Historic image of the first Saint Francis campus building 1890


See Saint Francis Evolve

From its earliest days as a teacher-training school to its current status as a degree-granting liberal arts institution, the University of Saint Francis has remained true to its core mission while always evolving with the times.


Saint Francis is founded (as Saint Francis Normal School) by the Sisters of Saint Francis of Perpetual Adoration in Lafayette, Indiana. 

Historic image of the first Saint Francis building
A photo of the sisters on campus in 1940


Saint Francis’ education program receives accreditation from the state of Indiana. The college starts approving students for state licensing for teaching.


A new charter leads to expanded programs, including four-year bachelor’s degrees in Education, Nursing, Science, Art, and Music.

Enrollment opens to laywomen. All households in the region receive a letter from Sister M. Bernarda stating, “Now, to keep our school and get it accredited by the North Central Association of Secondary Schools and Colleges, we need a larger enrollment.”


The college relocates to Fort Wayne after the Sisters purchase part of the Bass Estate and 65 acres for $65,000.

The College is formally dedicated on October 1, with Bishop John F. Noll in attendance. 


The first Fort Wayne Commencement is held in June. Five lay students and 11 Sisters receive degrees.


A downtown site, including an office, large classroom, lavatory, and storage room, is utilized for English, philosophy, music, and education classes in addition to classes held on the main campus.


Trinity Hall opens after wartime complications delay construction for five years.


Sister M. Evodine becomes the first resident president of the college. 


The first male students register (part time); by 1959, the college becomes co-ed.


Sister Rosanna Peters becomes President, serving 12 years.


Students participating in a “school raising” of a new science hall are featured in a two-page photo in The Saturday Evening Post. 


Bonzel and Bonaventure Halls opens. The first group of graduate students earn their master’s degrees. Saint Francis adds programs in Business Administration and Business Education. 


The college hosts its first athletics-related Homecoming event. The baseball and basketball teams play their first games.

Vintage USF Basketball Team
Vintage USF Softball team


New programs in Social Services are added, and the college joins the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) and the Mid-Central Conference. 


Achatz Hall of Science opens with an observatory, greenhouse, planetarium, and more. Bosco Hall opens, the first residence hall built for male students.


Sister M. JoEllen Scheetz becomes president and will lead the institution for 23 years.


The colleges changes its athletic teams’ nickname from the Troubadours to the Cougars.


The men’s golf team wins the college’s first NAIA championship title. The college establishes a cooperative relationship with the Saint Joseph School of Nursing. 


Saint Francis reaches its 100-year milestone. The Hutzell Athletic Center opens.


Sister M. Elise Kriss, OSF, is inaugurated as president and will lead the institution for 27 years. 


Sister Elise announces plans for a football program.


Coach Kevin Donley is named the inaugural Saint Francis football coach. Professor Sufi Ahmad sculpts the St. Francis statue.


The college acquires the Lutheran College of Health Professions. Saint Francis College becomes the University of Saint Francis. 


Saint Francis experiences an era of growth as the following facilities open to accommodate a growing student body and expanded programming: 

  • 1999: Campus Ministry Center
  • 2000: Doermer Family Center for Health Science Education and the Mimi and Ian Rolland Center
  • 2004: Padua Hall
  • 2005: Classes in Crown Point begin at St. Anthony’s Medical Center
  • 2006: Bonaventure Hall expands to include the Pope John Paul II Center and the Lee and Jim Vann Library
  • 2008: North Campus
  • 2009: Clare Hall
  • 2010: Renovations of Brookside are completed
  • 2011: Crown Point opens its own facility


The Cougars men’s basketball team wins the NAIA Division II national championship, beating Walsh 67-66. Plans for a Saint Francis Downtown take hold with the purchase of the historic Scottish Rite Center and Chamber of Commerce building in Fort Wayne.


Saint Francis women’s basketball wins the NAIA Division II national championship, beating Ozarks 75-68. 


The Saint Francis Performing Arts Center opens in the Scottish Rite Center, which also houses the Music Technology and Media Entrepreneurship Training in the Arts (META) programs. The Keith Busse School of Business and Entrepreneurial Leadership opens in the restored Chamber of Commerce building. The Cougars football team wins the school’s first football NAIA championship, beating Baker 38-17. 


St. Elizabeth School of Nursing (Lafayette, Ind.) officials sign an education partnership agreement with Saint Francis. With the agreement, graduates receive a diploma in nursing from the St. Elizabeth School of Nursing, and a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree from Saint Francis. 


The new St. Francis Chapel opens.


Achatz Hall of Science and Research Center is expanded and renovated and is later renamed Achatz Hall of Science and John and Toni Murray Research Center. A new Welcome Center opened on the North Campus.


Sister M. Elise Kriss, OSF, retires as president after 27 years. After a sabbatical, she returns to campus and assumes the role of director of community engagement. Rev. Dr. Eric Albert Zimmer becomes president in July, serving three years as the campus leader. 


Saint Francis celebrates the opening of a $7 million expansion at its Crown Point site, doubling the size of the facility. New programs are added in surgical technology, radiologic technology, diagnostic medical technology and advanced medical imaging to meet high demand for graduates in those fields in northwest Indiana. 


Dr. Lance Richey becomes interim president in May upon the departure of Rev. Dr. Eric Albert Zimmer. Saint Francis opens and dedicates St. Michael Hall, located on the northwest side of campus. The campus completes a $1.23 million renovation to the Doermer Family Center for Health Science Education and receives a $250,000 gift to create the Doermer Family Foundation Immersive Learning Laboratory.