The USF Centennial

Centennial Campaign logo

The University of St. Francis has come a long way since it was established in 1920. Founded by the Sisters of Saint Francis of Mary Immaculate, known as the Joliet Franciscans, the institution was first called “New College,” then “Assisi College,” followed by the “College of St. Francis,” and finally reaching university status in 1998.

The university has a rich history. Over the years, the institution transitioned from exclusively preparing the Sisters to teach, to becoming an all-women’s college, to becoming coeducational in 1971, to becoming an affiliate of the Saint Joseph College of Nursing in 1997. Throughout the years, it has maintained its focus on offering a Catholic, comprehensive educational experience, focused on Franciscan values and rooted in the liberal arts, to each and every student.

With over 50,000 alumni in 50 states and over 20 foreign countries, all of us at the University of St. Francis are excited to celebrate this milestone. As we celebrate our first 100 years, we renew our commitment to build a Franciscan future!

Learn more about the Centennial Campaign!

Centennial Campaign

  • All year long!
  • As part of its 100-year celebration, USF is embarking on a Centennial Campaign with strategic initiatives that will help beautify campus, increase scholarships and honor our heritage. This campaign is an important part of how USF is enhancing the learning environment, showing its commitment to affordable excellence and ensuring a USF education remains within reach of bright, hard-working students and their families. Donations to the Centennial Campaign make meaningful tribute gifts that honor the university’s 100-year history. Click here to learn more!

Chicago Centennial Gathering

  • September 26, 2019 @ 5:30 pm – 7:30 pm
  • Guests will hear from President Arvid C. Johnson about plans for the upcoming Centennial Celebrations. Appetizers and drinks will be served at the Union League Club. For more information contact Kristin Short in the Advancement Office at or 815-740-3613.

Christmas at the Motherhouse with Schola Cantorum: Centennial Christmas Concert

  • Friday & Saturday, Dec. 6 & 7, 2019 | 7 p.m. St. Joseph Chapel (Motherhouse)
  • This Centennial kick-off event will include a Christmas performance by the university’s Schola Cantorum and will feature the debut of an original composition, written especially for the USF Centennial by Dr. Robert Kase, former dean of USF’s College of Arts & Sciences.

Caritas Centennial Scholarship Gala

  • Saturday, January 25, 2020 | 6 p.m. Sullivan Recreation Center
  • This 63rd annual black-tie scholarship dinner will return to the campus for a very special Centennial celebration, including photos, mementos and memories from the first 100 years!

USF Pilgrimage to Assisi

  • March 6-14, 2020
  • Gather together with other USF alumni, faculty, staff and friends on a spiritual and educational trip to Italy to visit the hometown of the university’s patrons, Saint Francis and Saint Clare of Assisi.

Gordie’s Run – 5K Charity Event

  • Sunday, April 19, 2020 | Time TBA , Main USF Campus
  • In honor and memory of legendary coach Gordie Gillespie, competitive runners will pace the race, followed by participants raising funds for their favorite causes– just like the original event held forty years ago.

Mass of Peace Concert

  • Friday, April 24, 2020 | 7:30 p.m. Cathedral of St. Raymond Nonnatus
  • A performance including a collection of original musical compositions by Dr. Robert Kase, former dean of the College of Arts & Sciences and friend of USF, performed in the inspiring setting of the beautiful Cathedral of St. Raymond Nonnatus.

Centennial Convocation

  • Thursday, August 27, 2020 | 3:30 p.m.  Cathedral of St. Raymond Nonnatus
  • Opening academic convocation and mass welcoming incoming new students and marking the beginning of the school year.

Celebration of the Century

  • Thursday, August 27, 2020 | 4:45 p.m. Centennial Gateway (corner of Plainfield Rd. & Wilcox St.) & Centennial Quad (Main USF Campus)
  • The Centennial celebration continues with the dedication of the new Centennial Gateway and Centennial Quad, followed by a picnic and entertainment.

An Oral History of USF

  • Friday, September 18, 2020 | 5:30 p.m.  Joliet Historical Museum
  • An evening of moving and informative presentations, videos and displays, honoring the first 100 years of the university.

Ambassador Day

  • Tuesday, October 13, 2020 | 7:30 a.m. Turk Theater (Moser Performing Arts Center)
  • A gathering of community business and governmental leaders and friends of the university for a special Centennial address by our president, Dr. Arvid C. Johnson.

“100 Years of Philanthropy” Donors Dinner

  • Thursday, November 5, 2020 | 6 p.m.  San Damiano Hall (Motherhouse)
  • A “by invitation” gathering of individuals who have supported the university during its first 100 years.

1865 – The Congregation of the Sisters of St Francis of Mary Immaculate established on Aug. 2 by Mother Alfred Moes.

1869 – Boarding school opened in Motherhouse for high school girls called “St. Francis Academy” (SFA).

1874 – The Sisters’ Normal Institute of higher learning—an institution created to train high school graduates to be teachers—was accredited.

1912-1913 – A new academic wing on Taylor Street added to Motherhouse to house the school’s growing educational programs.

1915 – During construction, the curriculum of St. Francis Academy grew and SFA reopened in a new space in September affording more separation between academy students and the Sisters.

1920 – The first college department formed as an extension of the academy by the Congregation of the Third Order of St. Francis of Mary Immaculate.

1922 – Sponsors built Tower Hall for the college with a cornerstone ceremony on Aug. 20, and a dedication of the completed structure on Oct. 14, 1923.

1925 – The college department became a formal two-year junior college called Assisi Junior College.

1926 – Mother M. Thomasine Frye, OSF served as first president, with an enrollment of 12 students and eight teachers.

1930 – A senior college curriculum was established, and a new name, the College of St. Francis (CSF), was adopted. CSF was given bachelor’s degree-granting authority.

1933 – The Alumni Association was formed.

1935 – A course affiliation program between CSF’s College of Nursing and the St. Joseph Hospital School of Nursing began.

1936 – Faculty member Dr. Frank Weberg instigated the Papal Peace Program and arranged for the Midwest International Peace Conference of the Catholic Association to be held on campus. Shortly after, the Red Cross depended on CSF for training preparedness and the college was later designated as a Civil Defense Shelter.

1938 – Sr. M. Aniceta Guyette, OSF was named the second president of CSF. 

1938 – Accreditation recognition was received from the North Central Association of Colleges and Universities.

1943 – Two new Bachelor of Arts degrees in Spanish and Science were approved.

1944 – Art was announced as a major and cooperative programs began with extension classes from DePaul and Loyola Universities.

1945 – An all-female, student-run radio station, WCSF, was established.

1946 – Temporary off-campus student housing was acquired, located in three homes on Bridge Street: Marian Hall, Angela Hall and the Sehring Mansion.

1953 – Sr. M. Elvira Bredel, OSF was named the college’s third president. The college inaugurated the Seraphic Institute of Theology (also known as the Franciscan Institute), conferring 205 certificates and 35 Master of Arts degrees in Theology over its 12 years.

1955 – A residence wing was created in Tower Hall.

1956 – St. Francis Academy discontinued operation when new facilities were built on Larkin Avenue in Joliet.

1957 – The first Caritas fundraiser gala was hosted at St. Francis to raise money for student scholarships.

1959 – St. Albert Hall became the third separate building as Sr. Joan Preising, OSF, chemist-turned-author, realized the completion of her personal project: raising of funds.

1962 – Sr. Anita Marie Jochem, OSF was named the college’s fourth president and the last president from the congregation. Upon being advised by ACCU, the college officially incorporated as its own institution, separate from the congregation, with its own charter and by-laws.

1965 – The Sisters marked a century of progress in education in the evolution of the College of St Francis.

1966 – Marian Hall, the first residence hall on campus, was built.

1966 – White Eagle Golf course was received from the Harold Moser family.

1968 – The library opened with books that were moved from Donovan Hall.

1969 – Dr. Francis Kerins was appointed as the college’s fifth (and first lay) president.

1970 – Merger talks began with Lewis University in the hopes to establish a south and north campus of the potential “Lewis-St. Francis of Joliet.” Talks ended in 1972, when a transfer agreement was reached between CSF and Joliet Junior College.

1970 – A B.S. in Health Arts degree program began.

1970 – A three-year degree program was initiated.

1971 – The college became coeducational.

1972– Elmer Bell became the first full-time athletic director and CSF started its first athletic programs – baseball and men’s basketball. Both teams employed the nickname “The Falcons.”

1972 – Men’s intercollegiate athletics were established.

1972 – The men’s marathon running team was nationally recognized.

1972 – The first off-campus degree programs began.

1973 – Men’s cross-country became CSF’s third athletic program.

1974 – Dr. John C. Orr was named the college’s sixth president.

1975 – CSF’s athletes became “The Fighting Saints.”

1976 – Women’s basketball, men’s tennis, women’s tennis and women’s volleyball programs started.

1979 – Men’s golf and softball are added to CSF’s growing list of sports.

1980 – CSF gains graduate degree-granting authority and the first master’s program in health services administration was offered.

1980 – CSF pushed to grow African American student representation, as reflected in the demographics of the local community.

1982 – The Computer Science program began.

1982 – CSF men’s soccer and women’s cross-country begin competition.

1986 – A recreation center was constructed for the athletic program and the men’s football program was created. Tower Hall was deeded to CSF.

1987 – Cheerleading became another CSF sport.

1993 – The Moser Performing Arts Center was added to Tower Hall. 

1993 – CSF’s baseball team claims the school’s first-ever NAIA National Championship. Head coach Gordie Gillespie becomes college baseball’s all-time winningest coach.

1995 – Dr. James Doppke was named the college’s seventh president.

1995 – The athletic department adds women’s soccer.

1997 – The Board of Trustees of the College of St. Francis voted in May to move to university status.

1998 – Saint Joseph College of Nursing’s affiliation with CSF began.

1998 – The institution became the University of St. Francis.

1998 – USF, a pioneer in online learning, offered its first online courses and degree programs.

1999 – VP of Mission Sr. Rosemary Small, OSF, and a broad committee identified USF’s four core values of respect, integrity, compassion and service.

1980 – USF pushed to grow Latino/a student representation, as reflected in the demographics of the local community.

2000 – USF became a doctoral degree-granting authority.

2000 – A new learning site and programs were added in Albuquerque, NM, and 40 acres were purchased in Joliet on Ridge Road.

2000 – Women’s golf and women’s track & field programs started.  

2002 – Dr. Michael J. Vinciguerra was named the university’s eighth president.

2003 – The historic Motherhouse building was acquired from the Sisters of St. Francis of Mary Immaculate. 

2003 – A new mission statement was adopted by the Board of Trustees.

2004 – USF became the property owner of 17 acres on Wilcox and Taylor Street. Colleges within the university were created: College of Arts & Sciences, College of Business & Health Administration, College of Education, College of Nursing and Health Professions, and College of Professional Studies.

2005 – The Joliet Symphony Orchestra at USF was established.

2007 – The Mother Alfred Moes statue was placed in the roundabout in front of Tower Hall by the City of Joliet, to honor of the Sisters of St. Francis of Mary Immaculate.

2007 – USF offered a four-course online certificate in Franciscan Studies, initiated through an AFCU grant.

2007 – USF athletics adds men’s track & field.

2008 – College of Education programs were accredited by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE). 

2009 – The university’s first doctorate, the Doctor of Nursing Practice, was established.

2009 – The Art & Design Department opened the Center for Art & Design in a renovated space in downtown Joliet’s historic Rialto Square Theatre building.

2009 – Donovan Hall was dedicated.

2009 – Dr. Robert Kase, Grammy-nominated Dean of College of Arts and Sciences composes and performs “Our St. Francis” as USF’s new Alma Mater.

2009 – An agreement with the Veterans Administration was developed, and USF became a “Military Friendly School.”

2010 – The Welcome Center opened in the Motherhouse.

2010 – USF dedicated the campus as a peace site and ritualized it with the placement of a peace pole on the Quad.

2011 – The nursing college was re-named “Cecily and John Leach College of Nursing” and the library was named “LaVerne & Dorothy Brown Library.”

2011 -The Doctor of Education program was established.

2011 – The board approved the USF Sustainability Pledge.

2012 – Men’s cross country won the NAIA National Championship (cited in the U.S. Congressional Record).

2012 – The recreation center was renamed the “Pat Sullivan Center” in recognition of Sullivan, a long-time basketball coach and athletic director.

2012 – USF pushed to grow international student representation.

2013 – Dr. Arvid C. Johnson was named the university’s ninth president.

2013 – The university’s first overseas MBA program was established with Brno University of Technology in the Czech Republic.

2013 – The USF Art Gallery opened at 25 E. Van Buren Street in Joliet.

2013 – USF men’s and women’s bowling teams began competition.

2014 – The “St. Bonaventure Campus” opened in downtown Joliet with the added dedication of the Robert W. Plaster Center in Joliet’s old Mode Theatre building. The Business Incubator opens on the first floor.

2014 – USF welcomed Greek life to campus as a new student activity.

2014 – The Alumni Center (and Alumni Gathering Room) were dedicated in the Motherhouse.

2015 – USF began anti-racism training, following the corporate stance of the Sponsors.

2016 – Guardian Angel Hall opened to students at St. Clare Campus, located at 1550 Plainfield Road.

2016 – Competitive dance became USF’s 22nd sport.

2017 – USF women’s bowling team won the NAIA Invitational in its 4th season of competition.

2018 – The LaVerne & Dorothy Brown Science Hall opened to students on USF’s Main Campus.

2020 – Centennial celebrations began at the University of St. Francis to celebrate 100 years of Catholic, Franciscan education.

We invite you to listen to and view segments of our past through the University’s archival collections maintained in the University’s Brown Library.

Quick links to these online resources are found below:

Student Newspapers/Magazine:

100,000 Hours of Service for Our Centennial Year!

Every 1,000 hours of service will represent 1 year of the University of St. Francis history!

Track your service hours here.

Total Service Hours