In 1847, nearly fifteen years before the start of the Civil War, Pittsburgh Bishop Michael O'Connor invited six Franciscan friars from Ireland to establish a school and gave them the land for this purpose. It was located in a forest near Loretto, Pennsylvania, where the friars labored to clear the land and then construct the foundations of what would one day become Saint Francis University.
Soon after its humble beginnings, Saint Francis University was recognized by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and given the authority to grant educational degrees. Historically, the University ranks as one of the first Catholic Universities in the nation, the first Franciscan college in the country, and one of the first Catholic Universities to become co-educational in the United States.
The University's building program continued into the decade of the 1990s, bringing the campus to its present 23-structure expanse. The attractive 600-acre campus features nine residence halls, a student union, classroom and administrative buildings, an athletics center, dining hall, library and chapel. Christian Hall, a modern residence hall for 150 upperclass students, was completed in 1998.
The magnificent former Charles M. Schwab Estate and Gardens (now Mount Assisi Friary), Lake Saint Francis and Immergrun Golf Club further complement the Saint Francis Campus, making the setting ideal not only for focused learning, but tranquil living as well. Diverse cultural opportunities are available for students and area residents alike through the University's fine arts program and the Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art.