St. Bonaventure University

From Academic Kids

An aerial close-up of Devereux Hall, St. Bonaventure University
An aerial close-up of Devereux Hall, St. Bonaventure University
St. Bonaventure University is located in Cattaraugus County in western New York. The university was established by the Franciscan Brothers in 1858 and is a private, Catholic university, located near Olean, New York. It has roughly 2,750 students. The current president is Sister Margaret Carney OSF, the 20th president and the first sister religious to hold the position. Its sports teams, called the Bonnies, play NCAA Division I sports in the Atlantic 10 Conference.

The university is known by an affectionate nickname -- "Bona's" -- which originates from the school's original name (St. Bonaventure's College).



The campus sits on 1,200 acres (4.9 km²) in the town of Allegany, just over the line from the city of Olean. The area around campus is known as St. Bonaventure, New York, with a population of 2,100.

The south edge of campus lies on the Allegheny River. Most of the campus is wooded, and it contains a cemetery, a 9-hole golf course, an old airport, among academic and dormitory buildings. The expansive front lawn was cited in the Guinness Book of World Records as the largest front lawn in North America.

Campus buildings are designed in red brick with Italianate roofs, to reflect the architecture of St. Francis' native Italy.

St. Bonaventure University has its own U.S. Post Office. Mail may be addressed to St. Bonaventure, NY 14778.


The university was founded by Utica financier Nicholas Devereux, one of the first to gain land grants in newly surveyed Cattaraugus County from the Holland Land Company. Devereux founded the town of Allegany on the grant, hoping to build a new city. A great city needed religious instruction, so Devereux approached John Timon, the bishop of Buffalo, for assistance. The two invited the Franciscan order to Western New York, and a small group under Father Pamfilo da Magliano OFM arrived in 1856. This was the first group of Franciscan brothers to settle in the United States. The school graduated its first class in 1858. The largest dormitory on campus, the infamous Devereux Hall, is named for the founder.

Once one of the nation's most prominent Catholic colleges, St. Bonaventure ran into financial difficulties in the 1990s, to the point when it almost declared bankruptcy in 1994. Since then, the school has been put on a more solid financial footing and has seen record growth and campus improvements in the past five years.

Thomas Merton taught English at St. Bonaventure for a year just at the start of World War II. It was at the school that Merton finally gave into his vocation and decided to join the Trappists. He entered the monastery in Kentucky in 1941. An usual botanical phenomenon on a mountain in view of campus, where the trees have fallen and left a clearing in the shape of a heart, is linked to Merton in campus myth. Students call it "Merton's Heart" and say Merton visited the place often.

St. Bonaventure's College was granted university status by New York State in 1967.

St. Bonaventure is strongly identified with the Western New York region and with the small city of Olean. A notable proportion of the student body are from the Buffalo and Rochester metro areas, and references to Buffalo and Rochester -- and their Catholic high schools -- are common even among students not from those areas.


St. Bonaventure is best known for a successful basketball program that plays in the Atlantic 10 Conference. Nearly every member of the spirited student body attends home games, leading ESPN to call St. Bonaventure one of the top-five "worst places to play" in the country, along with Duke and Michigan. Bob Lanier played at St. Bonaventure, as did the Stith brothers. In addition to these NBA players, other St. Bonaventure players played in the top European leagues. The last St. Bonaventure player to reach the NBA was J.R. Bremer, who played for the Boston Celtics in 2002 and the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2003.

The men's and women's basketball teams, among others, play at the Reilly Center Arena. The Arena seats around 6,900, and is usually sold out during basketball season. Many folks from the Olean area have been season ticket holders for years. The current men's basketball coach is former Notre Dame assistant Anthony Solomon.

Basketball scandal of 2002

A basketball scandal rocked St. Bonaventure in the spring of 2002. The basketball program had recruited Jamil Terrell from a junior college in Georgia. NCAA rules require that junior college transfers hold an associate's degree, but Terrell only had a "certificate", demonstrating proficiency in industrial arts. Other Atlantic-10 schools knew this and had refused to take Terrell. The basketball program wanted him anyway, and the university president, whose son was an assistant coach for the team, ordered Terrell admitted, over the objections of the athletic director and the athletic department's compliance officer.

The ensuing scandal resulted in the dismissal of the coaches, the athletic director, and the president, along with devastating sanctions to the basketball program, and deep wounds to school pride and the university community. The extent of these wounds was painfully symbolized the following summer. The chairman of the school's board of trustees, who apparently had sanctioned the decision of the president to allow Terrell to play, committed suicide, unable to live with the damage he had allowed to happen to his alma mater.

The university today

The school is renowned in New York State and the mid-Atlantic region for its journalism, business and education programs. With Canisius College, Fordham University, Georgetown University, and St. Joseph's University, it is considered one of the premier Catholic colleges in the mid-Atlantic. Often traditionally considered a "Buffalo and Rochester" school, the school has seen significant enrollment gains from New England and the Midwest.

St. Bonaventure has somewhat of a reputation as a party school, and has consistently made the top of party school rankings in such guides as The Princeton Review. Favorite student haunts are the Townhouses, the Garden Apartments, and the Allegany bars The Burton and The Other Place. There's also a pub on campus called the Rathskellar, four others bars in downtown Allegany, and a number of student bars in Olean.

St. Bonaventure is home to the Russell J. Jandoli School of Journalism and Mass Communications. Its campus newspaper, The Bona Venture, has been published continuously since 1926. The school is also home to The Laurel, the nation's oldest continuously published college literary magazine. The school's student radio station, WSBU 88.3 The Buzz, is consistently ranked in the top 5 nationally.

The Franciscans & the university

The school is the largest Franciscan-affiliated institution of undergraduate higher education in the English-speaking world. The friars at the St. Bonaventure Friary belong to the Holy Name Province, OFM. Franciscan brothers at the school are members of the Order of Friars Minor, the most senior of the orders of Franciscan brothers.

The Bonaventure friars are involved in a number of activities in the greater Olean community, besides ministry on campus. They administer St. Bonaventure's Parish in Allegany, called "Little Bona's". There is a strong Franciscan presence at Olean General Hospital, and the university operates the area soup kitchen. Also adjacent to campus is the Motherhouse of the Franciscan Sisters of Allegany, a group of sisters religious and part of the Order of Saint Francis (OSF) or "Poor Clares".

St. Bonaventure himself (1221-74), born John of Fidenza, was a cardinal and Doctor of the Church. A theologian and contemporary of St. Thomas Aquinas at the university in Paris, he became head of the Franciscan order and did much to institutionalize that order. His most famous work is Itinerarium mentis in deum, or The Soul's Journey to God. Bonaventure was canonized in 1482 by Sixtus IV.

Notable alumni

Notable alumni of St. Bonaventure University include:

The school also boasts five Pulitzer Prize winners as alumni.

External link


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