About Us

History & Traditions


Saint Francis University is one of the first 20 Catholic universities and the first Franciscan college to be founded in the United States. It is also one of the first Catholic universities to become co-educational in the United States.



Franciscan Presence

The College (University) gratefully acknowledges the vision, sacrifice, and zeal of our Franciscan founders and of the friars who have served the campus community loyally over the years. We strive to emulate the Franciscan values evident in their ministry.

-Stewards of the Vision, Dr. John Woznak

Brother Giles Carroll, along with five of his friar brothers from the Archdiocese of Tuam in Ireland, requested permission from the bishop of the Pittsburgh diocese to bring their dream, rooted in sharing the teachings of Saint Francis of Assisi, to fruition in the Americas. 
In 1847, nearly fifteen years before the Civil War, they began clearing land in the forests of Loretto, Pennsylvania, to build a school that would one day become Saint Francis University.  


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Saint Francis College: 1880s

1880s Campus Saint Francis College Image


Saint Francis College: 1947

1947 Campus Saint Francis College Image


Saint Francis University: 2022

2022 Campus Saint Francis University


Turning Points in History

  • Destruction on Old Main

    On October 30, 1942 flames of an unknown origin began sweeping down the corridors of "Old Main" and "St. Joseph's Hall" while virtually every member of the community was asleep.

    Saint Francis College was closed for two weeks, and all classes of Saint Francis Prep, College, and Seminary were moved into the recently acquired Charles M. Schwab mansion and estate after that period, with many students living in the rooms of private homes. 

    Rebuilding took time with supply shortages and the decreased enrollment that accompanied the Second World War. Temporary buildings (Quonset huts) were erected in the footprint of what was Old Main, and building continued through the 1950s and 1960s.


    1942 Old Main Fire Collage

  • History of the Bell

    Classrooms, dormitories, the chapel, dining space and the library all disappeared with the flames that destroyed Old Main. The fire could have signaled the end of the Franciscans' dream to bring education to this rural area, yet a hint of future potential remained as they discovered the 1859 bell intact among the rubble.

    Today that bell, preserved in a humble brick tower on the campus mall, has grown into a symbol of new beginnings. It is rung on the day new students are welcomed into the Saint Francis family, and again on their graduation day as they begin the next part of their journey.


    History of the Bell Collage

  • Maurice Stokes & Become that Someone

    "Become that Someone" speaks to our Catholic-Franciscan mission to help students become compassionate, caring, successful professionals. The values of generosity, respect, discovery, and joy ruin deep in our culture and attract students with a desire to become that someone who makes a difference in the lives of others.


    In his brief three year career, Stokes (1955)  made the All-Star and All-NBA second teams in each season, but his career was cut short due to a terrible fall in 1958. During a game against the Minneapolis Lakers, Stokes fell and landed on his head. He was knocked out and slowly drifted back in consciousness. Despite the severity of the fall, he was sent back into the game.

    Just days later, Stokes suffered a series of seizures while aboard an airplane to Cincinnati to face the Detroit Pistons in a playoff game. The ordeal left Stokes permanently paralyzed and unable to speak. The medical bills, and the attention required, became almost insurmountable. Enter Jack Twyman. Stokes' teammate with the Royals. Twyman became Maurice's legal guardian and assumed responsibility for his friend's medical expenses. The never-ending assists from Twyman helped keep Stokes alive until 1970.


    Maurice Stokes Collage