St. Francis University

LORETTO, CAMBRIA COUNTY --- Founded by six Franciscan friars from Ireland in 1847, Saint Francis is one of the oldest catholic universities in the country.  Father Demetrius Gallitzin asked church officials to start a school in the Loreto area.

"At that time he was taking care of a lot of orphans and wanted an academy to be established, so we came in 1847 and did that, and this is the land that he gave us and we've been here ever since," University President Fr. Gabriel Zeis said.

Saint Francis was the first Franciscan college in the country, and would eventually become the first co-ed catholic university.  The school continues to evolve today.  The campus is getting three new buildings.  The DeSepio Institute for Rural Health and Wellness will have classrooms and research labs.  This fall athletes will get to take advantage of new training facilities at the DeGol field house.  The Franciscans who live and work on campus will soon move into a new friary just across the street.  The university is also expanding beyond those buildings. 

"We have a fourth one which you can't see because it's overseas.  It's our program in MBLA France, in which we're renovating a 12th century castle which is being turned into a residence for our students that study in France," Zeis said.

University officials continue to look towards the future.  Last week they announced the complete restructuring of academics.  St. Francis now consists of four schools, each with their own mission and identity.  By creating the schools, officials hope to provide students with more focused educational opportunities.  They're also looking to partner with other institutions in the region.

"We're open to working together to make sure that this region has the best academic program that can possibly be offered and that we can work together to so that we're not wasting time and energy duplicating programs but we're working together to make the very best things happen," Zeis said.

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