Our Heritage

Though Franciscan University of Steubenville now enjoys a strong international reputation, its beginnings were as unassuming as its patron saint. Francis of Assisi’s simple life, self-sacrifice, and service to others have inspired many believers throughout the centuries – especially the founders, faculty, and staff of the University, who are guided by his example and teaching.

In 1946, soon after the end of World War II, Steubenville’s first bishop, John King Mussio, invited the Franciscan Friars of the Third Order Regular to establish a college to serve the needs of local students, especially veterans of World War II. After looking over available facilities, the friars purchased the Knights of Pythias Building in downtown Steubenville in June 1946. With no guarantees except that of moral support, the friars invested $350,000 in what would prove to be a great educational venture. As the College of Steubenville’s enrollment grew, other buildings were purchased or leased, until it became evident that proper expansion required enough land for a permanent campus. In 1953, the friars purchased a 40-acre tract on a site overlooking the city of Steubenville.

From the beginning, the College produced men and women of faith whose moral, spiritual, and intellectual formation enabled them to provide exemplary leadership in their careers, communities, and churches, and as parents, priests, or religious. Seven presidents have shaped the University into an internationally recognized, Christ-centered institution: Father Daniel W. Egan, TOR, Father Kevin Keelan, TOR (1959-62; 1969-74), Father Columba S. Devlin, TOR, Father Michael Scanlan, TOR, Father Terence Henry, TOR, Father Sean O. Sheridan, TOR, and Father Dave Pivonka, TOR.

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, however, the College nearly failed. Reeling from the social and cultural upheavals that rocked schools nationwide, the College found itself facing a serious identity crisis and declining enrollment. Father Michael Scanlan, TOR, who became president in 1974, helped restore the institution to the Catholic, Franciscan vision of its founders.

The College achieved university status in 1980, changing its name to Franciscan University of Steubenville in 1985. During its 74 years of existence, the University has grown to a 241-acre campus with 26 buildings plus student apartments and a study abroad program in Gaming, Austria. It now educates over 2,400 students on campus each year who come from 50 states and 17 countries as well as over 850 online students. The University also reaches over 60,000 other Catholics through its 30-plus annual adult and youth conferences.

Though a relatively young institution, Franciscan University has achieved national recognition from a variety of sources, including Kiplinger Personal Finance Magazine’s top 100 “best values” in private higher education, National Review’s Guide to America’s Top Liberal Arts Schools, Young America’s Top Ten Conservative Colleges, Barron’s Best Buys in College Education, The Newman Guide to Choosing a Catholic College, FORBE’S America’s Top Colleges, and U.S. News & World Report’s Guide to America’s Best Colleges.

Franciscan University’s growth from just 258 students in 1946 to nearly 3,300 students today is evidence of the faith of its Franciscan friars, the leadership of its presidents, and the determination of its trustees, advisors, faculty, and staff.

We commend you for becoming part of the Franciscan tradition of quality higher education. We look forward to preparing students like you for the challenges of the twenty-first century—and beyond.