From the President

God’s Work

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From the President

God’s Work

“Franciscan University of Steubenville is still here and thriving through God’s providential care.”

Winter 2022 | Father Dave Pivonka

In This Article

Can you believe we are here?”

Franciscan University was about to begin the press conference at which we would announce the Rebuild My Church 75th Anniversary Campaign, our largest fundraising effort in our 75-year history (see p. 24), and a tremendous buzz, a great excitement filled the air.

I was seated at a table in the Seminar Room, which was crowded with media, Board of Trustees’ members, guests, friars, benefactors, faculty, staff, and students. Bob Hickey ’97, MBA ’01, vice president of Advancement, sat on my right; on my left was trustee Chris Irvin ’90.

Right before the event started, I leaned over and whispered to Chris, “Can you believe we are here?”

It doesn’t seem so long ago that Chris and I first met at Franciscan in the fall of 1986. We lived in the same dorm, with me as his RA and him trying not to get caught. During our time at the University, we went to Florida for spring break, lived in a men’s house on the Jersey shore for a summer, and simply enjoyed campus life.

Chris joined Lion of Judah Household and remains in touch with many of his brothers. He met Joy Morris ’91, whom he married in Christ the King Chapel. Since then, Chris has started a successful insurance company in Wintersville, and his three children have attended Franciscan.

We have stayed friends over the last 30 years, with Chris and Joy being a part of my Franciscan profession of vows and my ordination. Chris was a member of the Board of Trustees that elected me president in May 2019. I had the pleasure of celebrating their daughter Katie’s ’17 wedding last summer.

Thirty years ago, neither of us imagined we would be in the positions we are in now. But there we were, I set to announce the campaign and Chris to speak about how important the University has been in his life and the lives of his 29 family members who have attended Franciscan.

As Chris shared how Franciscan was there at every significant point in his life, what resonated most for me was the sentiment with which he spoke. He has such deep affection for the University. Chris wasn’t sharing about a sterile academic institution that granted him a degree decades ago. No, what he was expressing was much more than that, and it was a theme with which I have become familiar.

For the last seven months, as Bob Hickey and I traveled weekly, enjoying the pleasure of meeting with alumni and friends of the University, we frequently heard similar sentiments. “I can’t express what Franciscan University means to me; it literally saved my life,” one alum told us. And more times than I can remember, donors thanked me when I was thanking them for their generosity.

“I can’t thank you enough for what you are doing at Franciscan,” so many responded. “I don’t know where I would be without Franciscan. My family, friends, career, my faith—it all is fruit of my time on campus.”

Their gratitude is always so deeply touching, and I humbly accept it on behalf of this wonderful university God has established and sustained here in Steubenville over the last 75 years. Because Franciscan University is truly God’s work.

In my nearly three years as president and in reviewing the University’s history as we celebrate our 75th anniversary, I am more convinced of that than ever.

The fragile beginnings, the tumultuous ’70s, and the pandemic woes of 2020—at any point, the whole enterprise could have failed. But Franciscan University of Steubenville is still here and thriving through God’s providential care, and I fully believe the friars, faculty, staff, students, trustees, and friends with us now are here by God’s desire, not by accident.

Together, may we continue the wondrous, blessed work of educating generations of joyful builders to transform our Church and our world.


Father Dave, TOR

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