An Invitation From Fr. Dave Pivonka, TOR

Peace and Blessings!

At Franciscan University, faith and reason, truth and freedom, the arts and the sciences are never at odds with one another.  Rather, they complement one another with the pursuit of one aiding the pursuit of the other.  This understanding provides students with an education that is both faithful and challenging, preparing them to meet the challenges of the professional world, and to do so as committed disciples of Jesus Christ.  

In the tradition of the great Catholic universities of old, Franciscan strives to form souls as well as minds by leading students to a deeper understanding of God, man, and the world.  We also draw upon the best of contemporary wisdom and learning, equipping students to engage the emerging needs of the Church and culture.  Inspired by St. Francis of Assisi, led by the Holy Spirit, and faithful to the magisterium, Franciscan University offers a college education like no other.

I invite you to discover for yourself how a Franciscan education can help you become the person God made you to be--and set the world on fire!


Father Dave Pivonka, TOR, President, Franciscan University of Steubenville

About Fr. David Pivonka, TOR

Father David Pivonka, TOR was elected president of Franciscan University of Steubenville by the Board of Trustees on May 21, 2019.  The well-known Catholic speaker and author graduated from Franciscan University with his bachelor of arts degree in theology in 1989, then earned a master of divinity degree, master of arts in theology, doctorate in education, and executive juris doctorate.  A solemnly professed member of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus Province of the Third Order Regular of St. Francis of Penance, Father Dave was ordained to the priesthood in 1996.  He held various leadership positions at Franciscan University from 1996-2008 including vice president for Mission and Planning.  From 2008-2012, Father Dave served as director of Post-Novitiate Formation for the Franciscans, TOR, and from 2012-2019, he directed Franciscan Pathways, hosting The Wild Goose video series on the Holy Spirit, a documentary on St. Francis of Assisi, and Metanoia, a 2019 video series on conversion.  He has written six books including Breath of God: Living a Life Led by the Holy Spirit and Sign of Contradiction.


A Brief Overview of Franciscan University of Steubenville

In the spirit of authentic, Catholic higher education, Franciscan University of Steubenville emphasizes the formation of strong, moral character and critical thinking. Our on-campus enrollment of over 2,400 includes students from all 50 states and 17 foreign countries.

Franciscan University is proud of its alumni, students, and faculty who play key roles in both public and religious sectors of society. They are examples of Christian character, charity, and competence in business, psychology, education, research, ecclesial service, athletics, health care, and medicine. Regional reunions, our University magazine, and a robust online and social media presence keep the University and its staff in close contact with Franciscan University graduates.

Our Founder

In the year 1182, in the little town of Assisi, near Perugia, Italy, a son was born to a rich merchant named Pietro Bernadone. His baptismal name was Giovanni, “John,” but his father renamed him Francesco, “Frenchman,” because Pietro was fond of France.

As a youth, Francesco eagerly exercised chivalry and arms, and while taking part in one of the petty feuds of the day, he was imprisoned at Perugia for a year.

While in Perugia, Francesco became ill, and after being released from prison, he spent much of his time in contemplation. Soon he renounced his former way of life and went on a pilgrimage to Rome in 1206. Thereafter, Francis, as we render his name in English, renounced his considerable inheritance, broke with his family, and consecrated himself to poverty and a religious life.

No humiliation, no self-sacrifice was too great. He refused any but the simplest clothing—a single gray tunic of coarse woolen cloth belted at the waist by a rope—and begged for alms at the gates of monasteries. He served the leper colony at Gubbio for some time and later worked with his own hands in rebuilding the churches of St. Damian and St. Mary of the Angels.

Francis founded the Franciscan Order in 1208. The irresistible gentleness of the Franciscan spirit soon swept throughout Europe, and when the first general assembly of the Order was held in 1219, some 5,000 friars were present.

Few groups had such a moderating influence on the turbulent times. Teaching, preaching, and helping the poor were only part of their work. Led by St. Francis, the friars recorded much of the history of the times and made valuable contributions to literature and theological writings.

Our Mission

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 build up 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.

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.