Seton Hill University Receives Grant to Reframe Institutional History and Honor Legacy of Its Founders

Seton Hill University received a NetVUE (Network for Vocation in Undergraduate Education) grant of $40,000 from the Council of Independent Colleges (CIC) that will be used to honor and reframe the charism and historical legacy of the University’s founders, the Sisters of Charity of Seton Hill.

The “Reframing the Institutional Saga” grant will be used to create a series of essays, based in archival research, oral history, and collaborative dialogue, that will explore the contemporary relevance of the Setonian spirit by taking a close look at the institution’s history and the legacy of the Sisters of Charity of Seton Hill.

Seton Hill University will engage students and faculty in the creation of printed and digital, thematic archival-based essays that will support the interpretation and reinterpretation of the University and its founders. The essays will pull together archival images, documents, oral history clips, and more from the archives of Seton Hill University and the Sisters of Charity of Seton Hill with the work taking place over a two-year period.

Developed in tandem with faculty and students, these essays will offer a reinterpretation of the Setonian mission from a contemporary lens. Students will conduct interviews with Sisters of Charity, alumni, and former faculty and staff members of Seton Hill.

“We are grateful to receive this grant from the Council of Independent Colleges to capture the impact of our founders and preserve their legacy at a crucial time in our history,” said Seton Hill President Mary C. Finger, Ed.D. “Only three Sisters of Charity currently hold positions within the University. It is important to all of us who work and study here at Seton Hill to not only preserve the history and vocation of our founders but to reframe it in today’s context so that it endures. The essays and oral histories that will be created and shared with our students, faculty, staff, and entire University community will lay the groundwork for us to tie together our past with the future vocations of our students.”

The Sisters of Charity of Seton Hill and what is today Seton Hill University are inextricably linked. The Sisters founded Seton Hill College in 1918 and comprised the bulk of faculty, staff through the 1960s with many Sisters of Charity continuing as faculty and staff up through the present day. Indeed, the first building the Sisters built on the hilltop campus - the Administration Building - served as the motherhouse of the Sisters from 1889 to 1969 and all of the sisters, even those unaffiliated with the college, called Seton Hill home.

“This project will see students, faculty and other participants co-create a new archival record, aligning with our ongoing Setonian Mission Formation Program, which aims to help the university to support and strengthen its Catholic, Setonian tradition for current and future students, faculty and staff,” said Sister Maureen O’Brien, Vice President of Mission and Identity, who will serve as an advisor for the project and will ensure that the essays will continue to be resources in mission formation programs into the future.

Casey Bowser, who serves as archivist for both the Sisters of Charity of Seton Hill and Seton Hill University, will be leading the project and training students to collect oral histories from Sisters of Charity, alumni, and former faculty and staff.

NetVUE’s “Reframing the Institutional Saga” grant is administered by the CIC with generous support from Lilly Endowment Inc. Many NetVUE member colleges and universities have strong historical ties to a specific religious tradition, a particular educational philosophy, or a pioneering educator. These elements of an institution’s heritage are important, but their significance may not always be clear in the midst of changes in the institution’s demographic profile, surrounding community, and founding organizations. The purpose of this grant program is to enable institutions to produce an updated account of their history and mission in light of their current context.