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Rebuild My Church

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Capital Campaign | Featured

Rebuild My Church

Exciting capital campaign updates, including the Christ the Teacher Academic Hall and Conference Center groundbreaking and a new Unplugged Scholarship.

Winter 2023

In This Article

President’s Letter

Dear Friends,

“I want to see you in one of those construction hats holding a golden shovel.”

I’ve lost count of the number of friends and alumni who have said that to me over the last year as they have lent their generous support to our Rebuild My Church Capital Campaign.

At first, that comment surprised me. On the surface, the image seems kind of cheesy: a bunch of people who have no business being in hardhats shoveling ceremonial scoops of dirt. A deeper look, however, reveals something more significant. It’s not merely a photo op for a much-anticipated building; rather, it provides a vision for the future of Franciscan University: new academic programs; improved and more abundant academic labs and classrooms for our business, engineering, and nursing students; dedicated space for conferences and evangelistic efforts.

Christ the Teacher Hall is a sign that Franciscan University is alive and growing toward its fullest potential, as Dr. Chrissy Jungers, dean of the School of Professional Programs, said in her remarks at our fall groundbreaking ceremony. And Campaign Chairman Mickey Pohl called Christ the Teacher Hall a sign that nothing is impossible for God, adding that Franciscan University will be a beacon of faith far into the future.

The hardhat and shovel image symbolizes all that—the very rebuilding of our Church and world that will take place in Christ the Teacher Hall and as our students and conference attendees carry what they will learn there into their professional and personal vocations.

So, Chrissy, Mickey, and I, along with many other friends, donned hardhats and picked up those golden shovels for the photos you’ll see on the next pages, truly happy—blessed—to be part of the wonderful things happening at Franciscan University and to play our role in rebuilding both Church and world in Christ.

Thank you for rebuilding with us!



Father Dave Pivonka, TOR ’89

Franciscan University of Steubenville

Holy Water, Hardhats, and Shovels

Skies were bright October 14, 2022, as Franciscan University leaders, benefactors, faculty, and more put on hardhats and picked up beribboned shovels to break ground for the Christ the Teacher Academic Hall and Conference Center.

For years, this has been only a dream, a prayer, a plan. Now the building part of the Rebuild My Church Campaign has officially begun.

From the mess of construction will rise “a beautiful space” for learning, “a space that inspires the mind, the heart, and the soul,” as Dr. Christin Jungers, dean of the School of Professional Programs, said in her remarks. It will be a “beacon of Catholic education and faith for hundreds of years,” said Paul “Mickey” Pohl, chair of the Rebuild My Church Capital Campaign; because “nothing is impossible with God!”

“Christ is not only the Lord of the chapel, he’s also the Lord of academics,” said President Father Dave Pivonka, TOR. “These two things are not in competition with one another; Christ is the Lord of all.”

Franciscan Friends

Hope and Justin ’99 Schneir

Capital Campaign

Hope (Batchelder) and Justin ’99 Schneir spearheaded the Unplugged Scholarship.

Chances are you’ve run into Hope (Batchelder) and Justin ’99 Schneir’s work somewhere.

Maybe you’ve picked up a bottle of their Tractor Beverage lemonade. Or heard one of their folk songs on Spotify. Maybe you’ve seen them on Life on the Rock or read about them in Newsweek, or Aleteia, or National Catholic Register.

Justin grew up in California; Hope in Vermont. They met as students at Franciscan, at a party at Justin’s house. They played music together that night, and today “Hope and Justin” is an award-winning songwriting duo and folk band. Their music is honest and existential and joyous all at once. They have five albums, the newest released in January, even though their music is just a hobby.

They are mom and dad to nine children.

They’re successful entrepreneurs. Tractor Beverage, for instance, is one of North America’s fastest-growing beverage brands and made Fast Company’s 2021 list of the World’s Most Innovative Companies and 2022 Inc. 5000 list of fastest-growing private companies in America. Beyond organic beverages, Justin says Tractor is on a “mission” to eliminate toxins from the global food system.

Justin and Hope are generous philanthropists. For instance, Justin and his partners are developing a foundation to help farmers convert to organic practices.

A more recent endeavor, spearheaded by the Schneirs, is the innovative Unplugged Scholarship. Franciscan University students who agree to do without smartphones during their undergraduate career can compete for $5,000 a year in financial aid.

Recipients can use computers, laptops, and iPads. They can even use cellular phones for calling and texting, as long as those phones can’t connect to the internet. So, no social media apps, no web surfing or video watching on the phone.

“That means you don’t have social media in your pocket, and you don’t have pornography in your pocket,” says Hope.

It also means being fine with getting bored. It means being present to the people you’re with. It means engaging with reality, reclaiming the part of ourselves that we’ve allowed our phones to suck out of us.

Hope and Justin got the idea after a visit to Wyoming Catholic College, which has a no-cellphone culture. It was refreshing to see students at a coffee shop actually conversing with one another, instead of being absorbed in their individual screens, they say. Thus the Unplugged Scholarship was born, as an attempt to bring that culture to Franciscan.

The Schneirs and other Franciscan alumni contributed enough to fund the scholarship for 30 students this year.

“Our hope is that, in time, there will be enough funding to supply an Unplugged Scholarship to every student who wants one,” says Justin. “We want to start a movement that might extend beyond Franciscan University. We are looking for partners who will come alongside and help make this scholarship more widely available.”

The response, Hope and Justin say, was beautiful. Almost 170 students applied for the scholarship. Thirty were chosen, but 50 more gave up their smartphones even without the financial incentive. Moreover, other students who’ve kept their phones are striving to have healthier relationships with their devices.

What these students are doing is hard. The students themselves, however, talk less about what they’ve given up and more about what they’ve gained. Scholarship recipient Austin Doty notes that he has more time to do things. He’s making things out of wood, and he’s writing stories. Instead of watching YouTube before falling asleep at night, he’s reading a couple of chapters of a book. It’s more often an inconvenience for others than for him, he says.

Is it crazy to think that today’s generation of college students will voluntarily give up their smartphones? Hope and Justin sing about another man who was similarly foolish in the eyes of the world, but answered the Lord’s invitation:

Crazy man, they say,

hand building the Church with stone and clay…

(Faithful and True, “Walkin’ Down”).

Rebuild My Church Campaign Progress

“We give thanks to God always for all of you, remembering you in our prayers, unceasingly” (1 Thess. 1:2).

We continue to push onward toward our Phase Two goal, aided as always by the faithful prayers and support of our alumni and friends. Thank you for your generosity!


Phase One Campaign Goal: $75 Million Completed

Phase Two Campaign Goal: $10 Million Ongoing


Case Components:

  • Christ the Teacher Academic Hall and Conference Center ($59 Million)
    • Total Raised: $45,736,168
  • Financial Aid and Scholarships ($18 Million)
    • Total Raised: $22,774,447
  • Outreach and Evangelization ($5 Million)
    • Total Raised: $2,810,000 (includes $1,750,000 PhD Theology Program)
  • Center for Leadership and Entrepreneurship ($2 Million)
    • Total Raised: $2,000,000
  • Nursing SIM Laboratory ($1 Million)
    • Total Raised: $1,000,000
  • Criminal Justice Program ($1 Million)
    • Total Raised: $1,000,000
  • Undesignated Gifts
    • Total Raised: $2,529,385


Total Campaign Goal: $85 Million

Total Raised: $79,600,000 (as of January 1, 2023)


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