History & Traditions


Where Seton Hill Has Been. And Where We're Headed.

In the summer of 1882, Mother Aloysia Lowe, Mother Superior of the Pennsylvania Sisters of Charity, purchased the land in Greensburg, Pa. where Seton Hill University's main hilltop campus now stands. She named the site, which consisted primarily of farmland, Seton Hill, in honor of Elizabeth Ann Bayley Seton, the founder of the Sisters of Charity and the first American-born saint.

After creating the Saint Joseph Academy for Girls in 1883 (which operated until 1947), the Sisters of Charity of Seton Hill founded what came to be known as the Seton Hill Schools (which included the Seton Hill Conservatory of Music and Seton Hill Conservatory of Art) in 1885. In 1914, the Sisters opened the doors to Seton Hill Junior College. Four years later, in 1918, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania approved Seton Hill's charter for a four-year institution of higher learning and Seton Hill College was born.

Over the next several decades, Seton Hill evolved and grew with the times, adding programs and expanding its reach. Seton Hill's physical campus includes the original 200 hilltop acres in addition to a downtown cultural district campus and a nearby Center for Orthodontics. The university's online presence - easily accessed by the mobile technology Seton Hill provides all of its students and faculty - includes a campus in the  virtual world of Second Life and online courses and unique learning experiences in every discipline. 

What started as a small college for local young women is now a coeducational university with more than 2,000 students from across the U.S. and around the world, offering 80 + undergraduate and eight graduate degree programs, as well as an adult degree program and advanced certifications in a variety of disciplines.

Throughout its history, Seton Hill has educated students to think and act critically, creatively, and ethically as productive members of society, committed to transforming the world. A Catholic university, Seton Hill embraces students of all faiths, and pursues its mission in the tradition of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton, who promised her own students: "I would wish to fit you for that world in which you are destined to live."

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Traditions represent a distinguishing mark of life at Seton Hill. Traditional events are held throughout the year and represent the four guiding principles of the University: 

  • Welcoming, understanding our personal responsibility to be kind and hospitable to others.
  • Learning, combining a liberal arts education with preparation for a successful career.
  • Celebrating, coming together to explore and develop a rich and vibrant spiritual life.
  • Serving, encouraging students to use their knowledge, skills, and talents to transform the world by helping other

Opening Liturgy

At the beginning of each academic year, we gather as a faith community to ask for God's blessings for everyone on "the Hill."

Labor of Love & Take the Day On

At the beginning of the fall and spring semesters, the Seton Hill community as a whole gets together for a day of volunteer service at a variety of sites in the local and regional community.  Take the Day On commemorates Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s life and commitment to service, and includes an educational program.  

Homecoming & Family Weekend

Homecoming and Family Weekend, held each fall, is packed with fun-filled events for everyone, from current students and their families to alumni.


Before heading home for the Thanksgiving holiday, we host an interfaith prayer service followed by a family-style turkey dinner with all the trimmings.

Christmas on the Hill

As Christmas nears, campus is especially alive with activity. The celebration officially begins right after Thanksgiving break with the annual crib ceremony, where members of the freshman class participate in a special service during which the school's traditional nativity scene is set up. Soon after, Seton Hill's Music Program holds its annual Christmas Concert, and Campus Ministry holds its Operation Christmas Basket market and gift sale to raise funds for needy families in the area. A formal celebration that includes a candlelight dinner for students (where they are served by Seton Hill faculty and staff), followed by Christmas liturgy and the Christmas Ball, is held just prior to Christmas break.

Tree Planting

Every spring, the junior class plants a tree on Seton Hill's campus. It not only serves as an enduring memory of their class, it also helps beautify the campus for the generations that follow.

Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton Celebrations

During the annual "Lunch With Liz" event, members of the Seton Hill community learn about Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton, the founder of the Sisters of Charity, who in turn founded Seton Hill. Seton Hill also hosts annual events to celebrate Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton's birthday and feast day.

Fall and Spring Convocation

Each fall and spring we host a special ceremony to recognize those students who have received academic and service honors during the previous year. A special guest speaker gives a keynote address at the event.

Baccalaureate and Commencement

A December commencement is held for those students completing their degree studies by August or December. This ceremony incorporates a vesper service with the academic events. May commencement ceremonies are held on a Saturday early in the month, with a baccalaureate Mass held on the Friday evening preceding Commencement. 

Class Banners

Each class at Seton Hill designs and creates a banner representing its class colors and motto. Seton Hill displays the class banners during May commencement ceremonies and at various Homecoming and alumni events and celebrations.


Alumni Weekend

Every June, Seton Hill alumni gather for an annual reunion on campus, with special celebrations planned for five-year anniversary classes.

Summer Reading Program

Every summer, incoming Seton Hill first year and transfer students receive a complimentary copy of a novel or nonfiction work, chosen by Seton Hill's Summer Reading Committee on the caliber of its writing, relevance to contemporary issues and the interest of the community in its topic. The book is also provided to Seton Hill faculty, staff and upperclassmen. Each fall, immediately following Opening Liturgy, hundreds of participants meet in small groups all over campus to discuss the book, then join together again for one large discussion that includes presentations on the book's main topics.

The Seton Hill Lecture Series

Seton Hill hosts a series of lectures, workshops and events that brings well-known speakers and performers to campus. Events are open to the public, and many of them are free. Speakers have included Tenzin Gyatso, His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet; Nobel Peace Prize Winner and former president of Poland Lech Walesa; commentator Lesley Stahl; Pulitzer Prize winning historian David McCullough; Pulitzer Prize winning humorist Dave Barry, and Pulitzer Prize winning author Frank McCourt.