The University of Saint Francis issued this news release today:
FORT WAYNE, Ind. — The University of Saint Francis (USF) opened its academic year with student enrollment pacing as the third largest in the school’s history, university President Sister M. Elise Kriss, OSF announced at an opening convocation and Mass Wednesday.
Looking ahead to 125 years of higher education in 2015, USF employed a Founders’ Day theme to welcome 2,324 new and returning students. Three hundred will study online, an increase of 53 percent over last year in number of students choosing online courses. Newly launched online programs including the Master of Business Administration, Master of Healthcare Administration and the Registered Nurse to Bachelor of Science in Nursing bridge degree, among others, account in part for the solid enrollment numbers, the president said.
President Kriss welcomed the students with a look at the previous year’s achievements and outlined plans for the coming year. She praised the academic excellence of students, and reported $2.3 million received in federal and local funding in the past year for their support. The re-accreditation of the Master of Science in Nursing and Physician Assistant programs, as well as special accreditation for others, indicate program excellence, she said. She praised the NAIA national champion Lady Cougar basketball team for their achievement in March. Stressing the university’s financial strength, she said $15 million will be directed to student financial aid over the academic year.
For future projects, $8.3 million of $12.3 million needed for the renovation of buildings is in hand for the downtown campus, with construction to begin in early 2015. A Lilly Endowment grant has funded an Insurance and Risk Management degree to operate out of the Keith Busse School of Business and Entrepreneurial Leadership downtown, and a Career Outreach Center to enhance career services for students and alumni. She also pointed to the significance of the university’s 125th anniversary in the coming year.
Bishop Kevin Rhoades of the Fort Wayne-South Bend Catholic Diocese, officiated Mass and urged students to search for meaning in their lives. “Search for truth on the wings of reason and faith,” he said. “This is a time of discovery of gifts and responsibilities, and making crucial life choices. To discover life’s capacity to make you completely happy, listen to God.”
After the convocation and Mass, the entire campus community gathered for a traditional lunch marking the start of the school year. To recognize the upcoming anniversary, two Sisters of St. Francis of Perpetual Adoration conducted afternoon tours of historic Brookside, the restored Bass mansion, wearing habits from the era of the university’s founding before the turn of the 20th century.
The Sisters of St. Francis of Perpetual Adoration arrived from Germany in 1875 and founded Saint Francis College in 1890 in Lafayette, Ind. They subsequently moved the institution to the Bass estate in Fort Wayne in 1944. This year, students will pursue degrees in more than 80 undergraduate and graduate programs.