Alvernia College Francis Hall historic archive

The roots of 鶹Ƶ were planted in 1926 when the Bernardine Sisters of the Third Order of Saint Francis established an orphanage in the building now known as Francis Hall; eventually the orphanage became an elementary school. Beginning as a college for the Bernardine Franciscan Sisters in 1958, the institution became a four-year liberal arts school. Alvernia received its charter from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in 1960.

Alvernia soon opened its doors to female students from the laity while the first male students were enrolled in 1971. Since that time, the university has grown in both educational opportunities and enrollment.

Alvernia’s student population has grown from 23 freshmen and eight sophomores in 1958 to a current enrollment of nearly 3,000 students, men and women. Alvernia grants degrees as Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Science, Bachelor of Social Work, and a Bachelor of Science in Nursing. Graduate programs were added in 1999 and have grown to include seven master’s degrees (MA, MBA, MED, MSOT, MA-Community Counseling, MALS, MSN) and a recently added Ph.D. program in leadership.

On Sept. 25, 2008, officials announced that it had attained university status and would be hereafter known as 鶹Ƶ.






  • Bernardine Sisters of the Third Order of Saint Francis, originating in Poland, establish a ministry in Pennsylvania.


  • On the site of a farm outside Reading, construction begins on the Administration Building that was to be later named Francis Hall. Construction was completed in 1925. The building was first an orphanage, then a high school; both operated by the Bernardine Franciscan order.


  • The Bernardine Sisters open and dedicate the St. Francis Orphanage.


The 1950s

Bernardine Sisters historic photo

PHOTO: Sister Mary Zygmunta, OSF, first president of Alvernia, and attorney John V. Boland, counsel for the institution, examine the official documents that conferred charter incorporation on what was then known as Alvernia College in August 1960.


  • Sister Mary Zygmunta, first president of Alvernia, is first informed that the Bernardine community plans to establish a liberal arts college to prepare its young religious as future teachers.


  • Sister Mary Zygmunta and Sister Mary Accursia enter Fordham University to begin their doctoral studies. Within three years, Sister Zygmunta earned a Ph.D. in American history and Sister Accursia earned one in education. Sister Accursia becomes the first Academic Dean at Alvernia.


  • Mt. Alvernia High School becomes a college for sisters and postulants, established as a liberal arts college named Alvernia College.


The 1960s

First Graduating Class Archive

PHOTO: The first graduating class of Alvernia, with Sister Mary Zygmunta, in 1961.


  • Alvernia receives its charter from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania with the authorization to grant Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science degrees.


  • First foreign student accepted from Monrovia, Liberia.
  • Allentown school superintendent selects Alvernia to serve as a teacher training center for all beginning lay teachers contracted to work in the diocesan school system.
  • Four students comprise first graduating class.
  • First lay women accepted as students.


  • Two halls in the Administration Building, Hedwig and Angela, are renovated for resident students.
  • First Alvernian is published.


  • Groundbreaking for Veronica Hall


  • Veronica Hall is dedicated, the Most Rev. Joseph M. McShea, Bishop of Allentown, presiding. The new dormitory was named for Sister Mary Veronica, who came with three fellow sisters to Mt. Carmel, Pa., from Warsaw, Poland, to teach the children of immigrants in 1894.


  • Bernardine Hall science and classroom building is dedicated by the Most Rev. Joseph McShea, Bishop of the Allentown Diocese.
  • Commission of Middle States Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools announces Alvernia's full accreditation.


  • Montessori School opens.


The 1970s

1970s first male graduate

PHOTO: In 1973, Roger Luckinbill became the first male to graduate from Alvernia.


  • Sister Mary Victorine, C.S.B., appointed second president of Alvernia.


  • First male commuting students admitted
  • Art department opens studio in former green house


  • First male resident students admitted.
  • First male graduates from Alvernia.


  • Institute for Law and Justice, an innovative four-year baccalaureate program in criminal justice, is introduced.


  • Newly formed yet unnamed Alvernia men's basketball team plays its first winning game.


  • Alvernia receives approval from the Pennsylvania State Board of Nurse Examiners for a two-year Associate Degree Nursing program.


  • Campus Center is constructed.


  • First Associate Degree Nursing class graduates.


The 1980s

Class of 1983

PHOTO: Members of the Class of 1983.


  • First Chaplain assigned to Alvernia College.
  • "This Month at Alvernia," a segment of the monthly "Metro Magazine" broadcast, debuts on radio station WHUM in Reading.
  • First senior citizen student graduates as Alvernia's 1,000th student.


  • Vincent Bugliosi, prosecutor of Charles Manson and author of Helter Skelter speaks at Alvernia on "The Manson Family and Cultism."


  • Sister Dolorey inaugurated as third president of Alvernia


  • Alvernia celebrates its 25th anniversary.
  • Counseling Services initiated at Alvernia
  • Sen. Mark Hatfield (R-Oregon) presents a 25th anniversary lecture on the topic: "The Nuclear Freeze Movement and National Policy."


  • Camellia Sadat, daughter of former Egyptian president Anwar Sadat speaks at Alvernia on "My Father, My President."


  • Continuing Education Evening Division is created.
  • Alvernia adds two new science programs: an associate degree program for physical therapist assistant and a bachelor's degree program in computer science.
  • Administration Building is officially renamed Francis Hall.


  • Sister Mary Victorine, CSB, second president of Alvernia from 1970 to 1982, dies at age 72.
  • Dr. Robert Z. Apostol is named Alvernia's first Vice President of Student Affairs.


  • Physical Fitness and Recreation Center is dedicated by The Most Rev. Thomas J. Welsh, Bishop of Allentown. Rollie Massimino, head basketball coach at Villanova University, is a guest speaker.
  • First Homecoming held.


  • Administrative building housing admissions, public relations, and institutional advancement opens. (The building now houses the Business and Education departments.)
  • Alvernia sculpture, created by art professor Sister M. Theodorette, CSB, is dedicated.


The 1990s

Student Center at night

PHOTO: The new Student Center opened in 1999.


  • Daniel N. DeLucca is named interim president of Alvernia.
  • Groundbreaking for Franco Library.


  • Dr. Frank A. Franco Library Learning Center is dedicated.
  • Daniel N. DeLucca is inaugurated as fourth president of Alvernia.


  • New townhouse residences and Nursing Resource Center are dedicated by The Most Rev. Thomas J. Welsh, Bishop of Allentown.
  • Italian-American Research Center in the Dr. Frank A. Franco Library Learning Center is dedicated.


  • College governance system, with procedures for granting faculty tenure, is established.


  • Schuylkill Center opens.


  • Alvernia receives national recognition when the John Templeton Foundation selects the college for their Honor Roll of character building colleges, citing the service requirement as an outstanding contribution to the community.
  • Dr. Laurence W. Mazzeno is named Alvernia's fifth president.
  • Alvernia's men's basketball team reaches the Final Four of the NCAA Division III playoffs.
  • Alvernia's website is officially established.


  • Alvernia Seniors College and Philadelphia Center open.


  • New Student Center and Anthony Hall quad-suite residence open.
  • Our Lady of Angels convent opens in former President's House.
  • Alvernia begins offering Master's degrees in business administration, education, and liberal studies.


The 2000s

The campus quad

PHOTO: The campus Quad replaced a parking lot in central campus in 2008.


  • Francis Hall convent wing is converted to a residence hall for women.
  • Master's degree program in Occupational Therapy is approved.
  • Alvernia holds its first December commencement ceremony.


  • Dr. Thomas F. Flynn becomes the sixth president of Alvernia College.
  • Mychal Judge residence hall is dedicated. The building is named in honor of the Franciscan priest who was Chaplain for the New York Fire Department. He was among the casualties of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attack on the World Trade Center.
  • Two new athletic fields are added to 鶹Ƶ Sports Park.


  • Welcome Center added to Student Center second floor. Pump house added to Alvernia Sports Park. Bernardine Hall West Wing renovated.
  • O'Pake Science Wing is constructed
  • Alvernia announces first doctoral program: Doctor of Philosophy in Leadership.
  • The Reading Youth Initiative is founded.


  • Board of Trustees approves new Strategic and Campus Master Plans.
  • Alvernia announces invitation to join Middle Atlantic States Collegiate Athletic Corporation (MAC).
  • Upland Center is renovated as the new home for graduate education.


  • Master’s degree program in Nursing Science for nurse educators is approved.
  • Campus Quad replaces parking lot in central campus; Student Center is renovated and expanded.
  • New softball and baseball fields are constructed at Angelica Park
  • 50th anniversary celebration formally begins with Founders Day weekend events.
  • Alvernia announces University Status in midday ceremony on the new Campus Commons.


  • Zygmunta and Pacelli Halls are completed; Schlager Memorial track and multi-turf field is built.
  • $27 million fundraising campaign is announced — the largest campaign in Alvernia's history 
  • Carolyn and Jerry Holleran donate Cedar Hill Farm to 鶹Ƶ. It serves as the president's residence.
  • Alvernia partners with Leadership Berks.


The 2010s

EcoHouse Garden Bog Turtle Sustainability

PHOTO: The Holleran Center for Community and Global Engagement started the Bog Turtle Creek Farm on former athletic fields near Mohnton in 2013.


  • Kestrel Cafe renovated; entrance at Angelica Park on Rt. 10 added; Alvernia acquires Ken-Grill property.
  • Began multiyear renovation of both Assisi and Siena Townhouses; renovated entrance to Bernardine Hall.
  • Francis Hall Theater renovated and elevator added.
  • Carole and Ray Neag endow professorships at Alvernia.


  • Bernardine Hall North Wing; created new Media Classroom on second floor of library; renovated Bernardine Lecture Hall and created new Media Suite; renovated Upland Center first floor and upgraded Veronica Hall.
  • Alvernia and Reading Hospital partner for dual-enrollment.
  • Francis Hall rededicated after expansion and renovations.
  • Acquired 951 Morgantown Road for administrative, receiving, mail room, and warehouse.
  • Center for Student Life demolished to make way for new Campus Commons.


  • Doctorate in Physical Therapy (DPT) program announced.
  • Angelica Creek Park Environmental Exploration Center opens.
  • Completed Founders Village buildings 3 & 4.
  • Created the Learning Commons in Franco Library and renovated Bernardine Hall North Wing.


  • Campus Commons building opens.
  • Renovated PEC CourtSide Café, created DPT lab in PEC .
  • Signed long term lease for all of Angelica Park including the athletic fields and courts.
  • Closed Values & Vision Campaign with $31,604,787 raised.
  • Reading Collegiate Scholars Program announced.
  • The Holleran Center started the Bog Turtle Creek Farm on former athletic fields near Mohnton.


  • Nursing MSN degree expands to offer 2 tracks, Nursing Education and Nursing Leadership and Healthcare Administration.
  • Veteran Center opens on Alvernia Campus.
  • North wing of Bernardine hall renovated to provide additional lab space for nursing and occupational therapy students.
  • The Educational Planning Center (EPC) opens.


  • Doctor of Physical Therapy program (DPT) welcomes its inaugural class.
  • Student Undergraduate Research Fellows (SURF) program is developed.
  • 鶹Ƶ’s accreditation status is Accreditation Reaffirmed Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)


  • Alvernia receives a $550,000 grant from the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) for disadvantaged students who wish to pursue a career in nursing.
  • Back of Francis Hall and entrance off Bernardine Drive to Camps are renovated.
  • Welcome center is opened in Francis Hall.


  • 鶹Ƶ Unveils Golden Wolves Logo.


  • Groundbreaking for the Tom and Helen Flynn PLEX, an innovative Recreation, Wellness and Health Sciences Complex.
  • Alvernia Expands Reading Collegiate Scholars Program to RACC Graduates.
  • First Football game is played in the stadium.


  • John R. Loyack becomes the seventh president of 鶹Ƶ.
  • Alvernia earns top 100 ranking among best regional universities.
  • Reading CollegeTowne initiative is announced.
  • O’Pake Institute shifts focus to economic development and entrepreneurship.
  • Alvernia secures $2.3 million U.S. Department of Education grant.
  • Alvernia receives silver seal for student voter engagement.
  • Founders Village buildings 3 & 4  named for Ehlermans and Hollerans.
  • The Tom and Helen Flynn PLEX opens.
  • Doctoral graduate Abby Wells is awarded a Fulbright Postdoctoral Research Fellowship.


The 2020s

John R. Post Center at Reading CollegeTowne

PHOTO: The John R. Post Center at Reading CollegeTowne, a 250,000-square-foot living and learning facility at 401 Penn Street in downtown Reading, opened in 2021.


  • New Academic Mark is unveiled.
  • Staff Council is established.
  • Alvernia and I-LEAD finalize purchase of 401 Penn Street.
  • Alvernia breaks ground on $20 million CollegeTowne renovation project.
  • Alvernia recognized with three “Colleges of Distinction” awards.
  • Alvernia joins Liberal Arts Colleges Racial Equity Leadership Alliance.
  • Wyomissing Foundation bestows $300k grant for CollegeTowne initiative.


  • BCTV finds new home on Penn Street.
  • CollegeTowne Card promotes economic development for the local food industry.
  • Alvernia earns recognition for career development.
  • The 401 Penn Street location opens.
  • Four College model is announced with the addition of Engineering program.


  • The Golden Wolf Statue is dedicated.
  • Pottsville CollegeTowne is announced.
  • Bloomberg Terminals are installed in the business lab of Reading CollegeTowne.
  • Alvernia purchases the American House.
  • 401 Penn Street is named the John R. Post Center at Reading CollegeTowne.
  • The John R. Post School of Engineering is named.
  • The John and Karen Arnold School of Nursing is named.


  • Pottsville CollegeTowne opens.
  • The Header School of Business named.
  • Dr. Glynis Fitzgerald becomes the eighth president of 鶹Ƶ.


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A Franciscan Tradition