Seton Hall University

Presidential Investiture

History of Seton Hall  

Chapel of the Immaculate ConceptionAt first a high school, then a college and seminary, Seton Hall was founded in 1856 by Bishop James Roosevelt Bayley of Newark and named in honor of his aunt, Elizabeth Ann Seton. Originally located in Madison, the college moved to South Orange in 1860 and received its charter in 1861. The opening class numbered five, the first president the formidable Father Bernard McQuaid. The curriculum, largely classical, historical and religious, also included languages, mathematics, science and book-keeping for day students and collegians.

Financial and physical challenge marked the early years. In 1862 the first baccalaureate was awarded. In 1863 the foundation stone of the chapel was laid. But in January 1866 a fire destroyed the marble villa in which the seminary was housed. Its expensive replacement was built in record time.

Periodic efforts to sell or close the college were never whole-hearted (although Seton Hall almost became the site of the nascent Catholic University of America). In 1886 another fire claimed the college’s main building, with only the generosity of the president, Fr. James Corrigan, and his brother, Bishop Michael Corrigan, allowing Seton Hall to survive.

By the turn of the century, the college had weathered the worst. Under its sixth president, Father Joseph Synott, the high school and college curricula were separated. The presidency of Monsignor James Mooney (1907-1922) saw another fire but also a new college building and the construction of an auditorium-gymnasium which lasted until 1940. The College of Education was launched in 1920. Pressed for cash after the First World War, Mooney sold off all college property on the north side of South Orange Avenue. His successor, Monsignor Thomas McLaughlin, moved the seminary to Darlington in 1927 (where it remained until its return to Seton Hall in 1984).

Seton Hall’s growth after the Second World War was prodigious. Under Monsignors James Kelley (1936-1949) and John McNulty (1949-1959) a nursing program was added, a Law School opened, and extension campuses established in Paterson, Jersey City and Newark. A College of Medicine and Dentistry began in Jersey City in 1954, later transferred to the State of New Jersey. In June 1950, Seton Hall College was granted university status.

Bishop John Dougherty saw the university through the turbulent 1960s. His successor, Monsignor Thomas Fahy, faced financial challenges only resolved in the 1980s during the tenure of Monsignor John Petillo. But academically Seton Hall has prospered in recent years. The School of Health and Medical Services (1987) was followed by the Whitehead School of Diplomacy and International Relations a decade later. Under Father Tom Peterson and Monsignor Robert Sheeran, Seton Hall has continued to “advance despite difficulties.” Walsh Library and Jubilee Hall now complement a beautifully restored chapel. The academic program, especially the core curriculum, has been renovated to meet the needs of a new millennium. The faculty is stronger than ever. From around the world, students now study in a university that began as little more than a dream. They are the heirs, with Gabriel Esteban, of a remarkable history that has many more years to run.

Seton Hall University · 400 South Orange Ave · South Orange, NJ 07079 · (973) 761-9000