DeSales Celebrates 50th Anniversary: Year-Long Series of Events Planned

by Tom McNamara | Jul 09, 2015

DeSales Class in the Auditorium, 1980s

DeSales Class in the Auditorium, 1980s

DeSales University is celebrating its 50th anniversary and will be holding a series of special events over the next year to commemorate the milestone. The festivities will feature speakers (including Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York and Fox News’ Michelle Malkin), participation from graduates of previous classes, educational lectures and more.

“Our year-long 50th anniversary celebration will provide the local community and current students with an understanding of DeSales’ past and allow us to share our vision for the future of higher education,” said DeSales University President Father Bernard F. O’Connor, OSFS.

DeSales University traces its history to 1961, when Bishop Joseph McShea sought to fill the void of a Catholic college in the Lehigh Valley in the new Diocese of Allentown. In 1965, at the request of the Bishop, the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales established a liberal arts college (originally Allentown College of St. Francis de Sales) to serve this need. It joined five other colleges and universities of distinction.

Today, DeSales has more than 3,100 students enrolled in undergraduate, graduate and an adult bachelor’s degree program (ACCESS). The university has provided the highest level of education to thousands before them, influenced generations of families and positively impacted surrounding communities.

“The 50th anniversary events will honor past and current students and serve as a celebration of the proud history and tradition that we have built at DeSales over the past half a century,” said Father O’Connor.

Some of the events planned for the year-long anniversary include:

September 25-26: Homecoming weekend, where academic departments will have cocktail receptions and retired faculty/staff will attend. 

September 30:  The Salesian Center for Faith and Culture will host a symposium concerning Ex Corde Ecclesiae (John Paul II’s vision for Catholic universities) on its 25th anniversary.

November 11: The Rev. Thomas Furphy Lecture Series, featuring Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York.

January 24-28, 2016: A special Heritage Week celebration will be hosted by the Salesian Center for Faith and Culture. Events include:

  • Sunday, January 24: Mass of Saint Francis de Sales – celebrant, Bishop Barres
  • Monday, January 25: Forum on Biomedical Ethics – CEO’s from local hospital networks
  • Tuesday, January 26: Seminar on Law & Society – Prof. Robert P. George J.D., PhD of Philosophy, Princeton University
  • Wednesday, January 27: Town Hall on Social Communications – Rev. Thomas Rosica, CEO of Salt & Light Media and liaison at the Vatican Press Office.
  • Thursday, January 28: R. Wayne Kraft Memorial Lecture – Fr. Antonio Spadaro, S. J., Gregorian University, Rome, editor of Civilta Cattolica and papal interviewer

TBA  The Jesus the Teacher statue will be dedicated– we honor the bishops, clergy, and people of Allentown as having called us into being from the “Heart of the Church” (Ex Corde Ecclesiae). 

April 6, 2016: The Marcon Lecturer is Michelle Malkin, Fox News journalist, nationally syndicated columnist and Journalism Fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C.

May 21, 2016: Commencement will feature a parade of flags carried by alumni for each of the 50 years. Joseph Kurtz, D.D., Archbishop of Louisville, Ky., a Lehigh Valley native and President of the American Bishop’s Conference will receive an honorary degree and offer the address at the graduation ceremony. Archbishop Kurtz is also a former member of the Board of Trustees at DeSales.

For more information on the 50th anniversary celebration and events, visit

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Tom McNamara, Executive Director of Communications
610.282.1100 x1219

DeSales University
2255 Station Avenue
Center Valley, PA 18034