History of The University

The University of Scranton was founded as Saint Thomas College by Most Reverend William G. O’Hara, D.D., the first Bishop of Scranton, who had always hoped to provide an opportunity for higher education in the Lackawanna Valley. In August 1888, with few resources at hand, he blessed a single block of granite as a cornerstone for his new college, which would admit its first students four years later. The cornerstone of Old Main is preserved in the wall of St. Thomas Hall.

The college was staffed by diocesan priests and seminarians until 1896 and then, for one year, by the Xaverian Brothers. From 1897 until 1942 the school, which was renamed The University of Scranton in 1938, was administered for the Diocese by the Christian Brothers. In the late summer of 1942, at the invitation of Most Reverend William Hafey, D.D., 19 Jesuits, led by Rev. Coleman Nevils, S.J., the newly appointed president, arrived on campus to administer the University.

The Jesuits restructured and strengthened Scranton’s traditional and pre-professional programs with an emphasis on the liberal arts, which are the foundation for every program at a Jesuit university. This emphasis is intended to give Scranton students an appreciation for all disciplines as they develop specific subject knowledge.

The University has flourished under the Jesuits, growing from a primarily commuter school with fewer than 1,000 students to a broadly regional university with a total enrollment of about 5,300 students in undergraduate, graduate and nontraditional programs.

As we move forward into a new decade, The University of Scranton embraces five bold, transformational strategic goals. Grounded in our mission, this new Strategic Plan will guide our University community as we navigate changes, challenges, and opportunities for the coming five years, though we believe its impact will be felt well beyond. No doubt, the 2020 Strategic Plan is lofty in its aspirations, and we launch it in a time of unprecedented change for higher education. But we know that together we will achieve concrete outcomes that will positively impact the lives of our students, our campus community, and our broader Scranton family.

In September 2018, Scott R. Pilarz, S.J., was inaugurated as the 27th president of The University of Scranton. He served until March 10, 2021, when passed away from complications related to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). In accord with the University’s by-laws, Jeff Gingerich, Ph.D., University provost and senior vice president for Academic Affairs, began serving as acting president. Joseph G. Marina, S.J., elected in February 2021, begins his term as president in summer 2021.

The University remains committed to enriching the quality and variety of its academic offerings. In addition, it continues to invest in its physical plant, opening a 118,000-square-foot campus center and 386-bed sophomore residence hall in 2008. In fall 2011, Scranton also welcomed two more facilities to the city's skyline: the Loyola Science Center and an apartment and fitness complex on the 900 block of Mulberry Street.

The 200,000-square-foot science center is home to 22 class and seminar rooms, 34 laboratories and a multistory atrium. It is a fitting home to Scranton's rich legacy of science education and serves as a center of collaborative learning for all members of the campus and community.

The apartment and fitness complex, which consists of the Rev. Scott R. Pilarz, S.J., Hall and Montrone Hall, stands directly across the street from the Patrick and Margaret DeNaples Center and provides fitness space, a dining area and apartment-style units to accommodate 400 juniors and seniors.

Edward R. Leahy Jr. Hall, which houses the departments of physical therapy, occupational therapy and exercise science, was dedicated in September 2015.

The Rev. Kevin P. Quinn, S.J., Athletics Campus, the new $14 million, 11-acre home for the University’s soccer, lacrosse, field hockey, baseball and softball Division III NCAA teams, was dedicated in May 2018.