University History - Timeline

On December 12, 2002, Holy Family College received approval from the Pennsylvania Department of Education for a change of status to University. Even though many of the events listed in the time line occurred prior to that date, the term “University” is used in most entries.


In 1952, Sister M. Neomisia Rutkowska, CSFN, Provincial Superior of the Immaculate Conception Province of the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth, took initiatives to attain approval of congregational, archdiocesan, and state authorities to found a women's college in the Torresdale section of Northeast Philadelphia. That year she received the approval of congregational leaders and Philadelphia’s Archbishop John Cardinal O’Hara, CSC, for the undertaking. Subsequently, in October 1953, she obtained from the Pennsylvania State Council on Education the endorsement of the name “Holy Family College” and, on February 11, 1954, the legal charter that gave the university its corporate existence, establishing it as a four year college for women, empowered to award the bachelor’s degree in arts and sciences. In March, groundbreaking took place for Holy Family Hall.

Holy Family University commenced its first academic year on September 2, 1954. The initial governance of the university consisted of the Board of Trustees, supported by an advisory board and an administrative team of college officials. Enrollment in the inaugural year consisted of seventeen young women who attended classes temporarily in the mezzanine of Nazareth Academy High School. By November, the first student government was established and, on December 17, the first Christmas Rose program premiered. As the spring semester approached, the first Holy Family Symposium was established on January 9, 1955. In February, the freshman class participated in "capping day” as Holy Family prepared to celebrate its first Charter Day anniversary on February 11. By the end of the month, the cornerstone for Holy Family Hall had been laid. As the pioneer year drew to a close, students published the first issue of Tri-Lite on May 31, 1955.

In the fall, John Cardinal O’Hara, CSC, dedicated Holy Family Hall on November 21, 1955. During the spring semester the glee club, to which all students belonged, held its first performance during the Easter season, a tradition that continued for many years. The Pennsylvania Council of Education approved the secondary education program in April. The following month, two long-standing traditions debuted - Regina Night processions and Genesiennes productions - the first being “The Barretts.”

Holy Family commenced its non-credit program for adults in October. During the spring semester the first intercollegiate sport was organized, and the “Hi-Fi’s” - forerunner of the University’s current athletics teams - competed in their first basketball season.

As the first class of seniors began their final year, the parents association - later known as “Parents and Friends of Holy Family University” - and the alumni association were established. Other firsts included the establishment of Albertans, the science club; the first honors convocation on November 21, 1957; production of the first edition of Familogue in May and, on June 2, 1958, Holy Family’s first Commencement. During the spring semester, the Council on Medical Education and Hospitals of the American Medical Association approved the medical technology program in March.

Holy Family initiated its first expansion program in November with groundbreaking for its original student residence building, the original Lourdes Hall. Folio published its first edition in the spring semester.

In August, Sister Aloysius Sabacinska succeeded Sister Neomisia Rutkowska as second president of Holy Family University. In November, residents occupied the newly completed (and original) Lourdes Hall, which was renamed St. Joseph Hall in the 1980s. Bishop Joseph McShea presided over its dedication on February 11, 1960. Lambda Iota Tau, national honor society for literature, and Logos, the philosophy club, were established.


Holy Family experienced its first enrollment boom. The 1960 enrollment, including a freshman class of 117, was almost fifteen times the original enrollment in 1954. The student body brought together graduates of over forty-four high schools from eight states and seven foreign countries. A chapter of Alpha Mu Gamma, The National Collegiate Foreign Language Honor Society, was established on April 24, 1961.

After months of intense preparation, Holy Family achieved a significant affirmation, when The Middle States Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools granted accreditation status to Holy Family in December 1961. The University launched a five-year expansion fund with tentative plans to include a library, science building, new dorm, and an auditorium.

Senior Ruth Ann Przybycz became the first Holy Family graduate accepted into Women’s Medical College.

In June 1964, Holy Family launched the Mexican Project: sophomore Vivian Gibson went to Tuxpan, Vera Cruz, Mexico, to do social work.

Holy Family celebrated its tenth anniversary. In March, Rosalind Russell and Ida Lupino visited the campus to recruit extras for the Hollywood production, Trouble with Angels.

On September 23, a chapter of Alpha Delta Theta, National Professional Sorority of Medical Technologists, was established. The following month, in response to a recruitment campaign on campus, five students signed up for the Peace Corps.

Holy Family became an associate of the Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce. In November, the Career Center sponsored its first annual Career Day. Groundbreaking for the new library took place on March 19, 1967.

The school year saw the creation of the Counseling Center. In June, Psi Chi, International Honor Society in Psychology, was chartered.

During the summer preceding the new school year, Holy Family acquired Marian Hall. As Christmas drew near, John Cardinal Krol dedicated the library on December 15, 1968.

On April 23, 1970, both Beta Beta Beta, National Biological Honor Society, and the Faculty Senate were established.


In October, the Board of Trustees approved a motion to request modifications to the charter and, the following month on November 30, by amendment, Holy Family’s charter was revised to permit conferral of the baccalaureate degree on male graduates as well as female. On January 23, 1971, Kappa Mu Epsilon, the mathematics honor society, was established. That same month, the athletic teams adopt a new name - “Tigers.” In February, the dress code was relaxed officially and optional retreats and days of renewal replaced the mandatory annual retreat. Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools reaffirmed Holy Family’s accreditation status on April 27, 1971. During the summer, Sister Aloysius Sabacinska was elected to the General Council of the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth and relocated to Rome, Italy, thus concluding her presidency.

In August 1971, Sister Lillian Budny succeeded S. Aloysius Sabacinska as third president of Holy Family University. Holy Family acquired a 16-acre tract on the north side of Stevenson Lane on August 26, 1971. By the time classes began in September, male students had been accepted to full time status and the Nursing Department had commenced its program.

As the Fall 1972 semester neared its conclusion, the Orleans Construction Company transferred ownership of the Green estate to Holy Family on December 14, 1972. At the spring commencement on May 13, 1973, the baccalaureate degree was conferred on males and nursing students for the first time.

The University Archives was established in September. By June, the University had begun a gradual phase out of the residence program at Lourdes Hall.

In September, the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare approved a grant application for assistance in developing a nursing education teaching facility in an amount not to exceed $1,182,610.

On August 14, Holy Family initiated plans for the striking and vacating of Stevenson Lane. A newly created child care center, Alpha House, began operations with the beginning of the new academic year. On November 21, groundbreaking for the Nurse Education Building took place. As the fall semester neared conclusion, the National League for Nursing granted full accreditation status to the baccalaureate program in nursing at Holy Family. The men’s basketball team was formed.

August 1-8, the Forty-First International Eucharist Congress took place in Philadelphia and, on the final day Karol Cardinal Wojtyła, future Pope John Paul II, visited the campus. During the spring semester, the Nurse Education Building was dedicated on April 15.

In September, the Green mansion became a student union building, and Le Cercle Francais, a French club, was formed.

In October, “The Write Place,” forerunner of the Academic Enhancement Center, began operations. In January, twenty-nine Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth faculty and administration moved into the renovated Lourdes Hall, renamed St. Joseph Hall, and on the 22nd of the month, WTLN, the campus radio station, commenced lunch hour broadcasts that would continue for 8 and 1/2 years. The faculty senate formed a faculty welfare committee in February.

At their March meeting, trustees elected S. Francesca Onley, CSFN, to the Board of Trustees. On April 19, Sigma Theta Tau, Honor Society of Nursing, was established.


Sister Francesca Onley, CSFN, was appointed assistant to the president. The Pew Memorial Trust awarded Holy Family with a gift of $100,000 for the implementation of a computer system for administrative and educational purposes. On December 13, the former Green family dwelling was razed to make room for a parking lot, and on December 22, the original St. Joseph’s Hall was demolished. In the spring, Delta Epsilon Sigma, a national scholastic honor society for students, faculty, and alumni of Catholic colleges and universities, was established at Honors Convocation on March 30. In May, Sister Lillian Budny, CSFN, resigned as president. The following month, The Middle States Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools reaffirmed Holy Family’s accreditation status.

On November 22, 1981, Sister Francesca Onley, CSFN, was inaugurated fourth president of Holy Family University. The following January the Faculty Senate established a faculty development committee. The university community was hard - hit by deaths of four beloved “family” members occurring over the course of the year: S. Lillian Budny, third president; Francis S. Gregory, trustee; Rev. Dennis Mattern, OSFS, campus minister; and Sister Honoria, CSFN, circulations librarian.

The Faculty Senate created its Faculty Development Committee; the Continuing Education Office assumed responsibility for all part time students; and The PDE approved Holy Family’s Early Childhood Certification Program.

With the onset of the spring semester in January, the first long - range planning committee had undertaken the development of a long - range plan. The following month, Philadelphia Mayor W. Wilson Goode proclaimed February 6 - 11, 1984, “Holy Family College Week” - marking the 30th birthday of the college. On March 19, Phi Sigma Iota, International Foreign Language Honor Society, was established, and on April 11 and 12, Pi Gamma Mu, an international honor society for social science majors, and Alpha Sigma Lambda, a continuing education honor society, were chartered at Holy Family.

During the summer, Institutional Advancement offices were relocated to Marian Hall, and, as the new school year got underway, the modular building housing Alpha House was occupied for the first time. In October, Dr. C. Everett Koop, Surgeon General of the U.S., participated in the first Critical Issues Conference. Successive conferences in November, February, March, and May featured Congressman Henry Hyde on “The United States and Central America;” The Honorable James Moore, Deputy Assistant Secretary, U.S. Department of Commerce, on “The United States and World Trade;” Tadhg O’Sullivan, Ambassador of Ireland to the United States, on “Northern Ireland – the Tragedy Continues;” and Lieutenant General Bernard E. Trainor, USMC, on “Our Nation’s Defense.”

On October 1, the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth commemorated 100 years of service in the U.S.A., and later that month, the University launched the first capital campaign in Holy Family’s history, for construction of the Campus Center.

In September, Holy Family purchased Loreto Hall (subsequently sold) to be used as a family learning center, and the Academic Council was established. The following month, on October 26, ground breaking for the Campus Center took place. At their January meeting, the Board of Trustees elected Sister Francesca to a second six - year term.

In conjunction with construction of the Campus Center, a new athletic field for future sports activities was developed. During the spring semester, hundreds attended the April 23rd dedication of the Campus Center.

During Charter Week in February, Holy Family instituted its first annual “Awards for Teaching Excellence” with awards going to Dr. Thomas McCormick, for full - time faculty and Bernadette Balcer, for part - time faculty. Regina Hobaugh, Sister Grace Kuzawa, CSFN, and Vincent Serfilippo received honorable mentions. The University sent a contingent to Rome for the beatification of the foundress of the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth, Frances Siedliska - Mother Mary of Jesus the Good Shepherd - on April 23, 1989. On May 24, Holy Family held its first annual golf tournament.

Holy Family initiated a community service volunteer program with the help of a $30,000 grant from ACTION, the federal government’s domestic volunteer agency, for a three - year program to encourage volunteerism. From this experience, the student club “Students at Your Service” (SAYS) was formed.


In September, Holy Family launched its graduate studies program with 79 students enrolled in courses. The radiology lab was created in Holy Family Hall in October.

On July 8, Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools reaffirmed Holy Family’s accreditation. The modular Lourdes Hall was assembled on campus, and the athletic field completed improvements on July 17. In August, Sister Immaculata Kraemer resigned after 33 years of service to Holy Family University as alumna, teacher, Academic Dean, Assistant to the President, and secretary to the Board of Trustees. One month later the University community mourned her death on September 28, 1991. The fall semester also brought changes to the four academic divisions which were restructured into six academic units: humanities, math and natural sciences, social and behavioral sciences, education, business administration, and nursing. As the spring semester got underway, Holy Family inaugurated the annual “Ray Taylor Memorial Awards for Faculty Development” in February. In another action, Holy Family acquired the former Michael house on Stevenson Lane as a student residence.

Changes to the campus included the University’s acquisition of the gazebo and the former Bohanan house (to be used as a student residence), as well as construction of Aquinas Hall modular unit on the site of the former St. Joseph’s Hall. The cooperative education program operated for its first year with the support of a Title VIII (5 yr.) Grant. During the spring, Southeastern Pennsylvania Consortium for Higher Education (SEPCHE) was formed. Holy Family is a founding member.

As Holy Family celebrated its fortieth anniversary, it introduced more “firsts”: the Tigers golf team; the mission effectiveness and enrollment management teams; annual scholarship balls; “Holy Family Alumni News”; formation of a chapter of Associates of the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth; and the faculty professional development plan. Holy Family acquired the former Holy Spirit Hall on Stevenson Lane as a student residence. During Charter Week, Holy Family University officially celebrated its fortieth birthday on February 19th.

In the summer preceding the opening of school, a five - year technology plan was developed, and the language lab was upgraded to a video - based center for language instruction. In September, the committee for multiculturalism was formed, and Tri - Lite resumed after a two year hiatus. Students at Your Service (SAYS) was created to support community service projects. On November 13th, Kappa Delta Pi, an honor society for education, was established. Following approval by trustees on September 2nd, Holy Family officially purchased a 155 - acre tract for a new campus in Bucks County on December 29, 1994. The next month, Holy Family began a partnership with the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth in Enfield, England, to develop a study abroad program. Over the course of the year, Holy Family library staff and volunteers bar coded over 100,000 books and other library materials in preparation for a computerized circulation system. Money Guide, Your Best College Buys Now published by Money Magazine, listed Holy Family as one of the top ten private commuter colleges in the nation. On April 21st, a chapter of Phi Alpha Theta, an honor society for history, was established.

Summer saw the commencement of classes at the new campus in Newtown, Bucks County, beginning July 3. Kappa Theta Epsilon, an honor society for students in the cooperative education program, was established on campus. In November, “Family CAT” was implemented in the library. A chapter of the National Business Honor Society, Sigma Beta Delta, was established on campus in March. On April 15, Holy Family transferred ownership of 52 acres and the original building on Newtown campus to Lockheed Martin and 18 acres to Newtown Township. Later that month, Holy Family held groundbreaking for the new classroom - administration building at Newtown, Bucks County.

During the fall semester, a faculty and course assessment tool was instituted. With the start of the spring semester on January 13th, the nursing division introduced its community care - based graduate program; and the new classroom - administrative building on the Newtown, Bucks County campus opened. In March, the Lady Tigers advanced for the first time to the second round of national basketball playoffs. On April 28th, the first spring “Graduate Research Symposium” was conducted.

After years of negotiations, Philadelphia Streets Department ordered the striking and vacating of Stevenson Lane on August 14th. During the spring semester, Holy Family marked the retirement of the library mortgage with a mortgage burning on March 8th. The Lady Tigers advanced to the “elite eight” of the national basketball tournament for the first time.

During the summer, Holy Family Neighborhood Center began operations. On November 12, 1998, Sister Neomisia Rutkowska, founding president, died. Throughout the remainder of November until December 25th, the library hosted a Sister Neomisia exhibit: ”Remembering Sister Neomisia: Founder and First President of Holy Family [University].” On April 21st, the Student Government Association celebrated the unveiling of the “Tiger” University mascot outside the commons. Holy Family began acquiring duplex units as student residences.

September 1st, Holy Family’s athletic program was elected to provisional membership in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division II. Throughout the fall semester, the Northeast Philadelphia campus chapel was relocated to the Campus Center; technology improvements continued when underground wiring was installed to connect buildings, and the network infrastructure was installed in classroom and lab settings, faculty offices, library, and administrative offices; administrative staff participated in training for the implementation of Datatel Colleague. March 2 - 9, Holy Family sent a contingent to Rome for the beatification of Sister Stella and Companions, martyred Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth, who were executed by the Nazis during World War II in Novogrodek, Poland. By mid - March, Datatel Colleague recruitment/admissions, curriculum management, and registration modules had gone live.


During the summer, Holy Family mourned the death of Sister Florianne Zacharewicz, CSFN, PhD, one of the University's founding sisters, who passed away on July 8th. In the meantime, the six academic divisions were reclassified as schools, and their heads assumed the title of “deans.” Sister Francesca appointed Dr. Gloria Kersey - Matusiak coordinator of diversity and a university - wide diversity committee was formed. On July 19th, Lambda Pi Eta, an international honor society for communication, was established. After months of self - study and an accreditation visit, Holy Family received notice in June that Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools had reaffirmed its accreditation.  

The new academic year was barely underway when, on Tuesday September 11th, all attention was riveted on televisions throughout the campus as everyone watched in shock and disbelief replays of terrorist attacks in New York City, Washington, DC, and Shanksville, PA. It was a banner year for Holy Family athletics. Lady Tigers soccer coach Joe Mikolewicz was named “Coach of the Year.” During their winter basketball season the Lady Tigers received their first #1 rank in Holy Family history: they were the top ranked team going into finals where they advanced to the “elite eight,” at the national tournament, before being defeated. Their coach, Mike McLaughlin, was once again named “Coach of the Year.” The Tigers also advanced to the men’s finals, and their coach, Dan Williams, was named “Small College Coach of the Year.” As the athletic season drew to a close, Sandra Michael was named “Athletic Director of the Year” for the northeast region of NAIA. On March 12th, Alpha Upsilon Alpha, an honor society of the International Reading Association, established a campus chapter.  

As the fall semester commenced, the Schools of Arts and Humanities / Social and Behavioral Science / Natural Science and Math consolidated to become the School of Arts and Sciences; meanwhile, the School of Nursing and the Radiography Department consolidated into the School of Nursing and Allied Health Professions. Web Advisor was launched for gradual implementation by the campus community. On December 12, the Pennsylvania Department of Education approved the long - anticipated change to university status for Holy Family. The event was celebrated during Charter Week in February. In the meantime, faculty worked diligently preparing proposals for courses to be included in the new academic core, approved by trustees earlier in the year.  

The 2003 - 2004 academic year witnessed a number of building - related events on the campus: in the fall semester, the Undergraduate Admissions Office opened its new offices at the southwest corner of Grant and Frankford Avenues on August 27th. The following month, on September 3rd and 19th respectively, the University held ribbon - cutting ceremonies for its new Fitness Center in the Campus Center and Holy Family University Woodhaven, a new facility for the Division of Extended Learning. On October 26, it held a groundbreaking ceremony to commence construction for the new CSFN Residence (Delaney Hall) on Stevenson Street. In the spring semester, the School of Arts and Sciences held Open House on Charter Day for its new state - of - the - arts Science Center in Holy Family Hall. Finally, the University held a groundbreaking ceremony on April 23rd to commence construction for a new education and technology building. In October, Holy Family commenced its 50th Anniversary Celebration with the President’s Reception in the Campus Center, which was followed during Charter Week with Mass celebrated by Cardinal Justin Rigali on February 11th. On the athletic front, Holy Family attained membership in the National Collegiate Athletic Association as a Division II competitor.  

As the new academic year got underway, the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth made the move in August to their new residence, Delaney Hall, on Stevenson Street. Throughout the remainder of the year, St. Joseph’ Hall underwent renovation as a student residence, and Holy Family created a new student life program. In October, First Lady Laura Bush visited the Northeast Philadelphia campus for a Republican National Committee V.I.P. rally. On October 23, Holy Family concluded its 50 anniversary celebration with an anniversary liturgy and program, “Celebrating the Spirit: Deepening Your Experience of the Journey,” presented by Rev. Dennis Carbonaro. At an awards banquet in Center City on December 8, Sister Francesca Onley was honored by the Philadelphia Business Journal and the National Association of Women Business Owners as one of the “2004 Women of Distinction.” Philadelphia’s ever - popular Phillie Phanatic joined Holy Family to celebrate Alumni Athlete and Friends Day on January 29, 2005.  

The academic year began with two significant building - related events: (1) St. Joseph’s Hall reopened its newly renovated dorm for student residents. The opening of St. Joseph’ Hall marked the first time in 30 years that students resided on campus; (2) Holy Family celebrated the grand opening of the Education and Technology Center on August 28th. During the spring semester the University held groundbreaking on April 4, 2006, to commence construction for the new Garden Residence on Grant Avenue.  

Early in the spring semester, Holy Family celebrated the opening of its second student residence, the Garden Residence, on January 17, 2007. In March, Holy Family students traveled to New Orleans during “alternate” spring break to participate in the University’s first Habitat for Humanity trip.  

Over 300 constituents of Holy Family University gathered for a Silver Anniversary Dinner and Roast honoring President Sister Francesca Onley, CSFN, PhD, on Thursday, November 29 at Belle Voir Manor in Bensalem. The Roast capped a year of events celebrating Sister Francesca’s 25th anniversary as President. Before the spring semester concluded, on May 6th the University held another groundbreaking – this time to commence construction for the new Stevenson Lane Student Residence. Spring commencement introduced two “firsts.” Holy Family held its 50th spring commencement in the Kimmel Center; the University also introduced an annual tradition of honoring the 50th anniversary graduation class during its commencement events.

During the summer of 2008, the third floor of the Nurse Education Building underwent renovation for the new Nursing Simulation and Practice Laboratory. Ribbon cutting for the new Nursing Simulation and Practice Laboratory took place on September 15. Sister Francesca Onley, CSFN, PhD, received the prestigious 2008 Award for Outstanding Catholic Leadership from the Catholic Leadership Institute November 7, 2008. The Commissioner’s Trophy, won by the Philadelphia Phillies in the 2008 World Series, was on display at the Holy Family University basketball doubleheader against Philadelphia University at the Campus Center on Tuesday, February 24, 2009.

July 1, 2009, Holy Family University learned that it was to be awarded $240,000 from the Philadelphia Workforce Investment Board to run a program to put skilled Philadelphians back to work. The University community gathered on August 11th in the Library on the Northeast Philadelphia campus to participate in a Japanese Obon Festival and Dance. Ten Holy Family art students were invited to present their work at WHYY - TV 12’s Creative Campus Arts Festival on October 2nd at WHYY’s Technology Center in Philadelphia. The Graduate Programs of the School of Arts and Sciences at Holy Family University presented a two - day interdisciplinary conference entitled “70 Years Later: The Global Impact of the Holocaust” on November 14 - 15, 2009. During winter, a manger scene commemorating the birth of Christ was erected on the Northeast Philadelphia Campus to remind the community about the true meaning of Christmas. As the year drew to a close, Holy Family University announced its first doctoral program - a Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership and Professional Studies - scheduled to begin in January 2011.