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History

Fontbonne University takes its name from Mother St. John Fontbonne, who, in 1808 after after the French Revolution, refounded the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph (CSJ). More than a century and a half before, in 1650, the Sisters of St. Joseph had been founded in LePuy, France. During the French Revolution, the sisters were forced to return to their homes and the community was dispersed. Some 28 years after the refounding, six Sisters of St. Joseph came to the United States in 1836 and established American roots at Carondelet, a small community in south St. Louis, Missouri. Five years later, in 1841, they opened St. Joseph's Academy for girls.

The CSJ heritage of strength and stability stems from values found in the order's original documents and repeated in other records through the succeeding centuries. At least eight values can be identified throughout this long CSJ history: quality, respect, diversity, community, justice, service, faith, and Catholic presence.

It is on the tradition of service and based on the values of the Congregation of St. Joseph, that Fontbonne University was founded. A devotion to the tradition continues to move Fontbonne forward into the future.

Milestones

  • 1923 — First classes begin at Carondelet following World War I
  • 1925 — Fontbonne classes move to new location at Wydown and Big Bend Boulevards in Clayton, Missouri
  • 1927 — Eight women receive first baccalaureate degrees from Fontbonne
  • 1930 to 1950 — Comprehensive liberal arts curriculum is developed. There’s growth of the departments of education and home economics. A cafeteria, swimming pool, and gymnasium are added to the original buildings of Ryan Hall, Science Building, Fine Arts Building. A dedication of Medaille Hall, first residence hall occurs. The school receives North Central accreditation.
  • 1950 to 1960 — Department of education is expanded to include special education, behavioral disorders, learning disabilities, and mental handicaps. A major in deaf education links Fontbonne with St. Joseph's Institute for the Deaf. The department of communication disorders is established to prepare teachers for speech impaired children and adults
  • 1960 to 1980 — Admission of male students marks a first. Service programs are expanded to areas such as dietetics, special education, communication disorders and deaf education. A predominately lay board of trustees is formed. The Fontbonne Library is dedicated, along with two more residence halls.
  • 1980 to present day — Phenomenal growth is seen in the department of business and administration as well as graduate programs in art, business, communication disorders, computer science, education, and taxation. The department of home economics grows into the department of human environmental sciences. Two major fundraising campaigns are completed for a total of $12 million. The Heritage Club is formed to recognize donors to endowment. A growth in nontraditional students, weekend and evening programs is seen leading to OPTIONS, a nontraditional program geared for the working adult desiring undergraduate and graduate degrees in business. The athletic program advanced to NCAA Division III. The Dunham Student Activity Center was established. Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education finds Fontbonne's department of education/special education to be one of the best in the state. Fontbonne community grows in diversity of cultures and faiths. Departments are restructured to meet the needs of two commencements annually (December and May). The first male president, Dr. Dennis C. Golden, is inaugurated in September 1995. Information  technology capabilities are expanded throughout the campus. The school celebrates its 75th anniversary during the1998-99 academic year. March 14, 2002, marks the change in status from college to university.

Fontbonne Today

Our classes have an attractive 11:1 student-faculty ratio, and we have a student body of nearly 2,000. Fontbonne is known for the personal care and concern that comes from a small school environment. Students may choose from 45 undergraduate majors, as well as 34 minors and 19 master's degree programs. Although historically Fontbonne has been renowned for fine arts and education, today the university's largest department is business and administration. Nationally recognized programs in dietetics and communication disorders round out Fontbonne's traditional and innovative program offerings.

Fontbonne makes significant contributions to the community through its focus on service opportunities. Students are encouraged to participate in local, regional and even international community service opportunities throughout the year. In addition, our Speech-Language-Hearing Clinic provides much needed service at a discounted rate to families who might otherwise not be able to afford this important communication assistance.

Fontbonne is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (30 North LaSalle Street, Suite 2400 Chicago, IL 60602-2504 1-800-621-7440) and is a member of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.