in theology were very much resented by many students. The Theology Department was technically part of the Philosophy Department, and a theology major was not even offered.
The sad state of affairs in theology at the College was not unique in Catholic higher education. In the unsettled years following the Second Vatican Council, theology had suffered throughout academic circles. Father Michael correctly saw that going hand in hand with the spiritual revitalization on the campus was the need for a vibrant faculty engaged in theological study and teaching. Key to the success of the Theology Department was the work of Father Dan Sinisi, TOR, as chairman, along with two early leaders in the department, Father Francis Martin and Dr. Alan Schreck.
To the surprise of many, the theology major at the College quickly became one of the most popular. First, there were the students who sought the degree as a sound starting point for higher studies in theology, and the reputation of the College for orthodoxy was well-established. Second, theology was offered as a dual-major with other fields. Finally, students learned early that theology was not an isolated program of studies—it was expressed across the campus and in the very life of the school.
Within four years of its inception as a major, theology had become so popular that in 1980 an MA in Theology was included in the addition of several graduate programs, including an MBA and MS in Education. Over the next years, other prominent professors joined the faculty, including Father Giles Dimock, OP, Dr. Scott Hahn, Dr. Mark Miravalle, Dr. Regis Martin, and Dr. Andrew Minto; Professor Barbara Morgan also gave the department a strong footing in the area of catechetics. Today, the Theology Department is considered the school’s strongest, with an international reputation both for its orthodoxy and the high level of academic achievement on the part of the faculty. Also enjoying an extensive renewal was the Philosophy Department, through the work of Dr. John Crosby and Dr. Patrick Lee.
On the basis of its impressive strides in academics and the introduction of graduate programs, the College earned the official designation as the University of Steubenville on March 21, 1980. At the University Day ceremony, Father Michael shared the stage with his two predecessors, Father Columba and Father Kevin. In his address, Father Columba declared:
I believe the transformation that has taken place on this campus over the past few years is totally due to the dreams, the vision, and the trust of Father Michael. I can see only good things in the days and years ahead for the institution under Father Michael.
That same year, the Strong in ’80s Capital Campaign surpassed its goal of $1 million. By 1983, the University was able to eliminate its short-term debt. This remarkable achievement was made possible by the generosity of a donor whom Father Michael approached for help. After much prayer, the donor paid off the entire short-term debt of the University. With one act of generosity, the finances of the University were stabilized, leaving only long-term federal loans for several buildings on campus. These, however, were arranged at very low interest rates, so the financial outlook for the University was genuinely bright.
Symbolic of the renewed financial strength was the decision in 1983 that Stoney Hollow Boulevard should be renamed University Boulevard. Thanks to another donation, the central campus road was improved with a circle, a walkway, and steps, making it a genuine entrance to the University. Soon after, the Teramana family donated funds for the completion of facilities for baseball, called Vaccaro Field.
In 1984, the University received a 10-year accreditation from the North Central Association of College and Schools. The next year, the Board of Trustees voted to change the name to Franciscan University of Steubenville. The renaming of the school was more than a mere symbolic gesture. It was recognition of the Catholic Franciscan spirit suffusing the school, denoting the success of the renewal that had been achieved under Father Michael and the return to the Franciscan ideals that been the foundation of the school in 1946. For many students and faculty, of course, the nickname that had been used for years was still a popular one—”Steubie U.” By 1989, full-time undergraduate student enrollment was 1,179, surpassing at last the previous high set in 1970. The next year, the University boasted a record total enrollment, graduate and undergraduate, of 1,768 students from 49 states and 37 countries. In recognition of his immense contributions to the Church and his support for the Holy See, Father Michael was honored with the Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice medal.
Franciscan University of Steubenville was now positioned to inaugurate a new era of construction. Overall direction was provided by the Twenty-Year Master Plan for Development that had been announced in 1981. Among the earliest of the new buildings was the John Paul II Library. The new library was dedicated in 1987 and soon housed over 200,000 volumes. The next year, the one-time Ohio Valley Skating Rink was purchased and converted into the St. Joseph Center, for administration offices, classrooms, and the Business Department. In 1992, the $6.4 million Finnegan Fieldhouse was dedicated, boasting courts for basketball and racquetball, a weight room, a wellness center, and exercise rooms. With its seating capacity of 2,000, the fieldhouse is used also for graduations and summer conferences.
The pace of expansion did not cease with the close of the decade. In 1997, the St. Clare and St. Kolbe residence halls were inaugurated, a testament to the changed atmosphere on a campus where one of the dormitories was once put up for sale because of the scarcity of students. Another capital campaign—this time securing over $18 million in gifts and pledges—funded the SS. Cosmas and Damian Science Hall that opened in 2000. The science hall houses computer, math, and science classrooms and laboratories, and the Pugliese Auditorium.
One other construction project, completed in 1987, was a small chapel built on a hillside on the south side of the campus. Called the “Port” by the students and faculty, the chapel is a replica of the Portiuncula, the small church in the Umbrian village of Santa Maria degli Angeli near Assisi that became the cradle of the Franciscans and where St. Francis died in 1226.
Paul Carapellotti ’50, a local industrialist, provided materials and brought in stonecutters from Pennsylvania and Ohio to help with the demanding stonework. From the start, the little chapel became a favorite place of prayer and meditation for everyone at the University. Many students visit the chapel with their special intercessory prayers, while some male students choose the Port as the ideal setting to propose marriage to their girlfriends. Above all, the Portiuncula is a place where perpetual adoration of the Eucharist takes place every day and at every hour each semester.
Near the Portiuncula are two other notable sites. First, there is a Christmas crèche, with life-sized figures. Second, there is the Tomb of the Unborn Child, a moving memorial for the millions of victims of abortion since the Roe v. Wade decision. Seven aborted babies are buried in the tomb, where students, faculty, staff, and visitors pray for an end to abortion and for God’s mercy and love. During an inspirational visit to the campus in 1994 during which he received an honorary degree for his courageous defense of the unborn, the late Governor Robert Casey of Pennsylvania commended the University for its tomb, adding, “It must be very hard sometimes to hold to your conscience in such a culture. I am honored to be in the presence of young people who have the courage to do that, and I salute you.”
The Tomb of the Unborn Child is only one of the ways that the University has given support over the years to the pro-life movement since the Supreme Court’s action legalizing abortion. From the start, students and faculty were appalled at the decision and expressed their outrage through prayer vigils, nights of intercession, marches, protests, and writings. That tradition of opposing abortion—and all the facets of what Pope John Paul II called the “culture of death” —has remained a powerful one.
In Steubenville during the late 1980s, students decided to join in the effort to prevent the death of unborn children by blocking entrances to abortion clinics. They were not led by University officials or ordered into battle. With prayers on their lips, they stood in front of abortion clinics and risked arrest for the unborn. The effort was successful in Steubenville, as the only local doctor performing abortions left town. Protests in Pittsburgh, Youngstown, and elsewhere were met with a well-organized resistance by pro-abortion forces who used local laws to have pro-lifers arrested. Among those taken away were students, faculty, and staff from Steubenville.
Rather than distance himself from the controversy, Father Michael gave his full support to their activities. In July 1989, Father Mike himself was arrested while blocking the entrance to an abortion clinic in Youngstown. He had joined Bishop Albert Ottenweller of Steubenville in the protest, refusing to leave when verbal and physical assaults were made on the students. The bishop and the friar were arrested with 45 others, including several Protestant ministers and students from Franciscan University. Father Mike and the protesters spent a week in jail and garnered both acclaim and hostility for their courage. In time, the strategy of blocking clinics became problematic because of the variety of federal and state laws that were passed to impose steep penalties upon pro-life activists trying to stop abortions.
Another significant pro-life activity for students takes place every year on the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision. Every year in January, busloads of Franciscan University students and faculty make the journey to Washington, D.C., and add their voices to the tens of thousands of pro-life men and women marching in defense of the unborn, often in freezing temperatures along the Potomac.
As the vibrant quality of campus life increased, it attracted faith-filled Catholic professors who often applied at the encouragement of students or who had heard about the school from priests returning home from the annual summer Priests’ Conference. Father Michael made it a point to interview every applicant personally and found scholars who shared his enthusiasm for “dynamic orthodoxy,” an educational approach marked by fidelity to the Church and openness to the Holy Spirit. In 1989, the members of the theology faculty, along with the friars and campus ministers at the University, were the very first professors and campus ministers in the United States to publicly make the newly formulated Profession of Faith and Oath of Fidelity called for in the Church’s 1983 Code of Canon Law.
This renewal of the academic and spiritual life on campus naturally made an impact on the career decisions and vocational choices of Franciscan’s alumni. By 2000, more than 700 Franciscan University alumni were in service throughout the Church. They hold positions as youth ministers, Catholic school teachers, directors of religious education, catechists, and leaders of RCIA programs. Not surprisingly, the faith environment on the campus has also fostered in many young people a desire for the religious life and the ability to discern vocations to the priesthood. In 2000, it was estimated that at least 117 young alumnae had joined various religious orders, with most crediting Franciscan University in assisting their vocations. When asked about the high number of former students entering the religious life and the priesthood, Father Michael commented, “If Catholic universities do not produce the future priests, sisters, and brothers, the loyal and scholarly Catholic theologians and philosophers, the Catholic business and professional people taking the high road of moral behavior, and the Catholic parents of the succeeding generation’s Church leaders, who will?”
The commitment to an authentic Catholic education that promotes dynamic orthodoxy was one that Franciscan University desired to extend beyond the confines of the United States. By the end of the 1980s, the University was in a position to search for educational possibilities overseas. The opportunity presented itself in Austria.
In 1983, an Austrian architect, Walter Hildebrand, purchased a 14th-century Carthusian monastery, the Kartause Maria Thronus Iesu (“Monastery of Our Lady, Throne of Jesus”) with the aim of restoring both the buildings and its spiritual life. The one-time seat of the duchy of Austria in the Holy Roman Empire, the monastery was in near ruins when Hildebrand acquired the property. It had long been neglected and suffered much destruction at the hands of Soviet troops during the occupation of eastern Austria by the Red Army after World War II. The rebirth of the Kartause was a goal well in keeping with the Franciscan tradition embodied by Franciscan University, and in 1991, the school secured the use of the monastery for students to spend a memorable semester studying in picturesque Gaming, Austria, in the foothills of the Alps.
The monastery was not yet completely refurbished by the time the first students arrived in the fall of 1991. Students remember that many rooms were filled with broken cement, their schoolbooks were held up by Customs, and there were no washers or dryers (students washed their clothes in large tubs). The beauty of the setting, however, and the abiding life of prayer that pervaded the restored monastery made such inconveniences minor complaints. The students also understood that they were genuine academic pioneers.
The students discovered from the start that the people of Gaming were more than courteous hosts to Americans studying abroad for a semester. As early as 1991, they began referring to the Franciscan University visitors as “our students” and consider them now a permanent and welcome addition to the Austrian community.
Aside from studies in the Kartause, students have the chance to make pilgrimages to Rome and Assisi, visits to historic sites and shrines along the Danube Valley and in Vienna, and travel throughout the rest of Europe. The overall effect is to broaden their horizons. As the second Austrian Program Director Richard Fougerousse noted, “Christopher Dawson once wrote that history is the cure for parochialism in time. I think the same thing applies to geography and culture. Going abroad and actually learning something about another culture is the great palliative for parochialism culturally.”
Building on the success of the Austrian Program, in 1992 the University launched the Language and Catechetical Institute (LCI) in Gaming to provide desperately needed catechetical training to students from Eastern Europe. The new institute was superbly timed. The Soviet Union had collapsed completely in 1991, and the one-time countries of the Soviet bloc were freed from the grip of Communism for the first time in decades. While many of the states in Eastern Europe claimed large Catholic populations—such as Poland, Slovakia, and Lithuania—they lacked many basic resources for Catholic education after so many years of oppression. The institute offered students training in English, theology, catechetics, and computer skills that could then be put to use in their home dioceses and parishes. Virtually unknown in Eastern Europe in 1992, the institute today is an independent body that enjoys a superb reputation, especially among the bishops who send their brightest students to Gaming. The institute claimed students from such diverse countries as Russia, Mongolia, Ukraine, Belarus, Hungary, and Kazakstan until the COVID-19 pandemic travel restrictions that arrived in 2020. Since then, the LCI program has suspended its year-long program but continues with online catechetical formation and short-term outreach programs.
In 1996, the University helped launch the International Theological Institute for Studies on Marriage and the Family (ITI) in Gaming. An independent academic center, the ITI offered both a master’s degree and a licentiate in theology and a master’s and doctorate in theological studies. ITI students and faculty shared the Kartause with Franciscan and LCI students until 2009 when the ITI was moved to Trumau, near Vienna, Austria, to allow space for additional growth.
The 1990s also witnessed a number of important milestones for the University. In 1991, the influential magazine National Review listed Franciscan University among its top liberal arts schools. Two years later, the National Catholic Register rated the school as one of the best Catholic colleges in the country, and Barron’s 300 included the University in its Best Buys in College Education. Many more accolades and rankings followed, and in 1995 an economic impact study was undertaken to assess the University’s role in the local community. The results revealed that Franciscan University accounted for over $100 million per year in spending and 5,500 jobs in the area.
In 2000, after serving as president for 26 years, Father Michael, 68, decided to step down. The trustees, however, asked him to remain at the University and to serve as chancellor. Taking the helm of a college on the verge of closing forever in 1974, Father Michael returned the College to its Franciscan roots and was able to bequeath to his successor a University with a world-renowned faculty, a student body of over 2,000, and a tradition of dynamic orthodoxy.
How to follow Father Michael Scanlan, TOR? He had led the University through 26 years of growth and revolutionary change. He had shaped and established an identity, a brand, and had inspired an emerging, impressive movement in Catholic higher education in the United States. Father Michael’s moment had been, effectively, a re-founding.
In the summer of the year 2000, the question frequently asked on campus was “Where will the board find another Father Michael?”
The answer, of course, was that they wouldn’t. It was a new moment in the University’s history, and the board identified a fitting candidate for that moment—Father Terence Henry, TOR.
Father Terry was an experienced teacher and administrator, and he had served on Franciscan’s Board of Trustees since 1993. Active in the pro-life movement, he was himself full of life—an avid skier, backpacker, and whitewater rafter. Arriving on campus, he drew inevitable comparisons to his predecessor. An early interviewer noted similarities in their smiles. He himself emphasized his affection for his predecessor and the continuity between their administrations. He did this first by inviting Father Michael to remain on campus as chancellor; but he did it also, subtly, by his effortless deployment of the man’s catchphrases, like “dynamic orthodoxy.”
Yet Father Terry arrived as very much his own man, at ease in his TOR habit and his habits of mind. He endeared himself to students by his ability to quote his favorite thinkers from memory. He was especially fond of G.K. Chesterton and was known to drop his “G.K. gems” at the slightest provocation. He also drew from a large personal store of memorized poetry.
His Latin watchword throughout his tenure was fides et ratio. The title of an encyclical letter of Pope John Paul II, the phrase emphasizes the interdependence and mutually enhancing qualities of these two human faculties: faith and reason. His objectives were clear—to foster in students a greater integration of knowledge and faith and to urge Catholics in general to influence every aspect of culture.
His approach was distinctively Franciscan. He said, “St. Francis had a holistic, integrated approach to learning and thus saw connections everywhere between earth and heaven, reason and faith. He exhorted his followers to put first things first—prayer before study—so that knowledge for its own sake would never become their goal. If we keep God first and seek this same vital integration of faith and reason in an ongoing way, the University will continue growing as an instrument in God’s hand.”
It was fitting that the new SS. Cosmas and Damian Science Hall should be dedicated on the day of his arrival. Soon afterward, the University received a $600,000 Fides et Ratio Grant to further integrate mission with admissions process, curriculum, and faculty development. After decades of growth and change on campus, the grant provided an opportunity to take stock and reorganize.
Father Terry’s integrated approach manifested itself in many ways—even in new institutional forms. In 2001, a Rome program was established for students pursuing a master’s in theology. The John Paul II Library underwent major renovation. In 2006, the University established an Institute of Bioethics to explore and defend Catholic doctrine on issues related to human life. The following year, Dr. Patrick Lee was appointed to the first fully endowed chair in the University’s history, the John N. and Jamie D. McAleer Chair in Bioethics.
Through the years that followed, Father Terry oversaw the creation of a new liberal arts core curriculum and the institution of 19 new academic programs. First implemented in 2013, the new core, according to Dr. Daniel Kempton, vice president for Academic Affairs, “takes a more rigorous approach that ensures a common grounding for all students not only in theology and philosophy as called for in Ex corde Ecclesiae, but also in literature, American founding principles, history, fine arts, natural science, and social science.”
The University began to flourish in new ways and form new relationships, even within the community of Catholic higher education. In April 2011, Father Terry was one of 10 university presidents invited to a symposium on the future of their institutions. There, Father Terry spoke to his peers about the role of Catholic universities at that particular moment in history. He said: “Today, Catholic education is presented with an … opportunity to play an unprecedented role in the struggle for human freedom and dignity.” He added that the mission of Catholic education “can only succeed if it is united with an integral part of the mission of the Catholic Church. There is no greater voice in the world today that champions the cause of authentic human freedom and human dignity more than the Catholic Church.”
He was right about the moment.
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) was passed by U.S. Congress and signed into law by President Barack Obama in March 2010. It was a comprehensive program for health care reform, but many details of its implementation were vague and delegated to federal regulatory agencies. When the “mandate” finally came down from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Catholic institutions found that they were required to fund and facilitate actions that were contrary to their principles—and contrary to human dignity. Under the HHS mandate, Catholic employers would be required to provide insurance that covered abortion-inducing drugs, contraceptives, and sterilization procedures.
The University’s response was swift and forceful. Father Terry said, “Franciscan University’s mission is and always has been to teach from the heart of the Church. The Obama administration’s mandate is a grave threat to our ability to carry out that mission. It makes it impossible for us to operate freely as a Catholic institution without overbearing and invasive governmental interference.”
With the board’s unanimous approval, the University filed a federal lawsuit against Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and the Obama administration.
With that action, the University found itself—overnight—within the tight focus of all major news media. Joined by many other institutions, Franciscan would remain an outspoken opponent of the HHS mandate as the case made its tortured way through the courts, landing before the U.S. Supreme Court in 2020.
Because of its media impact and the principles involved, the lawsuit would—for many observers, on campus and off—seem to define Father Terry’s presidency. For several news cycles, after all, it was on everybody’s screen. Even the New York Times took notice. Legislators had to pay heed and formulate answers.
The lawsuit came, however, almost a decade into Father Terry’s tenure. By then, he was already well known for his accomplishments that affected the people closest to him.
He worked especially hard to build strong relationships with the local community. In 2003, the University launched the Commuter Grant Program, which gave a 50-percent tuition discount to aid students from the region. The same year the Alumni Office organized the first “Dinner With 12 Strangers,” a program in which local families hosted 450 new students in their homes at the end of Orientation Weekend.
Most newsworthy—and somewhat controversial—was the University’s gradual return to competitive intercollegiate sports after a quarter-century’s hiatus. In 2003, with Father Terry’s approval, the Barons took initial steps as provisional members of the NCAA Division III. The University soon made its presence known in cross country, tennis, swimming and diving, and other sports. In 2008, the Barons were admitted to the Allegheny Collegiate Conference. Improvement was steady.
Father Terry welcomed the “tremendous blessing” that came from the Vatican on February 11, 2009: In response to a petition from Bishop R. Daniel Conlon of Steubenville, Franciscan’s tiny Portiuncula Chapel had been designated a pilgrimage site where the faithful may receive a plenary indulgence, “a great grace that eliminates the temporal punishment due to sin.” This special designation gives prayerful visitors to the Port the same reward attached to the great cathedrals and holy sites of the world. Initially limited to seven years, the designation was extended for another seven in 2016.
The University had a bigger footprint than ever. It was not simply the fact of its national and international influence. It was just bigger. The campus actually doubled in size while Father Terry was president, reaching a total of 240 acres. His administration sealed the deal acquiring the former federal housing project at Parkview Circle. The University renovated the existing buildings into apartment-style student housing and named the neighborhood “Assisi Heights.” Under Father Terry’s aegis, the University also purchased the former Belleview Golf Course as well as the green strip alongside University Boulevard. As if to recognize the campus’ newfound grandeur, the University planned a more beautiful main entrance, completed in 2010. Its elements were symbolic of the history of the University and its city: native limestone, brick, and steel.
During the Henry Years, student enrollment increased by almost 20 percent and, in 2013, stood at 2,466. The University expanded the J.C. Williams Center, renovated Egan Hall, and built a new friary—paid for by a campaign that surpassed its goal and raised $31 million by the end of 2010.
He managed all this growth even as the world endured one of its most severe economic downturns since the Great Depression. The Great Recession (2007-2009) seemed to have little effect on the University, thanks to Father Terry’s sound fiscal management and skillful fundraising.
It was a tribute to the University’s worldwide status—but also to Father Terry’s leadership—when the Pontifical Council for Culture chose the campus as the site of its 2009 conference “From Sea to Shining Sea: Faith and Culture in North America.”
It arrived as a shock on campus, in the early days of 2013, when the TOR Franciscans announced that they would be reassigning Father Terry at the end of the academic year. Several days later, Pope Benedict XVI announced his own resignation. If any week had seemed to shake the foundations of campus, it was that one.
For all the years Father Terry had presided, Franciscan University was ranked in the top tier of schools in its category by U.S. News & World Report and other major ratings agencies. In media interviews, he said he was pleased by the University’s progress. Asked what he would miss most when he left office, he said: “Probably I will miss being a pastor to the student body the most.”
In August 2011, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced its regulations related to the Affordable Care Act—and they promised to be catastrophic for Catholic institutions. Under the “HHS mandate,” employers were required to provide insurance coverage that included abortion-inducing drugs, as well as contraceptives and sterilization procedures. In what the agency called an “accommodation,” it stipulated that organizations morally opposed to these services would have until August 2013 to comply.
The board and administration at Franciscan University saw that no compromise was possible. They recognized, moreover, that, come 2013, the fines would be devastating. So, they made the decision to drop the University’s requirement for student health insurance due to moral and economic concerns connected to the HHS mandate rather than participate “in a plan that requires us to violate the consistent teachings of the Catholic Church on the sacredness of human life.”
In May 2012, the University and its board took the further step of filing a federal lawsuit against Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and the Obama administration, saying the HHS mandate constitutes “a grave threat” to Franciscan University’s ability to continue to teach from the heart of the Church. On the same day, 42 other separate plaintiffs filed a total of 12 lawsuits in U.S. District courts around the country.
On the feast of the Annunciation in the following year, however, a district judge dismissed the lawsuit, claiming that the University had yet to be injured by the mandate. The projected costs would be almost $17 million per year in annual penalties—but these had not yet been imposed at the date of the lawsuit.
By that time, many additional lawsuits had been filed by many institutions, and it was clear that several of those cases were headed for the Supreme Court. The June 2014 decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores gave the administration reasons for cautious hope.
The matter was finally settled with the Supreme Court’s July 2020 decision in Little Sisters of the Poor Saints Peter and Paul Home v. Pennsylvania. Franciscan University president Father Dave Pivonka, TOR, hailed the decision, which would allow Franciscan “to continue doing our specific work of educating students without being forced to violate our religious beliefs in the process.”
In 2000, money raised from the fund drive that paid for the SS. Cosmas and Damian Science Hall made it possible to purchase a former motel on University Boulevard. The rooms were put to very good use as a residence hall and chapel for students enrolled in the University’s Pre-Theologate Program.
Established in 1985, the Pre-Theologate Program, now the Priestly Discernment Program, provides an environment for a man to discern a vocation to the priesthood and to fulfill the college coursework required for entry to a major seminary or religious community. The PDP follows the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Program of Priestly Formation document on helping form men as they discern and prepare for the priesthood. It focuses on four areas of growth and maturation: human, spiritual, intellectual, and pastoral, with each aspect playing an important part in forming well-rounded, holy priests.
To these, Franciscan University adds a fifth dimension of “fraternal” formation, which contributes to the building up of community life and brotherhood among the Priestly Discernment Program students. Thus, a vital element in the program is the requirement to participate in a household, a faith-sharing group that gathers regularly for prayer and support and assists the spiritual formation that is so essential to the priestly life. Members of the households take part in the communal recitation of Morning and Evening prayer (the Liturgy of the Hours), eucharistic adoration, Holy Hours led by priests and bishops, and daily Mass.
While some PDP members are graduate students, most are undergraduates majoring chiefly in philosophy. They choose that major to fulfill the USCCB’s requirement of 30 credit hours—10 courses—of philosophy to enter graduate theological studies in a major seminary. Most of those majoring in philosophy also choose a second major in another subject of their interest. This helps them develop knowledge in theology, business, communications, mathematics, or music, for example, which can benefit them and the Church in their future ministries as priests.
In 2018, another former hotel was renovated into St. Junìpero Serra Hall and became the new home of the PDP. As of fall 2021, 34 men were intentionally discerning their vocation as members of the Priestly Discernment Program. Nearly 300 past members have been ordained to the priesthood since the program was founded.
Sean Sheridan followed a long, winding path to the University’s presidency. As a young man, he was first trained as a pharmacist, receiving a bachelor of science degree from the University of Pittsburgh before working in the field for six years. Returning to the classroom, he earned his juris doctor degree from the University of Pittsburgh’s law school and spent the next 10 years laboring in health-care litigation in Sacramento and Pittsburgh.
He entered the Franciscan Third Order Regular in 2000—and went on to gather more advanced degrees, including a master’s in divinity and a licentiate and doctorate in canon law. His dissertation seems, in retrospect, the perfect preparation for a university president. It was a canonical commentary on Pope John Paul II’s 1990 apostolic constitution on Catholic higher education, Ex corde Ecclesiae—a document specifically concerned with institutions’ religious identity.
Ordained in 2006, Father Sean taught in the School of Canon Law at The Catholic University of America from 2009 until 2012. During that time, he also served as a trustee for both Franciscan University (2007-2012) and Saint Francis University in Loretto (beginning in 2010). He chaired the Academic Affairs Committee for Franciscan’s board, and his scholarly work appeared in many academic and professional journals.
Father Sean’s education and experience ranged widely across disciplines, ecclesiastical and secular. On April 19, 2013, when the Board of Trustees announced his appointment as the school’s sixth president, they noted his polymathic quality. Said chairman Father Nicholas Polichnowski, TOR, “Father Sean brings an excellent blend of academic, pastoral, legal, and business experience to Franciscan University. He has also demonstrated a strong care and concern for the good of the University’s educational and spiritual mission. Together, these qualifications will uniquely equip him to lead Franciscan University according to the ‘heart of the Church.’”
His predecessor, Father Terry, was pleased with the news, saying, “I have the utmost respect for Father Sean, and I have deeply valued his opinion, especially on Church issues, over the years. I’m happy to be leaving the University to his leadership, and I am certain he will continue to raise the bar of excellence.” Father Terry stayed on as chancellor for two years to assist his successor with donor and alumni relations.
As the new president, Father Sean leaned into his strengths. In his inaugural address, he pledged to further the University’s manifold mission in academics, evangelization, and dynamic orthodoxy, and he began to find new ways to further that mission. The capstone event at his inauguration was a two-day symposium that examined Catholic higher education’s role in the new evangelization.
In fall 2013, he announced the launch of the Veritas Center for Ethics in Public Life led by Dr. Anne Hendershott. Its mission is to bring faithful Catholic scholarly reflection to bear on the most pressing ethical questions in contemporary culture—“questions of marriage and sexuality, war and peace, life and death, as well as economic and social justice.”
That high level of intellectual engagement was also manifest in the 2014 “Fidelity and Freedom” lecture series, which brought major figures to campus to discuss issues in academic freedom and Catholic identity. The context was the 25th anniversary of Pope John Paul II’s Ex corde Ecclesiae, the defining text for Father Sean’s approach to Catholic education.
From theory (and theology), he moved easily to practice. His ideas bore fruit in the realization of new degree paths: an engineering dual-degree program, plus the expansion of online learning with a faith-based MBA and a master’s in catechetics and evangelization. That same year came the revitalization of Franciscan University Press.
In the years that followed, Father Sean brought to fulfillment a series of significant acquisitions for the University.
In March 2014, he signed an agreement with all parties that shared control of the Kartause Maria Thronus Iesu (Monastery of Our Lady, Throne of Jesus) in Gaming, Austria. The Kartause is home to Franciscan University’s very popular study-abroad program.
The agreement gave the University expanded access to the Kartause’s artistic and cultural treasures. The library’s 18th-century frescoes, for example, depict the quest for truth, leading through the sciences and ultimately to God. For these artworks alone, the site has been called the “Sistine Chapel of the North.” The agreement included free access to a dedicated sports field nearby—and to a Byzantine chapel, which fell under the authority of the Archdiocese of Vienna.
The Kartause agreement was significant not only for the University but for the site itself. For the first time since the days of the monastery’s Carthusian origins, all its parts were operating as an integrated whole, now for the purpose of Catholic education “from the heart of the Church.”
Closer to home was a property transfer every bit as significant. On May 5, 2015—after many years of negotiation—Father Sean put a spade into the ground and turned soil on the future site of Franciscan Square. The new commercial development would sit directly across University Boulevard from the main entrance to campus.
At the groundbreaking ceremony, Father Sean emphasized the importance of the event not only for the University but also for the city and its people. It would be, he said, the “largest commercial development in many decades.” It would provide “a friendly gateway to the University and provide a new destination point and gathering area for the local community.”
The development represented the cooperation of campus and community—both state and local—on a rather large scale. State Route 7 underwent a major upgrade where it intersects with University Boulevard, as did University Boulevard itself.
For many reasons—from the civic to the aesthetic—the launch of Franciscan Square marked a major move forward for town and gown.
Recognizing the importance of the spiritual life of the University community, Father Sean created a new department for Pastoral Care and Evangelization—bringing together several internal and external evangelization programs under one streamlined administration.
He also oversaw the expansion of Finnegan Fieldhouse, the establishment of the Franciscan Catechetical Institute with Dr. Petroc Willey at the helm, and the addition of St. Junípero Serra Residence Hall. Egan Plaza was transformed into five mini-plazas for study and socializing.
For faculty, the most seismic change came not with the movement of earth, but rather the reorganization of academic departments. Father Sean oversaw the study, discussion, and redistribution of courses, faculty, and resources into newly designated schools: Theology, Professional Programs, Natural and Applied Sciences, Humanities and Social Sciences, and Online Programs.
Father Sean’s focus remained consistent from the beginning of his presidency. Toward the end of his tenure, he co-edited (with Dr. Stephen M. Hildebrand, theology), a collection of essays discussing the papal document that remained at the heart of his life’s work. In February 2018, Faith and Freedom: Ex corde Ecclesiae at Twenty-Five appeared from Franciscan University Press.
The sad news of the death of Father Michael Scanlan, TOR, came a few years into Father Sean’s presidency. Father Scanlan died at age 85 on January 7, 2017. The University held a viewing and wake in Christ the King Chapel and a memorial Mass in Finnegan Fieldhouse, after which his remains were returned in cortege to Loretto, Pennsylvania, for burial. In the months that followed, Father Sean appeared at several events honoring the president who arguably re-founded the University. “We owe much of what Franciscan University is today to Father Mike,” he said as he awarded Father Scanlan a posthumous Poverello Medal.
Father Sean would continue to leave his own mark on Franciscan, especially in the academic arena. Some of Franciscan’s new program partnerships with other Catholic schools, perhaps naturally, reflected Father Sean’s academic interests and background. In 2017, Franciscan University announced accelerated juris doctor program agreements with the law schools at The Catholic University of America, Ave Maria University, and the University of St. Thomas. The University also partnered with D’Youville College and Duquesne University’s pharmacy schools to offer doctor of pharmacy programs.
He also did something none of his predecessors did—teach theology classes while serving as president—a role that afforded him greater insight into the needs and concerns of both students and faculty.
Father Sean’s focus remained consistent from the beginning of his presidency. Toward the end of his tenure, he co-edited (with Dr. Stephen M. Hildebrand, theology), a collection of essays discussing the papal document that remained at the heart of his life’s work. In February 2018, Faith and Freedom: Ex corde Ecclesiae at Twenty-Five appeared from Franciscan University Press.
After six years as president and “after much prayer,” he informed the trustees on April 5, 2019, of his intention to resign, though he pledged to remain in office until a successor was found.
He said: “Any university president would readily admit that all the days are long; many are great days, and some are difficult. Being a Franciscan Friar has taught me to recognize that all those long days—the great days, and even the difficult days—are blessed days and all the more so when I am among my Franciscan Family.”
He paid tribute especially to the “sincerity and seriousness Franciscan students have for the faith … In my years in higher education, as student, faculty member, and researcher …, I have not encountered members of a university community so committed to pursuing their beliefs.”
As his last word, this most remarkably educated man credited those students with educating him! “I leave Franciscan a better teacher and catechist and appreciative of the time to grow in this area of my ministry.”
People wanted a Franciscan University degree but couldn’t travel the miles to take classes in Steubenville. Some were prevented by disability, others by family and work circumstances. But they all wanted the kind of education Franciscan students were getting on campus.
Distance learning arose because there was demand. In the 1990s, the first degree-granting program arrived: a master’s in theology. For courses, a remote student might receive, by postal service, lectures on cassette tapes along with a workbook. In the fullness of time, they’d mail back term papers to be graded. It was a hybrid program, and students made a commitment to spend some time on campus, usually in summer.
But with the emergence of the World Wide Web came new possibilities for instantly sharing information. And that changed everything. As the technology developed, so did the University’s efforts.
In 2011, new degree programs arrived—an online master’s in business administration and master’s in education. In 2014, came an online MA in catechetics and evangelization.
Online learning offered the only avenue of growth at a time when the University’s campus facilities were already utilized at maximum capacity. With these degree programs, the campus extended into homes and offices, virtually everywhere.
In 2020, came the announcement that Franciscan, for the first time ever, would offer bachelor of arts degrees in theology and philosophy, entirely online. In 2021 came a master’s program in Catholic studies.
Still, the University wanted to convey more than academic content. The question remained: How to provide a true experience of Franciscan University? In 2021, the University launched Franciscan Life Online. Its programs round out the education of online students—by sponsoring group chats, livestreamed talks, and a personal-vocation seminar. Campus employees even established a group to support remote students with prayer and intercede for them by name.
Thus, students around the world can have that much more of what students on campus enjoy: a spiritual community and an opportunity for personal transformation.
In the presidency of Father Dave Pivonka, TOR, you might say that Father Michael Scanlan’s program of “dynamic orthodoxy” came of age.
He was the first Franciscan University alumnus to assume the school’s top leadership role, having graduated with a bachelor’s in theology in 1989. He started as a student at what was then known as “the University of Steubenville” in the years when the transition was everywhere visible—when the growth and development seemed uncontrollable—when much on campus was makeshift—and the air seemed electric with possibilities.
When the board announced that he would be the University’s seventh president, longtime Steubenville Conference speaker Mary Beth Bonacci joked: “How can he be president? He’s one of us kids!”
Dave Pivonka was someone who “grew up” in the University and with the University. He watched its game-changing programs and conferences as they emerged from the idea stage and then became campus customs.
And he didn’t just watch. He was a full, conscious, and active participant in that exhilarating creative moment.
As he moved toward ordination, he went abroad from the Ohio Valley, earning master’s degrees in divinity and theology from Washington Theological Union. He wrote his MA thesis on the indissolubility of Christian marriage. After those two master’s degrees, he went on to earn two doctorates: the first in education from the Graduate Theological Foundation in 2005; the second, an executive juris doctorate from Concord Law School at Purdue University Global in 2011.
He returned “home” to Steubenville in 1996 and actually received priestly ordination in Finnegan Fieldhouse. He offered his first Mass, the next day, in Christ the King Chapel. On campus, the new “Father Dave” held down several jobs, as adjunct professor of theology and director of Household Support. Later, he became assistant to the president (Father Scanlan), before moving on to director of Youth Outreach Conferences (1999-2003), vice president for Mission and Planning (2003-2005), and then director of the Study Abroad Program in Austria (2005-2008). Wherever Franciscan University has gone or grown, Father Dave has gone and grown with it.
Yet, quite apart from his Steubenville presence, he established a far-reaching media platform. He has written seven books, and from 2012 to 2019, he served as the director of Franciscan Pathways, an evangelistic outreach of his Franciscan TOR community. He was the face and voice (and producer) for its popular Wild Goose video series, which led individuals and groups to cultivate a deeper relationship with the Holy Spirit. Father Dave also produced a documentary on St. Francis of Assisi titled Sign of Contradiction, and Metanoia, a 2019 video series on conversion. In his media work, he embodied the missionary ideals and the professional excellence that have been hallmarks of a Steubenville education. Nevertheless, he spent more time preaching the Gospel in person than on camera. From his base in Pittsburgh, he traveled more than 20 days every month for speaking engagements—conferences, parish missions, and retreats—and he did this for years.
To many, he seemed the obvious choice to be the University’s seventh president when Father Sean resigned in 2019. That was the unanimous consensus of the trustees.
Father Dave spoke of his return to campus as a “homecoming,” and students, faculty, and staff treated the occasion that way. Wherever he walked, he heard, “Welcome home!”
When Father Dave speaks of his influences, the figure of Father Scanlan looms large. “He taught me how to handle a schedule,” he told Franciscan Magazine, “how to tell people no, to delegate and prioritize.” He speaks consistently with gratitude but not nostalgia.
He explained: “The Holy Father has said that there is a current of grace that goes through the Church. I like that idea. Sometimes people see grace not as a current but more like a lake behind them, and they keep trying to pull from that. But you can only do that so many times before it’s dry. So, it’s not my desire to go back to how things were in 1989. I love Father Mike, but I don’t want to do what he did. We can’t do what he did.”
From the start, Father Dave envisioned a venturing mission, with students, faculty, staff, and alumni going, like Jesus, “to the sick, the marginalized, the outcast,” loving “those who are not like us.”
He looks out and sees a world that needs the University’s witness. Describing the moral breakdown in society, he concluded: “If there ever was a need for an academic institution to speak truth into that chaos, it’s right now.”
Father Dave has endeavored to extend the University’s reach. Even oceans are no obstacle. Soon after his inauguration, he welcomed to campus the Chaldean Catholic Archbishop of Erbil, Iraq, Bashar Matti Warda, CSsR. Some years earlier, Archbishop Warda had founded the Catholic University of Erbil and now was seeking a mutually beneficial relationship with Franciscan University. On December 6, 2019, officials of both universities signed a Memorandum of Understanding, looking ahead to future cultural exchanges and a sharing of resources. The agreement foresaw a time when courses at both places could be cross listed, with students in Steubenville learning, via video, to read and speak Arabic and Aramaic (the language spoken by Jesus).
In 2021, Father Dave and Archbishop Warda would meet again, this time in Iraq, where Pope Francis made an extraordinary pastoral visit March 5-8—defying threats of violence and the danger of the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic. The University delegation spent seven days there, visiting with people who had suffered through decades of war and religious persecution. “There’s not a family I met who didn’t lose loved ones, have their church destroyed,” Father Dave told Catholic News Service. “I’ve never been so proud to be a Catholic and to witness the Holy Father so bravely visit his people in need.”
With the year 2020 came an unprecedented crisis for the modern world. Millions of individuals and families suffered from the novel coronavirus, COVID-19. Among the institutions hit hardest were those in higher education. The pandemic drove students out of the classroom and other areas where they might congregate—and forced them to gather virtually in improvised “classrooms” using one or another online platform.
It was a catastrophic blow to many colleges and universities that had already been in decline. For some small schools, it marked the end of their story. Even large state systems seized the moment to consolidate and downsize, trimming staff and programs. Like every other school, Franciscan was required to send students home and finish its spring semester online.
But Father Dave, too, seized the moment—which seemed dark and darkening everywhere in higher education—and he made an offer that captured the attention of a housebound world. After consulting with administrators and trustees, he made what seemed an outlandish and countercultural offer. As other schools expressed only anxiety about the future, Father Dave took what he called a “Step in Faith.” He went to the media with the offer of free tuition for all new Franciscan University students in fall 2020. It was one of the few upbeat stories, and so it went viral (so to speak). The result was, perhaps, predictable despite the fears and uncertainty spawned by the pandemic: the largest incoming freshman class in the University’s history. And almost all of them stayed for their sophomore year. At a time when almost all talk was of gloom and doom, Franciscan’s campus was abuzz with hope and even success.
There were more adaptations that year. Steubenville summer conferences went virtual with a Night of Hope, a program of talks, music, and meditations by Dr. Scott Hahn, Sister Miriam James Heidland, SOLT, Dr. Bob Rice, and Father Dave. To keep the momentum, Father Dave and Bob Rice launched an ongoing podcast series titled “They That Hope.” With faculty member Dr. John Bergsma, Father Dave also produced a video series about the Dead Sea Scrolls and the light they shed on the life of Jesus Christ. The University had become the primary beneficiary of Father Dave’s experience in evangelistic media.
The campus experienced 2021 as a year of gradual recovery from the shutdowns of the previous year. The trustees approved the Rebuild My Church Strategic Plan, which had been in process for five years and set overarching goals for the future (see Rebuild My Church: Responding to God’s Call). Included in the plan were new four-year engineering programs in software and mechanical engineering, a new criminal justice major and Center for Criminal Justice, Law, and Ethics, and a Leadership Institute (see Needed: Virtuous Leaders).
The George D. Rice Music Center opened its doors—marking an overdue official acknowledgment of one of Franciscan University’s most significant contributions to Catholic worship and culture. Steubenville’s music ministry has, since the 1970s, exercised a profound influence on music at the parish level throughout the United States.
Meanwhile, enrollment reached a new high—more than 3,400 students (on-campus and online, graduate and undergraduate, full time and part time).
As Father Dave rounded out his second full year as president, the University launched the celebration of its 75th anniversary. He could say that he had witnessed almost half of those years, and he has come to love all of them as his family heritage.
But, again, he’s not nostalgic. As this book goes to press, he is looking ahead to what will be done through the $75 million Rebuild My Church Capital Campaign he announced on December 10, 2021, the 75th jubilee of the founding of the College of Steubenville.
More than eight centuries ago, St. Francis heard the Lord’s call to “rebuild my Church.” The saint quickly realized this commission was much bigger than bricks and stones. It meant caring for the poor, reigniting people’s faith, and spreading the Gospel in a world fallen into disrepair.
In 2021, Franciscan University outlined its response to that same call in its Rebuild My Church Strategic Plan, the fruit of nearly five years of research, discussion, and discernment. The Strategic Plan presents three overarching goals: 1) to form builders for Christ, 2) to build up Catholic communities, and 3) to rebuild within the culture.
The University will continue to form builders through enhancing and expanding academic programs, making a Franciscan education and formation more accessible through increasing affordability and online programming, and giving students the tools needed to live out their personal vocations.
Building up Catholic communities will include accompanying parish leaders and parishioners to uplift dioceses and building an evangelistic engagement model to deliver resources to help people grow in their knowledge and love of Christ.
To rebuild the culture, Franciscan will create new institutes, such as the Center for Criminal Justice, Law, and Ethics and the Leadership Institute, both launched in 2021, that promote Catholic intellectual thought and shape virtuous, Christian leaders.
President Father Dave Pivonka, TOR, ’89 in a presentation on the plan said, “The Strategic Plan is our faith-filled vision for the future. It’s how we will do what we do even better and rebuild a culture that has fallen into ruin. We are just beginning, but we will follow where the Lord is leading.”
Brenan Pergi ’98, MBA ’02, vice president of Operations, who spearheaded the planning, agreed: “We stand firm on a legacy of faithfulness at Franciscan University, hearkening back to the Franciscan TOR friars who took a step of faith to start the school here in 1946. The Strategic Plan is … an undertaking we cannot accomplish as individuals but, with God’s blessings, what we will accomplish together as the University community.”
It’s a mistake—but a very common mistake—to think “vocation” is something reserved for priests and those who take religious vows. The truth is that everyone has a vocation. God has a particular plan and calling for every person—and everyone should ask the question, “What is God calling me to do?”
To help with that process, Franciscan University launched a new Office for Personal Vocation in 2021.
The goal of this initiative is to promote a culture in which students, staff, faculty, and alumni strive to discern and intentionally live out their personal vocations on a daily basis; by freely responding to God’s call, each member of the Franciscan University community experiences authentic fulfillment and perfect joy.
Most people who undertake the process will discern a vocation within the broad spectrum available to the laity. Thus, the new formation effort took its inspiration from Pope St. John Paul II’s apostolic exhortation Christifidelis Laici: “The fundamental objective of the formation of the lay faithful is an ever-clearer discovery of one’s vocation and the ever-greater willingness to live it so as to fulfill one’s mission. … This personal vocation and mission defines the dignity and the responsibility of each member of the lay faithful and makes up the focal point of the whole work of formation.”
This focus on personal vocation and the role of the laity is a natural fit for Franciscan University. The Third Order Regular traces its own roots back to Catholic laity who wanted to follow St. Francis of Assisi’s radical commitment to penance and conversion, but who still had to care for their families and practice their secular professions.
Father Dave Pivonka, TOR, emphasized the importance of this initiative by appointing a dean of Personal Vocation, David Schmiesing, who assumed the office in summer of 2021.
Schmiesing observed: “We will help our students discern and prepare practically for the workplace, but at same time we will not reduce the goal of our University education simply to obtaining lucrative employment.” He noted the importance of Catholics through history who have “sought to achieve holiness and excellence while still living in the world, engaged in family, commercial, and professional life.”
The new office now promotes programs and ongoing opportunities for vocational exploration, coaching and mentoring, and internships—and will engage alumni, parents, and friends of the University in these efforts.
The world is in desperate need of virtuous leaders. It needs highly skilled, Catholic leaders who can pursue their special talents and embrace leadership roles wherever God calls them—business or education, science or technology, family life or religious life.
To do more to develop just such leaders, Franciscan University launched two new initiatives in 2021: the Leadership Institute and the Center for Criminal Justice, Law, and Ethics. Both will form Christian men and women who have the courage and ability to accept roles of leadership and positively impact our culture and Church.
Led by Executive Director Doug Perry, the Leadership Institute began in fall 2021 with an Executive Leadership Speaker Series bringing servant leaders to campus. It will also facilitate leadership workshops grounded in Christian virtues, establish a center dedicated to Catholic social teaching in the workplace, sponsor visiting fellows on Franciscan’s campus, and launch an Entrepreneurship Program, which will lead to an academic minor in entrepreneurship.
The Center for Criminal Justice, Law, and Ethics, led by Charles P. Nemeth, JD, PhD, LLM,and founded on the understanding that the most effective justice system derives from the natural law, will include initiatives that reach into the professional practitioner community and form ethical leaders who act consistently with truth and goodness.
These initiatives include a Speaker Series featuring high-profile thinkers and practitioners concerned about the justice system’s current moral state; Natural Law and Justice, a bi-annual, peer-reviewed academic journal; and short educational programs that teach justice professionals to apply the wisdom of natural law reasoning and the Catholic moral tradition in their practice as police chiefs and personnel, judges, lawyers, legislators, and corrections officers.
Franciscan University remains one of the most respected colleges in the United States. Included in every edition of the Cardinal Newman Society’s Guide to Choosing a Catholic College, Franciscan has also been ranked as a top 100 “best value” in private higher education by Kiplinger Personal Finance Magazine since 2011.
Since 1998, the University has been ranked in the elite “first tier” of Midwestern universities by U.S. News and World Report’s guidebook, America’s Top Colleges. The 2022 guide ranked Franciscan University of Steubenville 19th among all Midwest universities. Among the leading factors for the top-tier ranking are an 87 percent first-year retention rate, a 77 percent six-year graduation rate, and a 13-1 student/faculty ratio.
Father Dave Pivonka, TOR, president of Franciscan University, said the high rankings in these and 14 other categories speak to Franciscan’s excellent academics as well as its campus culture. “Students come here and stay here to complete their education because of our academic rigor, vibrant faith life, and strong Catholic identity that infuses all aspects of our academics and student life programs.”
The purpose of Franciscan University is to further the higher education of men and women through programs of liberal, professional, and pre-professional studies leading to the conferral of the baccalaureate and master degrees in the arts and sciences.
It is the further purpose of the University, publicly identified as a Catholic and a Franciscan institution, to promote the moral, spiritual, and religious values of its students. The University is guided by the example and teaching of St. Francis of Assisi. To accomplish this mission, the University embraces the following general policies:
Intellectual and Faith Community: The specific vocation of a student is intellectual development.
Evangelization: Through academic and co-curricular programs, the University promotes the ongoing and deepening of life in the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Church.
Dynamic Orthodoxy: The University has embraced this concept as a policy standard for its life, thereby striving to promote and maintain a balanced commitment to truth and life in its faith community.
Christian Maturity: The University recognizes that its ultimate purpose is to graduate men and women who are able to take a mature, responsible approach to life.
Good Stewardship: The University recognizes that its greatest resources are its people and pledges to treat each person with dignity and respect.
These five general policies are the basis for many specific policies, including:
Academic: The University is a teaching institution, which values research primarily for advancing the scholarship of the faculty. The University requires some specific courses and some balanced selection of courses to promote liberal arts education and the importance of theological studies and basic philosophy. The University also promotes responsible academic freedom which includes observance of the 1940 AAUP statement.
Student Life: The University desires all its programs to be guided by the law of love. Specifically, the University welcomes entertainment and recreational activities that upbuild the lives of those involved; promotes participation in physical health programs and athletic activities; promotes personal and spiritual development, particularly through faith households; provides, within its means, counseling and other support services as appropriate; supports Christian morality and respect for life; embraces a Catholic worldview; encourages service off campus to the poor as an essential part of a student’s educational experience.
Finally, the University commits itself to this mission believing that it is promoting a normal, mature, Franciscan, Catholic, Christian way of life for its students. It believes that its norms for both academic and co-curricular development are rooted in long and proven tradition and are as relevant today as they were in times past. The University commits itself to ongoing prayer empowered by the Holy Spirit, so that it may be humble before the face of God and receptive to those graces and blessings it needs to serve this mission.
1949 Fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous
1950 Edward F. Hutton of Freedoms Foundation
1951 The Court of Last Resort
1952 Lions International
1953 Variety Clubs International
1954 Llewellyn J. Scott, TOS
1955 Jonas E. Salk, MD, Associates, Experimentees
1956 Mother Anna Dengel, MD, Medical Mission Sisters
1957 Catherine de Hueck Doherty
1958 Daniel M. Hamill
1959 Fr. Dan W. Egan, TOR
1960 Dr. Emma Carter Zeis
1961 Donald Henry McGannon
1962 Miss Jane Wyatt
1963 Miss Birgit Nilsson
1964 Arthur Joseph Rooney
1965 Joseph E. Brown
1966 Project Hope, William B. Walsh, MD
1967 Lena F. Edwards, MD
1968 VISTA, Padriac M. Kennedy
1969 Jack Twyman
1970 The Salvation Army
1971 Most Rev. John King Mussio
1972 Br. George J. Hungerman, FMSI, MD
1973 The Dismas Committee of the St. Vincent de Paul Society, Francis Zimmerman
1974 Senator Mark O. Hatfield
1975 Sr. Mary Agatha, OSF
1975 Rev. Kevin R. Keelan, TOR
1976 Dorothy Day
1976 Mother Teresa of Calcutta
1977 Franciscan Sisters of the Poor
1978 Leon Jaworski
1979 Most Rev. Bernard J. Topel, DD
1981 International Shrine Association
1982 Rev. Bruce Ritter, OFM, Conv.
1983 Rev. Richard J. Thomas, SJ
1984 Special Olympics
1985 Ronald McDonald House
1986 Charles W. and Patricia Colson
1986 James David Lynch, SFO
1987 Msgr. Paul Leo Richter
1988 Sr. Briege McKenna, OSC
1989 Dr. Joseph Stanton
1990 Senator (Admiral) Jeremiah A. Denton, Jr.
1991 Sr. Nijole Sadunaite
1992 Ferdinand Mahfood
1993 Piet and Trude Derksen
1994 Rev. Werenfried van Straaten
1995 William Bentley Ball, Esq.
1996 Rev. Augustine Donegan, TOR
1997 Chris Bell and Joan Andrews Bell
1997 L’Arche International (Jean Vanier)
1998 Sr. Peter Claver Fahy, MSBT
2000 LAMP Ministries, Drs. Tom and Lyn Scheuring
2001 Bob and Penny Lord
2002 Fr. Richard Ho Lung, MOP
2006 Thomas R. Vecchione, MD/MOST—Mercy Outreach Surgical Team
2007 Urban Mission
2008 AIM Crisis Pregnancy Center
2010 Rick and Karen Santorum
2011 Rev. Benedict Groeschel, CFR
2014 Little Sisters of the Poor
2015 Mary’s Meals
2016 Aid to the Church in Need
2018 Father Michael Scanlan, TOR
2020 NET Ministries
1950 Ernest T. Weir
1951 Mone Anathan Sr., Emma Carter Zeis
1952 Charles B. Lanman
1953 Michael Baker Jr.
1954 Thomas Gerald Ryan
1955 Michael Starvaggi
1956 Frances Weir Millsop, Most Rev. John K. Mussio, Rev. Regis Stafford, TOR, Anna D. Williams, Dr. Ray B. Roshon,
1957 Rev. Louis A. Rongione, OSA
1958 Dr. Forrest H. Kirkpatrick, Wallace A. Shelby, Jr.
1959 Dr. Bernard J. Ficarra
1960 Msgr. Henry J. Grigsby, John G. Hagan Jr., Clinton C. Roberson
1961 Edwin O. Burgham
1962 Joseph F. Bontempo, Most Rev. Nicholas T. Elko, Very Rev. William F. Troy, SJ, Dr. Richard Doney
1963 Msgr. Henry B. O’Donnell, Robert D. O’Grady
1964 Frank C. Sullivan, Sr. Mary Agatha, OSF
1965 Guy W. Jacobs, Charles M. Patterson
1966 Samuel Freifield, William S. Welday
1967 Most Rev. John J. Krol, Governor James A. Rhodes
1968 Most Rev. John H. Boccella, TOR, Congressman Wayne L. Hays, Msgr. John J. McGrath, Judge Carl A. Weinman
1969 Donald H. McGannon, Angeline J. Starvaggi, Msgr. William R. Cornelius, Tad Mosel
1970 Rabbi Dr. Harry J. Stern, Myrtle Eleanor Pitzer Baker, Allison R. Maxwell Jr.
1971 Dennis W. Binning
1972 J. Hadyn Harris, Dr. Thomas E. Seifert, Rev. Dennis Sullivan, TOR, Dr. John L. Mantica, Rev. Theophane (Michael) Scanlan, TOR
1973 James J. Dyer
1974 Senator John H. Glenn, Jr.
1975 Margaret Mary Fennelly Grace, Mother Mary Clare Heurich
1976 Irwin A. Fluharty, Rev. Raymond A. Roesch, SM
1977 Anthony Gentile
1978 Senator Jennings Randolph, Arthur J. Kobacker, Most Rev. Albert H. Ottenweller
1979 Orlando C. Schiappa, Norbert J. Hruby, PhD, Anthony J. Teramana
1980 Most Rev. Joseph L. Bernardin, Paul R. Carapellotti, Congressman Douglas Applegate, James Hitchcock, PhD
1981 Mone Anathan Jr., John Joseph Blanda, Governor Joseph J. Garrahy
1982 Rev. Rudolph Harvey, OFM, Msgr. James C. Marshall, Ralph Martin
1983 Mother Mary Angelica Rizzo, Rev. Christian R. Oravec, TOR, John G. Redline
1984 Most Rev. James W. Malone, Louis Berkman, Dr. Ralph M. McInerny, Woldemar H. Nikkel
1985 James Boylan Mooney, Rose Winifred Totino, Robert Lee Loughhead, Dr. Warren B. Martin
1986 George A. Ferris, Rev. Stanley L. Jaki, Bernard Cardinal Law, Robert Thomas
1987 Very Rev. Kevin R. Keelan, TOR, Sr. Ann Elizabeth Shields, Dr. Alice Jourdain von Hildebrand
1988 John J. Mulloy, Msgr. Carlo Caffarra, Dr. James C. Dobson, Marilynn Kramar
1989 Charles R. (Red) Donley, Rev. Harald Bredesen, Dr. Thomas T. Howard, Rev. Richard John Neuhaus
1990 Most Rev. Austin B. Vaughan, John H. Irvin, DDS, Michael and Rita Marker, Dr. William E. May, Phyllis Schlafly
1991 Dr. Ronda DeSola Chervin, Robert G. Filby, PhD, Olga Florence Macedonia, Rev. Francis Martin
1992 Dr. William A. Marra, Robert M. Regan, John J. Riccardo, Dr. Charles E. Rice
1993 John Cardinal O’Connor, Patricia Fletcher, Rev. Benedict J. Groeschel, CFR, Arch. Dipl. Ing. Walter Hildebrand, Hon. Thomas P. Melady
1994 Governor Robert P. Casey, Sr. Margaret Carney, OSF, Rev. John Catoir, Most Rev. Gilbert I. Sheldon, Rev. Adrian van Kaam, CSSp
1995 Leo Jozef Cardinal Suenens, Mary Ellen Bork, Most Rev. Agostino Cacciavillan, Bobbie Cavnar, Molly Kelly, Michael Medved, Rev. G. Richard (Ricky) Riggs
1996 Mary Cunningham Agee, Diane Brown, Dr. Thomas Hilgers, Hon. Alan Keyes, Coleman Mullins
1997 Virgil Dechant, Adam Cardinal Maida, Rev. Raffaele Pazzelli, TOR, Most Rev. Christoph Schönborn, Sr. M. Dorothy Sienko, OSF, Congressman Christopher Smith
1998 Anthony Cardinal Bevilacqua, Pastor Jim Forbes, Msgr. Roger J. Foys, Nellie Gray, Sir John Templeton
1999 Fray José Angulo Quilis, TOR, Mary Beth Bonacci, Most Rev. Charles J. Chaput, OFM Cap, Senator Mike DeWine, Thomas S. Monaghan, Rev. Robert Sirico
2000 Mother Agnes Mary Donovan, SV, Francis Cardinal George, OMI, Robert P. George, Congressman Robert W. Ney
2001 Very Rev. David M. O’Connell, CM, William Cardinal Keeler, Congressman Henry Hyde, Barbara A. Listing
2002 Avery Cardinal Dulles, SJ, Dr. John M. Haas, Rev. Matthew L. Lamb, Most Rev. Bonaventure Midili, TOR, Rev. Frank Pavone
2003 Hon. Kenneth Whitehead, Archbishop Adam Exner, OMI, Bishop R. Daniel Conlon, Br. Mark McBride, TOR, David Austin Ruse, Bishop Donald W. Wuerl.
2004 Mother Regina Pacis Coury, FSGM, Most Rev. Allen H. Vigneron, James Towey, George Weigel, Joan Smith
2005 Raymond Arroyo, Dr. Wanda Franz, Hank Kuzma, Most Rev. J. Michael Miller, Dr. Peter Neff
2006 Most Rev. John Magee, Cathleen Cleaver Ruse, Mercedes Arzú Wilson
2007 Most Rev. Timothy M. Dolan, Dr. Josef Seifert, Dr. Edmund Pellegrino
2008 James Cardinal Stafford, Dr. Janet Smith, Mother Mary Assumpta Long, OP, Msgr. Kurt Kemo, Rev. Ronan Deegan, TOR, John and Sheila Kippley
2009 Dr. Erhard Hanslik, Very Rev. Michael J. Higgins, TOR, Paul G. Kengor, PhD, Cormac Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor, Michael Novak
2010 John Cardinal Foley, Ambassador Francis Campbell, Rev. Mitchell Pacwa, SJ, Robert Mylod
2011 Raymond Cardinal Burke, Congressman Jeffrey L. Fortenberry, Rev. Raniero Cantalamessa, OFM Cap.
2012 Most Rev. Arthur J. Seratelli, Dr. Marie Hilliard, General Michael V. Hayden
2013 Most Rev. José H. Gomez, Colleen Carroll Campbell, Secretary R. James Nicholson
2014 Daniel Cardinal DiNardo, Most Rev. Jeffrey M. Monforton, Michael Warsaw
2015 Most Rev. William E. Lori, Grand Duke Henri and Grand Duchess Maria Teresa of Luxembourg, Lou Holtz
2016 Sean Patrick Cardinal O’Malley, OFM Cap., Rev. Terence Henry, TOR, Dr. Laura M. Meeks, Paul M. (Mickey) Pohl, JD
2017 Most Rev. David A. Zubik, Patrick Lencioni, Dr. Ryan T. Anderson
2018 Most Rev. Joseph E. Kurtz, Dr. Stephen Barr, Jeanette De Melo
2019 Most Rev. George V. Murry, SJ, Curtis Martin
2020 Most Rev. Robert Barron, Sherry Weddell
2021 Most Rev. Bashar Matti Warda, Eugene Scalia
1978 Samuel Freifeld
1979 Michael Starvaggi
1981 John C. Williams
1982 Dohrman J. Sinclair, II
1983 Msgr. Henry B. O’Donnell
1984 Charter Members of the Steubenville
Alumni Club of the Alpha Phi Delta Fraternity
1985 Founding Franciscan Friars
1986 Franciscan University Women’s Club
Paul & Dahlia Carapellotti
1987 Founding Board of Advisors
1988 Past Members of the Board of Trustees
1989 Founding Members of the Upper
Ohio Valley Right to Life Society
1990 Founding Student Collegiate Organizations
1991 Local Downtown Parishes
1992 Victor C. Ciancetta
Michael A. DiNovo
1993 Past Chairmen of the Board of Advisors:
Robert J. D’Anniballe, D. E. “Sam” Henderson
Dr. Patrick H. Macedonia, Dr. Anthony V. Scurti
1994 Diocese of Steubenville
1995 Teramana Brothers
1996 Rev. Ronald Bodenschatz, TOR
Rev. Theodore Bradower, TOR
Audrey Korzi ’52
1997 Sr. Isabel Bettwy
Rev. Gerald King, TOR
Dr. Ralph McKay ’63
Rev. Angelus Migliore, TOR
Rev. David Tickerhoof, TOR
1998 Past Chairmen of the Board of Advisors:
Gregory Agresta ’83, William Blake ’66
Patricia Fletcher ’67, Robert Chapman ’76
1999 Graduate Programs:
Master of Business Administration
Master of Arts, Theology & Christian Ministry
Master of Arts, Counseling
Master of Science, Educational Administration
Master of Science, Education
Master of Arts, Philosophy
Master of Science, Nursing
2000 Rev. Michael Scanlan, TOR
2001 Very Rev. Edmund Carroll, TOR
2002 Most Rev. Gilbert I. Sheldon
2003 Mr. & Mrs. Tony (Nina) Gentile
2004 Women of Faith: Mary Barber,
Carmel Callas, Dahlia Carapellotti,
Mary Carrigg, Josephine DiNovo,
Charlotte Fletcher, Kay Kuzma,
Clara Laman, Catherine Lancia,
Betty Mantica, Mickie Sellaroli,
Stella Spiewak, Lucy Yobbagy
2005 Men of Service: Sheriff Fred Abdalla,
Vincent Amico, James Anderson,
John Bedway, Dr. John Carrigg,
David Hindman, Victor Lynskey,
Mayor Domenick Mucci,
Reno Anthony Saccoccia, Robert Sebeck
Rev. Edmundo Stabene,
Rev. Msgr. George Yontz
2006 Steubenville Rotary Club
2007 Jefferson County Fourth Street Health Center
2008 Franciscan University Works of Mercy and
Missions of Peace Programs
2009 Retired Faculty Members:
Dr. Rose E. Cerroni, Prof. Robert Englert,
Dr. Dan Keenan, Dr. Dianne Keenan,
Dr. Donald Kissinger, Prof. John Korzi,
Dr. James Salter
Retired Faculty Members (posthumously):
Prof. Liberty Antalis, Dr. Thomas Campbell,
Dr. Robert Convery, Prof. John Emmert,
Dr. Daniel Georges, Prof. Edward Kelly,
Dr. Robert McLean, Dr. Paul Stokely
TOR Friars (posthumously): Rev. Gilbert Barth, TOR,
Rev. Philip Clarke, TOR, Rev. Columba Devlin, TOR,
Rev. Matt Finnegan, TOR, Rev. Matthew Herron, TOR,
Br. Benedict Lyons, TOR, Rev. Regis Stafford, TOR
2010 All Franciscan TOR Friars in Service at
Franciscan University (1946-2010)
2011 Rose M. DeFede (posthumously)
2012 Professor Edward Bessler
Dr. John Herrmann
Professor Ray Petrilla ’77 (posthumously)
Irene Pizzoferrato ’83
Dr. Norman Rokke
Dr. James Slater
Dr. Earl Spinnenweber
Professor Joseph Zoric
2013 Franciscan Sisters, TOR of Penance of the Sorrowful Mother
2014 Prof. Jack Boyde ’66 (posthumously)
John Green MBA ’87
Richard King (posthumously)
John Madigan ’58 (posthumously)
2015 Very Rev. Richard Davis, TOR
Theresa (Rocco ’72, MSA ’01) DiPiero
Norma Donohue (posthumously)
Mary Kay Lacke
2016 Anita Jackson ’81, MS ’00 (posthumously)
2017 Dr. Floyd L. Cogley Jr.
Dr. Mary F. Salter ’70
Dr. Mary Lucille Smith
2018 The Mark Nelson Family
John Steitz ’69
2019 Rita Carapellotti
David Skiviat ’78, MBA ’87
2021 Sister M. Regina Pacis Coury, FSGM
Paul Giannamore ’84
The Dr. John ’58 and Judy Irvin Family