125th Celebration: A Timeline of the History of The University of Scranton

Walk through the significant events that have shaped the history of the University.

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The University of Scranton was founded as St. Thomas College by Most Reverend William G. O’Hara, D.D., the first Bishop of Scranton. On Aug.12, 1888, with few resources at hand, he blessed a single block of granite as the cornerstone for his vision. Though there was no money, no building and not a single professor, Bishop O’Hara’s simple act of faith launched a long tradition of unshakable belief in what would become The University of Scranton.


It took Bishop O’Hara four years, but the Diocese of Scranton raised the funds that allowed the first students to take classes at St. Thomas College in 1892. The college was staffed by diocesan priests and seminarians.


The Xaverian Brothers withdrew and Bishop O’Hara invited the Christian Brothers to administer St. Thomas College. The Brothers administered the college for 45 years.


The first bachelor’s degrees were awarded by St. Thomas College. Since the college did not have a charter, the students received diplomas from other Christian Brothers’ schools, most notably LaSalle University in Philadelphia.


With World War I raging, enrollment at St. Thomas College, an all-male school, declined. The Christian Brothers scaled back to “junior college” status.


The baccalaureate degree returned! This time, with a charter. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania charter, granted on Jan. 12, 1924, meant that the Class of 1925 received their diplomas in the name of St. Thomas College.


The baccalaureate degree returned! This time, with a charter. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania charter, granted on Jan. 12, 1924, meant that the Class of 1925 received their diplomas in the name of St. Thomas College.


The 1920s were golden years for St. Thomas College. Enrollment boomed and, in 1927, the college gained Middle States accreditation, which it still maintains today.


St. Thomas College was renamed The University of Scranton. Also, Brother Dennis Edward, then president, and University administration decided to admit women to the University’s evening programs. The day school remained exclusively male.


When the University of Scranton football team, the “Tommies,”met the City College of New York on Oct. 14, the game was televised by NBC. According to The Aquinas this was only the third football game ever televised. The Scranton squad overwhelmed CCNY 31-0. On Jan. 3, 1961, The University of Scranton discontinued the football program.


In December, the Scranton family donated their family residence to the University. Today, this residence stands proudly as The Estate, home of the Office of Admissions and the Admissions Visitors Center.


The Depression years were hard on the nation, and the University was not immune. Frank O’Hara, who served as the registrar, determined that no student should have to withdraw because his family could not pay tuition. O’Hara’s policy, backed by the administration, carried the University through tough times but also meant severe financial difficulties. By 1941 the Christian Brothers felt they had no choice but to withdraw. Bishop William Joseph Hafey invited the Society of Jesus not only to administer, but to take ownership of The University of Scranton.


In what professor emeritus and university historian, Francis X.J. Homer, Ph.D., says was the next great act of faith in the University, the Jesuits agreed to take ownership of the school. It was a tall order. World War II had engulfed the globe and enrollment had subsequently suffered, so the school faced significant financial peril. Nevertheless, Rev. W. Coleman Nevils, S.J., the University’s first Jesuit president, arrived in the late summer of 1942 with 18 other Jesuits


The Annex, an old hospital converted to classrooms that stood on the corner of Mulberry Street and Wyoming Avenue, burned. Dr. Homer says this is the only University of Scranton building ever lost to a natural disaster. After the fire damage was repaired, the building became the home of Scranton Preparatory School when it opened in 1944.


After the war, University enrollment exploded, aided by the GI bill. The University acquired naval barracks built in Scranton’s lower Hill section and used them as classrooms. The barracks remained in service until 1962. During these years, it was not unusual to see frantic young men running up Linden Street trying to get from classes in Old Main on Wyoming Avenue to the barracks in the lower Hill, a distance of five blocks.


Rev. John J. Long, S.J., became president of the University (he served until 1963) and embarked on an extensive building campaign. In 1967 came the final piece of Fr. Long’s legacy, a varsity athletic center fittingly named the Long Center.


In partnership with the City of Scranton and the Scranton Redevelopment Authority, the University acquired parcels of land along Ridge Row, Linden Street and Mulberry Street, which established the University’s campus in its present location.


The University of Scranton goes coed!

The remarkable Scranton Fulbright story began.

Since 1972, 144 graduates of The University of Scranton have been awarded a Fulbright or other international fellowship award to support a year of study outside of the United States. Scranton has earned consistent recognition from The Chronicle of Higher Education as a “top producer” of Fulbright awards.


The University establishes its business school, now the Kania School of Management.


The 1980 construction of the University’s beloved Commons closed the 900 and 1000 blocks of Linden Street to all but pedestrian traffic. Previously, approximately 4,500 vehicles traveled on Linden Street on an average day amidst an estimated 6,000 pedestrian crossings.


Joseph A. Panuska, S.J., is named president. He served in that role for 16 years, the longest tenure to date of a University president. Fr. Panuska guided the University through a period of dramatic growth in facilities, faculty, staff and services to students.


A successful “Second Cornerstone Campaign” results in a strengthened University endowment and acquisitions like the Immanuel Baptist Church, now the Houlihan-McLean Center.

The Board of Trustees established the College of Health, Education and Human Resources, re-naming it the Panuska College of Professional Studies in 1998.


In December, the University received what was then its largest gift: $6 million from the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation. Construction of what is now the Weinberg Memorial Library began the following year.


In February, the Board of Trustees approved a 20-year vision for the University campus to become a “distinguished district” within the City of Scranton. The campus as it is today began to take shape with “student residences at the top of the hill, academic centers at the bottom and student life areas in between.” The priority building for this vision: Brennan Hall.


The number of Fulbright Fellows from the University broke the 100 mark in June 2001 with the announcement that six University students had received fellowships to pursue graduate study and research abroad in the 2001-2002 academic year.


The University’s first LEED-certified building, The Patrick and Margaret DeNaples Center, opened.


The University dedicated the new Loyola Science Center, one of the most innovative science buildings in the country, on Sept. 28, 2012. The $85 million, nearly 200,000- square-foot facility marked the largest capital project in the history of the Jesuit university and the culmination of more than 15 years of planning and preparation.


The University remains committed to enriching the quality and variety of its academic offerings. In addition, continued investment in the physical plant includes plans for an eight-story center for rehabilitation education to serve growing programs in Occupational Therapy, Physical Therapy and Exercise Science. Expected completion is the summer of 2015.

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