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University Heritage, History and Tradition


Welcome to Villanova University. We are pleased to offer this information which provides an overview of Villanova's Augustinian intellectual, religious, and historical tradition, and which places the University in the wider context of Catholic higher education in the United States. This website represents work begun in 1994 by the Strategic Planning Committee of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

University Mission

Villanova University is a Catholic Augustinian community of higher education, committed to excellence and distinction in the discovery, dissemination and application of knowledge. Inspired by the life and teaching of Jesus Christ, the University is grounded in the wisdom of the Catholic intellectual tradition and advances a deeper understanding of the relationship between faith and reason.

Villanova emphasizes and celebrates the liberal arts and sciences as foundational to all academic programs. The University community welcomes and respects members of all faiths who seek to nurture a concern for the common good and who share an enthusiasm for the challenge of responsible and productive citizenship in order to build a just and peaceful world.

Enduring Commitments

In pursuit of this mission, we commit ourselves to academic excellence, to our values and traditions, and to our students, alumni and the global community.

To foster academic excellence, we:

  • Create a diverse community of scholars, united and dedicated to the highest academic standards;
  • Emphasize the liberal arts and sciences as our foundation and foster in our students active engagement, critical thinking, life-long learning and moral reflection;
  • Concern ourselves with developing and nurturing the whole person, allowing students, faculty and staff to grow intellectually, emotionally, spiritually, culturally, socially and physically in an environment that supports individual differences and insists that mutual love and respect should animate every aspect of university life;
  • Encourage interdisciplinary research, teaching and scholarship;
  • Affirm the intrinsic good of learning, contemplation and the search for truth in undergraduate and graduate education;
  • Support a curriculum that encourages both a global perspective and an informed respect for the differences among peoples and cultures.

To honor our values and tradition, we:

  • Believe that the dialogue between faith and reason drives the pursuit of knowledge and wisdom, and fosters St. Augustine’s vision of learning as a community ethos governed by love;
  • Seek to understand, enrich and teach the Catholic intellectual tradition through our curricula, scholarship and activities in ways that engage diverse religious, intellectual and cultural traditions in a vigorous and respectful pursuit of truth and wisdom in every area of humanity;
  • Provide opportunities for students, faculty and staff to seek guidance from Catholic intellectual and moral traditions, while always welcoming people from all faiths, cultures and traditions to contribute their gifts and talents to our mission;
  • Respect and encourage the freedom proposed by St Augustine, which makes civil discussion and inquiry possible and productive;
  • Look to the Order of St. Augustine to preserve our Augustinian character, by showing appropriate preference to Augustinians in faculty and staff appointments, and by welcoming their presence and influence in our university community.

To serve our students, alumni and global community, we:

  • Encourage students, faculty and staff to engage in service experiences and research, both locally and globally, so they learn from others, provide public service to the community and help create a more sustainable world;
  • Commit to the common good, and apply the knowledge and skills of our students and faculty to better the human condition;
  • Encourage our students and faculty to pursue virtue by integrating love and knowledge, and by committing themselves to research and education for justice, with a special concern for the poor and compassion for the suffering;
  • Respect a worldview that recognizes that all creation is sacred and that fosters responsible stewardship of the environment;
  • Include our alumni as an integral part of the Villanova community;
  • Value highly our relationship with neighboring communities.

St. Thomas of Villanova

Villanova University is named for a Spanish Augustinian, Thomas García (1486-1555), the son of a miller who was born in Fuenllana, a village near Villanova de los Infantes, Castile, Spain. Thomas studied at the University of Alcalá where he received his master’s degree in 1509, and the insignia marking him as a doctor shortly thereafter. In 1512, he became a professor of philosophy at the University of Alcalá where his lectures were received enthusiastically for their clarity and conviction. In addition, Thomas was praised by his students and colleagues for always being friendly and helpful.

In 1516, Thomas was offered the chair of philosophy at the prestigious University of Salamanca, where the Augustinians had founded a monastery in 1377. Thomas declined the chair and instead entered the Augustinian Order in that city. Ordained to the priesthood in 1520, Thomas was soon asked to assume administrative positions in the Order. He served as prior of the Augustinian houses in Salamanca, Burgos, and Valladolid, and was later elected provincial of Andalusia and Castile. As provincial, he sent the first Augustinian missionaries to the New World where they helped evangelize what is now modern Mexico and, from there, the Philippines.

Thomas’ many gifts, especially his scholarship, powerful, uncompromising oratory, skills as a mediator and administrator, and his sensitivity to the feelings and needs of others, brought him to the attention of Emperor Charles V, who appointed him court chaplain and then archbishop of Valencia in 1544.

Thomas flourished in Spain at a time when the European peoples of the fifteenth and sixteenth century were confronted by challenges to their world views of the natural world, ecclesiastical authority, and the moral dilemmas concerning the nature of African slaves and the indigenous peoples of the Americas. As priest and archbishop, Thomas insisted that the material resources of the Church should be shared with those in the greatest need. His life was characterized by the love of learning, peacemaking, and as a reformer of the Church.

His Intellectual Legacy

Thomas’ intellectual legacy is reflected in his constant demand that all learning must be inspired by the desire for God. He celebrated learning as an activity that ought to make a difference in the community and in the world. He emphasized that justice and love are the guiding rules of virtue and learning. In Thomas’ writings we find a rich synthesis of the thought of Augustine and Thomas Aquinas, especially his emphasis on the innate desire for God in all peoples, the image of God in the human person, the power of grace, and a theology of love.

Thomas found himself in an ecclesiastical world that was fraught with turmoil and struggles for power. His scathing attacks on his fellow bishops earned him the title of reformer, but he was motivated by a genuine desire that Church leadership personify the teachings of the Beatitudes. In words that are very contemporary, Thomas challenged all within the Church to serve the least powerful, and to discover love and wisdom in the service of others.

Thomas was known as “father of the poor.” He established social programs on behalf of the poor, including boarding schools and high schools for poor young men. For girls he provided dowries enabling them to be married with dignity. For the hungry, he created a soup kitchen in the bishop’s palace, and for the homeless he provided a place to sleep. In an Advent sermon, he said: “Rejoice, then, you poor people; shout for joy, you needy ones; because even if the world holds you in contempt you are highly valued by your Lord God and the angels.” His love of the poor extended to all creation. Thomas’ teachings, scholarship, and special concern for the impoverished inspire Villanova’s mission of seeking wisdom, love, and justice.

Catholic Values in the Augustinian Tradition

Catholic colleges and universities have gone through three distinct stages that have paralleled the history of the Catholic community in the United States.

As an “immigrant church,” the value placed on education, particularly Catholic higher education, enabled many Catholic immigrants to secure a place in the American community;

As Catholic higher education expanded in the first half of the twentieth century, many Catholics were able to improve their social and economic status. As a result, a large segment of American Catholics became upwardly mobile and the American Catholic community became affluent;

As Catholic colleges and universities grew in the twentieth century to some 228 institutions, a “prosperous uncertainty” developed wherein they began to seek a sense of purpose and mission in a world characterized as diverse, pluralistic, individualistic and full of ambiguity concerning the role of the Christian disciple in the world. This third stage was greatly influenced by the Church renewal of Vatican II with its emphasis on the pursuit of social justice and world peace as core constituents of the Catholic mission.

According to Philip Gleason, as American Catholic colleges and universities became independent of ecclesiastical authorities in their governance over the past fifty years, they also lost a commitment to a unifying ethos provided by scholastic and neo-scholastic philosophy and theology which were so prominent in their ethos before Vatican II. As the colleges and universities began to face internal crises such as rising costs, declining enrollments, lack of members of religious orders to staff institutions and competition with public institutions for funding and faculty, many Catholic colleges and universities also faced a loss of a sense of distinctiveness and mission through these years.

Aware of the challenge to reclaim its distinctiveness, Villanova University has re-examined the core values of its tradition as articulated in the distinctive Augustinian themes of the Seal of the University: Veritas, Unitas, Caritas.


The Pursuit of Truth: This has been an essential component in Catholic education for centuries. First, the pursuit of truth involves participating in the ongoing growth and awareness of God’s incarnate presence throughout the changes of time and history. The Catholic university ought to be the place wherein the theological and philosophical community continues to pursue the study of doctrinal issues and provide a forum for ongoing respectful loving dialogue on questions central to the life of the Church and the world communities. Second, it is in the pursuit of truth that the intellectual horizons of students and teachers are mutually enhanced. It is the integration of all knowledge with the truth of the gospel that constitutes the distinctive raison d’etre of the intellectual ministry of Catholic colleges and universities.

Academic Freedom: In a Catholic university there is the challenge to promote the unfettered inquiry necessary for the pursuit of truth. In the intellectual life of the university, differences will be ever present. As a Catholic, Augustinian university we aspire not to uniformity in thinking but for the creation of new knowledge based on the wisdom of the past and ever greater moral conversion into a community of mutuality, equality, justice, and respect for the sacredness of all creation. The challenge for Catholic higher education is to provide students, staff, and faculty with a distinctive Catholic intellectual vision. Pluralism is an important value with regard to academic freedom because diverse people bring with them the wealth of different ideas, cultures, and epistemologies. Pluralism is also a principle of Catholic Social Thought. We are committed to creating an environment that celebrates pluralism and difference which enables all members of the academic community to grow in understanding the complex nature of the communities of the world.

Integration of the Intellectual and Moral Development of Our Students: The tradition of Catholic higher education has always placed a priority on the integration of the pursuit of intellectual excellence and the ethical conversions essential for the integration of knowledge and faith. In addition, the sacredness of individual conscience must find a secure place in the discourse within a Catholic, Augustinian university.


Each of us is a product of the communities that have formed us. As a Catholic community we anticipate the fullness of communion when the holiness of creation will be restored in peace and justice. The religious mystery of the Incarnation provides the paradigm for understanding the pursuit of truth in the Catholic tradition. This pursuit necessitates a commitment to the building of a community that enables the flourishing of all peoples and all creation. At Villanova University, we celebrate the unity between the Creator and creation existing in each person. We value the building of community within the University and the wider circle of the world community.

The Catholic, Augustinian university must be the place where a prophetic voice is raised for the voiceless in God’s creation. It is the value of an Incarnational community that challenges the destructive tendencies in our economic, political, and social environments.

The Catholic, Augustinian university fulfills its mission by its commitment to peace and justice through its academic curricula and the co-curricular activities that work for the common good. The common good represents a commitment to the well-being of others – a solidarity that is essential to all persons in the community.

The experiences of the religious community as provided by activities of Campus Ministry play a vital educative role in the formation of the Villanova community’s core values through its rituals, narratives, symbols, and activities. The religious community of a Catholic, Augustinian university reinforces people’s commitment to certain values by clarifying the connections between belief and knowledge. It is through this connection that the public theology of our students is enriched and expanded to include a commitment to the betterment of the world community. As a Catholic, Augustinian community we are committed to shaping a living community among ourselves and in our world that witnesses to the healing, liberating, and empowering truth of the Creator.


Love is essential to the life of the community and it must inform the very life of faith that Catholic colleges and universities espouse. The principle of personalism has been central to Catholic Social Thought for the last century and is the conviction that the human person possesses a dignity which cannot be violated or denied in the name of any collective good. At a Catholic, Augustinian university, we value the ability of our students to be reflective about personal dignity and competent in integrating the ethical dimensions of life in all sectors of their life and study.

In addition, Catholic Social Thought places a high priority on the principle of subsidiarity which establishes a criterion that intervention by a larger social unit must be justified and can be so only by the inability or unwillingness of the smaller unit to accomplish a social task. A Catholic, Augustinian university operating under the principle of subsidiarity will critically evaluate its management of all constituencies, modeling a vision of leadership that is respectful of all people and segments of the university community and empower those segments to be self-determining contributors to the life of the community.

As a Catholic, Augustinian university, Villanova values the sacredness of all creation. Villanova must create ways of enriching the lives of our community of scholars and the peoples of the world that they may grow in knowledge, love, and commitment for the creation of a sustainable world wherein all creation will flourish.

Villanova University has been sponsored by the Augustinian Order since its founding in 1842. Today, the University is comprised of five colleges: Liberal Arts and Sciences (Villanova College), Engineering, School of Business (formerly known as the College of Commerce and Finance), Nursing and the School of Law. The University traces its origins to old Saint Augustine’s Church in Philadelphia, which the Augustinians founded in 1796, and to its parish school, Saint Augustine’s Academy, established in 1811.

Since its founding, Villanova has been privileged to mediate Saint Augustine’s vision of education as a community activity of scholars searching for truth in open discussion, commitment to ethical values, and dedication to social justice and human rights.

 This commitment is realized in its humanities programs, which are an integral part of the curriculum of each of its professional schools, and in the three essential characteristics of our Augustinian tradition: the relationship between mind and heart, the role of community, and the unity of knowledge. This commitment and tradition also provides the key for interpreting Villanova’s mission statement which states that the University is a community that "seeks to reflect the spirit of Saint Augustine by the cultivation of knowledge, by respect for individual differences, and by adherence to the principle that mutual love and respect should animate every aspect of University life."

Villanova College (1842)

In October 1841, two Augustinians from Saint Augustine’s Church in Philadelphia, Father Thomas Kyle and Father Patrick Moriarty, purchased “Belle Air” in Radnor Township with the intention of starting a school. The property belonged to the estate of John Rudolph whose wife, Jane Lloyd Rudolph, was a close friend of the Augustinians who served at Saint Augustine’s. The Augustinians were frequent visitors to Belle Air, having celebrated Mass in the Rudolphs’ home for Catholics in the area. A few years after John Rudolph’s death in 1838, Jane Rudolph generously agreed to sell the estate to the Augustinians for $18,000, well below its reported worth of $40,000.

Legal title to the property, comprising approximately 200 acres with the mansion and outbuildings, was conveyed in 1843. The school was called the “Augustinian College of Villanova” and placed under the patronage of Saint Thomas of Villanova, a sixteenth-century Augustinian theologian, educator, and bishop of Valencia, Spain. The College gave its name to the town that eventually grew up around it. The Augustinians hoped Villanova would become a center for the renewal of Augustinian religious life, a place where they could receive novices for the Order and educate candidates for the priesthood, and an academy for boys. Although men of vision, the early Augustinians could have no idea of the hardships they would endure or even of how successful their project would become. Whether they had an indication that they had become part of a national movement that began in the early and mid-nineteenth century to found institutions of higher learning is a matter of conjecture. The evidence suggests that these Augustinians knew their future lay in education, as they had established, briefly, an academy at Saint Augustine’s in 1811. Other religiously affiliated educational institutions were also being established in the Philadelphia area.

Father John Possidius O’Dwyer was named president, and the classes for the new college began on 18 September 1843. The class of thirteen students embarked on a traditional liberal arts curriculum taught by Father O’Dwyer, two other Augustinians, Father Francis Ashe and Father William Hartnett, a diocesan priest, Father Florimond Bondue, and two laymen, Mr. E. A. Ansley, and Mr. William Dalton. At the outset, however, difficulties plagued the new College. The anti-Catholic, anti-immigrant “Know Nothing” riots in Philadelphia in 1844 resulted in the burning of Saint Augustine’s Church. The need to rebuild the church and maintain the new college created a financial crisis for the Order. As a result, the College closed its doors on 20 February 1845. It was able to reopen in September 1846, with a student population of twenty-four, and the first commencement took place on 21 July 1847. The following year, on 10 March 1848, the Governor of Pennsylvania, Francis R. Shunk, signed the Act of Legislature incorporating “The Augustinian College of Villanova in the State of Pennsylvania for the education of persons in the various branches of science, literature, and ancient and modern languages,” and conferring on Villanova College “the power to grant and confirm such degrees in the Arts and Sciences.”

In 1857, Villanova College closed for a second time. Demands on the services of priests through the expansion of parishes in the area created staffing problems for the Augustinians, while the “Panic of 1857” brought on hard economic times. The Civil War in 1861 affected student enrollment, and the College was not reopened until September 1865. In the years that followed, the College prospered, increasing its student population and adding significantly to its physical facilities.

The first great expansion of Villanova began in the late 1890s under Father John J. Fedigan, who served as president and, later, as the provincial of the Augustinians. Father Fedigan wanted Villanova to be a college that would “rank among the best in the United States.” He embarked on an ambitious building campaign that resulted in the construction of new college buildings, improved dormitories, expanded recreational facilities, and the acquiring of new instructional equipment.

Although in the first fifty years of its existence Villanova College concentrated exclusively on the liberal arts, it nevertheless remained open to the changes in the curriculum which were required to meet the needs of the time and the demands for specialization. The School of Technology was established in 1905 under the presidency of Father Laurence Delurey and, in 1915, a two-year pre-medical program was established under the presidency of Father Edward C. Dohan, in recognition of the new requirements for candidates wishing to matriculate in approved medical schools. This, in turn, led to the establishment of a four-year pre-medical program, the B.S. in biology, and the founding of the sciences division in 1926 under Father Joseph M. Dougherty, who became the first dean. Father Dougherty, a recognized authority on the Mendelian Laws of Heredity, was also instrumental in establishing the University’s prestigious Mendel Medal, which honors the memory of Gregor Mendel, the Augustinian Abbot and discoverer of the laws of heredity, and recognizes the research of accomplished scientists whose lives demonstrate religious conviction.

Beginning in 1918, the College offered programs to women religious, in large part to assist in their preparation to teach in the parochial school system, and to lay women. Evening classes, open to both men and women, were held first at Hallahan High School in Philadelphia, and then on the main campus. The first degree was granted to a lay woman in 1938. The presence of women on a full-time basis on the main campus, however, only became permanent with the opening of the College of Nursing as an autonomous unit in 1953. The move toward receiving women as full-time students on the main campus took another major step when the College of Engineering admitted its first female student in 1958 and the other academic divisions were allowed to admit women as commuters.

The Great Depression posed new challenges to Villanova. The College was fortunate to have as its president Father Edward V. Stanford (1932-1944) who had held various positions in national and regional higher education organizations. Enrollments had plummeted in the 1930s and Father Stanford realized that if the College was to survive, it needed to emphasize quality in the curriculum, implement extensive administrative reorganization, and raise funds for scholarships and the endowment. Although World War II intervened, Father Stanford’s efforts met with measurable success. Under his successor, Father Francis X. N. McGuire (1944-1954), Villanova experienced its great post-war expansion. With the number of returning veterans, enrollments increased dramatically and the size of faculty grew fourfold. Additional facilities were built and in 1953, the College of Nursing and the School of Law were established. In recognition of its enhanced academic programs and reputation, Villanova achieved university status on 18 November 1953.

In 1968, Villanova became coeducational under the presidency of Father Robert J. Welsh (1967-1971). Father Welsh was previously dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and later president of the Washington Theological Union in Washington, DC. Under Father John Driscoll (1975-1988), Villanova embarked on a campaign to become a nationally recognized university. During the 1970s and 1980s, the quality of both the faculty and student body improved dramatically and international studies programs were introduced. Residential and recreational facilities were constructed and efforts to increase the endowment were undertaken. Full-scale university planning was initiated and, in an effort to affirm Villanova’s mission as a Catholic, Augustinian institution, the University Mission Statement was adopted in 1979.

The efforts to improve academic quality that were initiated by Father Driscoll continue under Father Edmund J. Dobbin, who assumed the presidency in 1988. Under his direction, Villanova’s strategic plan, A Future of Promise, A Future of Excellence, which followed upon the 1991 planning efforts, was promulgated in 1995. The plan reiterated the University’s Catholic, Augustinian mission, its commitment to the liberal arts, and the need to augment its efforts to increase the endowment. Endowed chairs were established in theology, philosophy, engineering, and business; scholarship funding was increased, and the curriculum expanded and improved. An extensive building campaign was also initiated that has resulted in new facilities for the Colleges of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Engineering, Commerce and Finance, and in impressive student residences on the south and the west campuses.

Today, the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences continues to advance a comprehensive core curriculum and a variety of educational programs. Undergraduate students may choose between 32 undergraduate majors, 43 minors, and 16 interdisciplinary concentrations in various disciplines. Students also may pursue interdisciplinary tracks in ethics, gender and women’s studies, peace and justice education, Africana studies, Arab and Islamic studies, Asian studies, global studies, Irish studies, Latin American studies, or Russian area studies. The College also offers 15 combined bachelor’s/-master’s programs, 23 master’s degree programs, and a Ph.D. program in philosophy. All of the College’s undergraduate and graduate programs are aimed at the total growth of the individual and prepare students for viable careers. In keeping with its central place in a Catholic university, the College endeavors to provide a Christian intellectual and moral environment, and draws upon the dynamic legacy of St. Augustine, whose passionate pursuit of wisdom inspires its own quest for knowledge in open, rational, responsible, and mutually respectful interaction of points of view. The College embodies the University’s Catholic and Augustinian heritage, expecting that its students will be both inspired and prepared to be wise critics of the society in which they live, grounded in a moral base and social consciousness that transcends economic barriers and questions of race, gender, and creed. The College has maintained the Sigma Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa since 1986, an honor conferred primarily in recognition of outstanding scholarly achievement in the liberal arts and sciences.

College of Engineering

Villanova University's second degree-granting unit was the College of Engineering, which began in 1905 under the name of the School of Technology. It was the fourth engineering program to be established at a Catholic school of higher education in the United States (after The Catholic University of America, 1896; Manhattan College, 1896; the University of Notre Dame, 1897). Dr. A. B. Carpenter, a graduate of Lehigh University, was hired in 1904 to organize and direct the school. He was ably assisted by Father James J. Dean, a young faculty member in the sciences. Together they developed curricula, hired faculty, and planned facilities. Programs in Civil and Electrical Engineering were the first to be initiated, with a total of twelve students. In 1908 an undergraduate program in Mechanical Engineering was established, and in 1909 the first engineering bachelor's degrees were awarded. The Chemical Engineering program started in 1919. Following the Second World War, the College began offering master's degrees in each department. A fifth program in Computer Engineering was added in 1993.The undergraduate programs of Chemical Engineering, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Computer Engineering, Electrical Engineering, and Mechanical Engineering (all of the undergraduate programs at Villanova) are accredited by the AEC Accreditation Commission of ABET (Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology).

Since the 1990s, research has been increasingly important, complementing undergraduate education. Internationally recognized faculty experts partner with large and small businesses as well as government agencies on a variety of research projects in areas such as nanomaterials, autonomous systems, thermal management, RFID, through-wall radar imaging, and sustainable engineering. This growing research strength has allowed the College to begin a doctorate program, which graduated its first PhD student in 2007. This high-quality, well-balanced program enables full-time students and working professionals to obtain a doctorate.

The College of Engineering's dedication to teaching is affirmed by its consistently being ranked among the top 10 undergraduate engineering schools in the country by U.S. News and World Report. Villanova is one of the few top 10 schools to also have a rigorous graduate and research program available for undergraduate students to pursue.

To enable the College to continue to excel, a recent strategic planning process outlined a vision for the future and developed the following mission statement: "The College of Engineering is committed to an educational program that emphasizes technical excellence and a liberal education within the framework of the University's Augustinian and Catholic traditions. As a community of scholars, we seek to educate students to pursue both knowledge and wisdom, and to aspire to ethical and moral leadership within their chosen careers, their community, and the world. We value a spirit of community among all members of the college that respects academic freedom and inquiry, the discovery and cultivation of new knowledge, and continued innovation in all that we do."

Business School

The Villanova School of Business was founded as the College of Commerce and Finance in 1922 under the leadership of Father Joseph C. Bartley, who served as dean until his death in 1962. The College was reorganized in 1964 to meet the exigencies of the ever-changing business community, and in 2006 was renamed the Villanova School of Business under the leadership of James M. Danko, The Helen and William O’Toole Dean.

Today, VSB offers degrees in accountancy and business administration with majors in: Economics, Finance, Management, Management Information Systems, Marketing, International Business, and Business Honors. Graduate business programs include the Professional MBA, the Full-Time Equivalent MBA (both of which are part-time programs), and the Executive MBA. Other graduate business programs include the Master of Accountancy, Master of Finance, Master of Science in Church Management, and the Master of Taxation and the JD/MBA that are offered jointly with the Villanova University School of Law. The undergraduate business and MBA programs are accredited by AACSB International, The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business. In addition, the accounting program is among a select number of collegiate programs separately accredited by AACSB.

In 2011, VSB’s undergraduate business program ranked #7 nationally, the part-time MBA program ranked #12 nationally, and the Executive MBA is recognized in Bloomberg Businessweek. VSB strives to infuse its business education with a level of creativity and agility that mirrors the real world of global business. An innovative new undergraduate curriculum, introduced in fall 2008, provides students with outstanding business knowledge and skills and an emphasis on the liberal arts in the Augustinian tradition. Underpinning this new, cutting-edge curriculum are four pillars of academic focus: ethics, innovation, technology, and global mindset.

The school is also home to prestigious business research centers including the Center for Marketing and Public Policy Research, the Center for Global Leadership, the Daniel M. DiLella Center for Real Estate, the Center for the Study of Church Management, the Center for Innovation, Creativity, and Entrepreneurship, and the Center for Business Analytics.

College of Nursing

Nurses have been educated by Villanova since 1932 in response to the needs of hospital administrators for a program that would give registered nurses advanced education at the college level. In the fall of 1950, the University established, on campus, a Division of Nursing within the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences for part-time registered nursing students who wished to complete study for a bachelor’s degree.

In 1953, consistent with national trends in nursing and health care, the Catholic hospitals in the Greater Philadelphia Area approached Villanova and requested that a basic nursing program leading to a bachelor’s degree, which would admit high school students, be established. The curriculum was grounded in the liberal arts and sciences and designed to provide a sound theoretical foundation in nursing and clinical practice which would enhance the psycho-social, ethical, and spiritual dimensions of patient care. Graduates would be prepared to sit for licensure as registered nurses and to advance their education at the graduate level. The new program, established during the tenure of Rev. Francis X. N. McGuire, O.S.A. began as an autonomous academic unit within the University. Students admitted to the program in the fall of that year, became the first full-time women undergraduates at Villanova. Two religious sisters, Sister Alma Lawler, R.S.M. and Sister Margarella O’Neill, O.S.F. were the first co-directors of the program which was the first of its kind under Catholic auspices in Pennsylvania.

The College expanded its offerings in 1979 by establishing a Program in Continuing Education for practicing nurses and opened a Graduate Program leading to the master’s degree in nursing in 1981. The graduate tracks include: Nursing Education (1981), Health Care Administration (1981, formerly Nursing Administration), Nurse Practitioner preparation in Adult Health (1996), Pediatrics (1998) and Geriatrics (1999), and Nurse Anesthesia (1997). A doctoral program to prepare teacher-scholars for careers in academic settings was added in 2004. The College integrates multicultural and international study opportunities into all programs to enhance the global perspective of its students. Programs are fully accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education, the Council on Accreditation of Nurse Anesthesia Educational Programs, and the American Nurses Credentialing Center Commission on Accreditation. The College is approved by Pennsylvania’s State Board of Nursing and is a longstanding member of the National League for Nursing which has designated the College a Center of Excellence in Nursing Education.

The College of Nursing is located in Driscoll Hall, its state-of-the-art facility which was dedicated October 6, 2008. The College is a tangible expression of the University’s mission, traditions, and commitment to human service and regards itself as responsible for the education of nurses within the framework of Christian beliefs and values and the heritage of the Order of Saint Augustine. Through its varied programs, the College seeks to serve the health needs of society through the education of competent nurses prepared at the undergraduate and graduate levels and through the provision of continuing education for practicing nurses.

Villanova School of Law

The idea for a law school at Villanova first surfaced in the 1920s, but was not realized until the physical expansion that took place at the University after World War II. In 1953, under the presidency of Father Francis X. N. McGuire, Eugene Lester Garey, a prominent New York lawyer, bequeathed to the University $1.2 million to establish a new law school. Harold Gill Reuschlein was appointed the first dean and in 1957, Garey Hall, designed especially for the law school, was opened and dedicated. The School of Law was the first law school under Catholic auspices to be awarded a chapter of the Order of Coif, a national honor society devoted to the encouragement of high standards of legal scholarship, with chapters in leading schools of law throughout the country.

The School of Law’s distinctive mission draws upon the Catholic tradition emphasizing the unique value of individual human lives and the endowment of free will. In addition, it upholds a tradition of academic freedom that draws upon the thought of Saint Augustine to emphasize the value of critical, searching inquiry and open debate; is inspired by Saint Thomas More, whose principled resistance to corruption has been an exemplar of integrity for centuries; and, motivated by Saint Ives, who taught that a lawyer’s vocation must include a sense of responsibility for the poor. The school is accredited by the American Bar Association and is a member of the Association of American Law Schools. The School of Law has created a reputation for excellence in its curriculum and the academic achievements of its faculty and students.

The Augustinian Order has always been aware of the enormous influence that Saint Augustine’s legacy has exercised on its apostolate of higher education. This legacy is not so much a philosophical or theological system of thought as it is a dynamic vision of people living in community united in "mind and heart" in the ardent search of Wisdom. For Augustine this Wisdom is the Divine Truth itself, revealed in Jesus Christ, for which every heart is restless. As universal Wisdom, it is pursued in common with all humanity and is achieved by open, intelligent, responsible, and mutually respectful interaction of points of view. From its inception, the Order contributed to this search through its educational apostolate, motivated by Augustine’s own vision that "God would like to sow in every soul the seeds of intelligence and wisdom."

In view of the Augustinian Order’s share in the rich cultural and theological legacy of Saint Augustine, its long history of involvement in education which spans over seven centuries, and the continuing contributions it makes to the Catholic character of the institutions it sponsors, the Order realizes that when it continues to identify itself with its institutions of higher education to the public, it thereby gives to those institutions the benefit of its still considerable name and reputation.

Despite its current limited resources and personnel, the Order will continue to encourage its members to engage in the apostolate of higher education. In doing so, it will be acting in the spirit and tradition of its early founders, whose own commitments to that apostolate called them to act on the courage of their own uncertainty. While it is true that any formal withdrawal of the Order’s corporate relationship to a college or university need not entail denial of that institution’s right to claim Augustinian founding and heritage, the continued influential corporate presence of the religious community whose members are visibly dedicated to the Augustinian vision is the surest guarantee for the preservation of those ideals. To insure its capability in the future effectively to impact higher education with its heritage, the Order must insist upon—both from itself and from the schools it sponsors—the minimal conditions specified above for the continuation of the formal partnership.

The primary and essential purpose of the Augustinian Order’s collaboration with its institutions of higher learning is the effective and continuing mediation of the Augustinian heritage. For this to be achieved, the Order’s influence must be felt at the level of trusteeship, administration, and direct student service, especially in academic, student life, and ministerial levels.

The Order concretizes its corporate relationship to its institutions by providing personnel who can promote the Augustinian legacy and are free to function in collaboration with their lay counterparts as responsible trustees, administrators, faculty, campus ministers, and staff personnel, who pursue the best interests of the individual schools in conformity with Augustine’s vision.

In order to help insure the preservation and steady development of the Augustinian character of the schools, adequate Order representation on the boards of trustees must be maintained. At the same time, the Order has an obligation to insure that actual and prospective trustees, administrators, faculty, and staff personnel should understand, appreciate, and support the Augustinian tradition, mission, history, and founding vision of these institutions and accept the moral obligation to continue the work of the founders. The presence of qualified Augustinians in the upper levels of administration is also vital, most especially in those areas that oversee academic programs, and, as is most desirable, in the crucial position of the presidency. In addition to administrative positions, it is essential that properly qualified Augustinians should be placed in various academic disciplines, especially, but not restricted to, theology. Recognizing that campus ministers, residence hall counselors, and staff have direct contact with students and exercise a power to influence them, the Order seeks to focus its ministerial attention in these areas as well.


In view of the Augustinian Order’s share in the rich cultural and theological legacy of Saint Augustine, its long history of involvement in education which spans over seven centuries, and the continuing contributions it makes to the Catholic character of the institutions it sponsors, the Order realizes that when it continues to identify itself with its institutions of higher education to the public, it thereby gives to those institutions the benefit of its still considerable name and reputation.

Despite its current limited resources and personnel, the Order will continue to encourage its members to engage in the apostolate of higher education. In doing so, it will be acting in the spirit and tradition of its early founders, whose own commitments to that apostolate called them to act on the courage of their own uncertainty. While it is true that any formal withdrawal of the Order’s corporate relationship to a college or university need not entail denial of that institution’s right to claim Augustinian founding and heritage, the continued influential corporate presence of the religious community whose members are visibly dedicated to the Augustinian vision is the surest guarantee for the preservation of those ideals. To insure its capability in the future effectively to impact higher education with its heritage, the Order must insist upon—both from itself and from the schools it sponsors—the minimal conditions specified above for the continuation of the formal partnership.

Augustinian Sponsorship

The Augustinian Order has always regarded education as a community activity that professes the values of searching for ultimate meaning and commitment to ethical values. Although the Augustinian vision emphasizes the importance of human knowledge and human disciplines for their own sake, the Order also realizes that for a considerable number of students, the Catholic school is the only agent of evangelization. This awareness is reflected in the Order’s Constitutions, 179:

The specific purpose of our schools is the Christian formation and education of the students. It follows that this apostolate should always be regarded as an essentially pastoral activity, so that we teach the truth with love, and the students acquire, along with a humanistic and scientific culture, a knowledge of the world, of life, and of humanity that is illumined by faith.

Accordingly, the colleges and universities which are sponsored by the Order should exhibit the following characteristics:

A curriculum that reflects the Catholic, Augustinian understanding of human reason and the intellect, and prepares students in their search for more ultimate meaning and value within the Catholic theological tradition. This curriculum should give primacy to the liberal arts and exhibit an openness to all disciplines and professions.

A special concern for the poor, compassion for the suffering, regard for the value of life and dedicated action for social justice and human rights that can be accomplished through ministry or, possibly, innovative academic course work.

An esteem for all persons, both in scholarly endeavors and in personal encounters, that is manifested in a curriculum that encourages an understanding and appreciation of the diversity of cultures and experiences, a respect for the individual, and the development of an international perspective.

A respect for academic freedom which makes open discussion and inquiry possible. Open discussion among scholars and students is intrinsic to inquiry and is in accord with responsible freedom, a central value of the Christian tradition, and of the thought of Saint Augustine, himself the great theologian of Christian freedom.

Province of St. Thomas of Villanova

The Augustinian Order became engaged in education almost from the beginning of its establishment in North America in 1796. Its first foundation, Saint Augustine’s Church in Philadelphia, opened a parish school in 1811 for the education of the largely immigrant Catholic community. This was followed in 1841 by the purchase of the Belle Air estate at what is now Villanova University, for the purpose of establishing a school for boys. In all, the Order was to found four institutions of higher education in North America: Villanova University (1842); Universidad de Santo Tomás de Villanueva, Havana, Cuba (1945), which was declared a pontifical university in 1957 but was closed in 1961 by the Cuban government; Merrimack College, North Andover, Massachusetts (1947); and Biscayne College (1962), now Saint Thomas University, the sponsorship of which was relinquished in 1987 to the Archdiocese of Miami, Florida. In addition, the Order co-sponsors the Washington Theological Union, a graduate school of theology founded in 1968 by several members of the Province in cooperation with the members of other religious orders in the Washington DC area, to provide initial and continuing theological education for its members.

As these schools grew and expanded, they took on the distinctively American model of the university. Although the schools were incorporated independently and governed by boards of trustees not under its jurisdiction and direct control, the Order sustained them with its own resources in personnel, property and financial support. The overwhelming majority of the teachers and administrators of these institutions, moreover, came to be comprised of lay persons, a situation that has afforded the Order the challenge of redefining its corporate relationship to the schools more in terms of collaboration than of proprietorship.

Augustinian Scholars

The tradition of academic achievement was continued by other Augustinians, many of whom were priors general, and who over a long period of time taught at Europe’s most notable university centers. Hugolin of Orvieto (d.1373) and Bonaventure of Peraga (d.1386) were among the founders of the theology faculty of the University of Bologna. Nicholas of Neuss and Cyso of Cologne established the theology faculty at Cologne in 1389, while Nicholas von Laun (d.1371) was a founding professor at the Charles University in Prague and Stephen of Insula (d.1382) and his teacher, Stephen of Hungary, brought scientific and theological learning to Hungary. The literary works of Johannes Hiltalingen of Basil (d. 1392) have been described as a concise dictionary of fourteenth-century theology, while the Milleloquium Sancti Augustini of Bartolomeo of Urbino (d. 1350) contributed significantly to the development of the doctrine of the Augustinian School. Dionysius of Borgo San Sepolcro (d.1342), Bartolomeo of Urbino, and Bonsemblantes Badoer (d.1369) were among the forerunners of humanism. Francesco Petrarch (1304-1374), the founder of Renaissance Christian humanism, and considered the first modern poet, called them “luminaries” of the Order.

Among the more notable Augustinian scholars were Giles of Viterbo (d.1532), poet, Hebrew philologist, philosopher and theologian; Jerome Seripando (d.1563), prior general, theologian and later Cardinal legate to the Council of Trent; and Fray Luis de León (d.1591), who held the chair of theology and scripture at Salamanca and was one of the most famous literary figures of the Spanish Golden Age. They are among a long list of teachers and scholars who, in the succeeding centuries, distinguished themselves in the fields of literature, history, archeology, and the sciences.

The English Augustinian, John Capgrave (d.1464), wrote scriptural commentaries and historical works. His Chronicle of England is the first history of England written in the vernacular. Onofrio Panvinio (d.1568) is considered the forerunner in the science of Christian archeology and Angelo Rocca (d.1620) founded the Angelica library at Saint Augustine’s in Rome, the first public library in the city and the fourth in Europe. In Mexico, Alonso de la Vera Cruz, (d.1584), one of the founders of the University of Mexico, also authored Relectio de dominio infidelium in defense of Indians’ rights. In 1559, the Augustinian friar-navigator, Andrés de Urdaneta (d.1568) was commissioned by Philip II “to discover the Islands of the setting sun,” that is, the fabulous and hidden empire of China. Instead of landing in China, however, Urdaneta, in 1565, landed in the Philippines and was credited with tracing the sea routes between Mexico and the Philippines that were followed for the next 300 years.

Martin Luther, a member of the observant congregation in Germany who became the father of the Protestant Reformation, entered the Augustinian Order in Saxony in 1505. A professor of scripture at Wittenberg, he first proposed his doctrine of sola scriptura, sola gratia, sola fides, based on the understanding of the teaching of Saint Augustine and Gregory of Rimini. He left the Order in 1521, but continued to wear the religious habit until 1525.

In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries notable Augustinian scholars included the Austrian Sixtus Schier (d.1772) and the Spaniard Henry Flórez, (d.1773) who distinguished themselves in the study of Christian archeology and ecclesiastical studies; the Portuguese Joseph Santa Rita Durao (d.1784), who wrote the famous poem Caramuní; Julius Accetta (d.1752), professor of mathematics at the University of Turin and a member of the Academy of Science of Paris; and Dominic Joseph Engramelle (d. 1781), an inventor and scientist, who contributed to the art of teaching deaf mutes.

In the nineteenth century, in what is now the Czech Republic, Augustinian friars from Saint Thomas' Monastery in Brno played an extraordinary role in the Czech national revival and in the development of the intellectual and public life in the country. Abbot Cyril František Napp (d. 1867) distinguished himself as a promoter of Slavic traditions and was a founder of the Agricultural Society of Moravia. František Tomáš Bratránek (d.1884) received his doctorate in philosophy from Vienna, was a professor of philosophy at the University of Lemberg (now Lvov, Ukraine), and later became rector of the Jagiellonian University in Cracow. A historian of German literature, he studied the literary and aesthetical explications of Goethe’s poems and published Goethe’s correspondence (which included three volumes of Goethe’s letters to scientists). František Matouš Klácel (d. 1882), one of the pioneers of the modern Hegelian philosophy, published an extensive book on the origins of utopian socialism and communism in 1849, was the first to write a paper on ethics in Czech, the first to introduce social topics into Czech poetry, and is also considered to be a founder of Czech journalism. Pavel Křížkovský (d. 1885), noted chamber musician, choir master, conductor, and composer in the classical and romantic tradition, was the teacher of the world-renowned composer Leoš Janáček. Perhaps the most notable member of the Brno monastery, however, was Gregor Mendel (d.1884) because of his unique contribution in discovering the laws of heredity.

Using thirty-four different kinds of peas which had been tested for their genetic purity, Mendel tried to determine whether it was possible to obtain new variants by crossbreeding. Mendel established two principles of heredity that are now known as the law of segregation and the law of independent assortment, thereby proving the existence of paired elementary units of heredity and establishing the statistical laws governing them. He became the first to understand the importance of a statistical investigation and to apply a knowledge of mathematics to a biological problem. Mendel’s findings on plant hybridization were presented in two lectures before the Society for the Natural Sciences in Brünn in 1865. His paper, “Versuche über Pflanzen-Hybriden,” was published in the Society’s Proceedings in 1866 and sent to 133 other associations of natural scientists and to the more important libraries in a number of different countries. His work, however, was largely ignored until, in the spring of 1900, three botanists, Hugo de Vries (Holland), Carl Correns (Germany) and E. von Tschermak (Austria) reported independent verifications of Mendel’s work which amounted to a rediscovery of his first principle. It was then that Mendel’s work was recognized, giving birth to a new branch of biology—genetics.

The Augustinian School

From its establishment in 1244 and its expansion in 1256, the Augustinian Order promoted education among its members. Since the Order’s engagement in apostolic activities was a condition of its new status as the third of the four mendicant Orders, the Dominicans (1216), Franciscans (1223), and Carmelites (1247), higher studies were seen as an essential prerequisite to that commitment.

Several of the early priors general of the Augustinian Order were themselves outstanding scholars and authors. In 1259, a house of studies was established in Paris by the prior general Lanfranc of Milan. One of the first to live there was the theologian Giles of Rome, a student of Thomas Aquinas, and the first member of the Order to earn the degree of Master of Theology. A renowned scholar and the author of numerous books on theology and philosophy, Giles was to become a professor at the University of Paris and in 1292, prior general of the Order. An early advocate of studies, one of Giles’ first acts was to urge each Augustinian provincial to “put all your energy into preserving and advancing theological studies, so that by means of studies, together with religious observance, our Order may grow with humility."

Two years before Giles became prior general, the Constitutions of 1290 mandated that each province establish a house of study for candidates to the Order. In addition, more prestigious “general study houses” were established for students from all provinces studying for advanced academic degrees. These houses were aggregated to universities in such centers as Paris, Bologna, Padua, Rome, Florence, Cambridge, and Oxford, and granted the academic degrees of bachelor, licentiate (licentiae docendi) and doctor (magister).

From this promising beginning emerged leaders of what came to be called the Augustinian School. James of Viterbo (d.1308), a pupil of Giles of Rome, and one of his successors in the university chair at Paris, distinguished himself as a philosopher. Augustine of Ancona (d. 1328) and William of Cremona (d.1356) wrote treatises on the papacy. Henry of Friemar (d. 1340) and Thomas of Strasbourg (d.1357) distinguished themselves by writing biblical commentaries. The most prominent of the Augustinians of this period was Gregory of Rimini (d.1358) for his teaching on freedom and grace from the anthropology of Saint Augustine. These scholars earned for themselves a place in the history of scholasticism because of their recourse to the authority of Saint Augustine and their view of theology as an affective science whose purpose was the love of God. Members of the Augustinian School in later centuries included Enrico Noris (d.1673), later Cardinal, whose Historia pelagiana outlined the Augustinian theory of grace, and Gianlorenzo Berti, whose contributions to the study of positive, non-speculative theology were contained in his influential eight volumes of dogmatic theology that appeared in Rome between 1739 and 1745.