Duquesne University

Duquesne University in Pittsburgh

Duquesne University

Established in 1878 as the Pittsburgh Catholic College of the Holy Ghost, Duquesne University of the Holy Spirit (pronounced dew-KAYN), commonly known as Duquesne University or Duquesne, was the first Catholic university-level institution to be established in Pennsylvania. It was founded by the Congregation of the Holy Spirit and was named for Michel-Ange Duquesne de Menneville, an 18th-century governor of New France. Located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the university began with an enrollment of 40 students and a faculty of six.

Duquesne University has grown to encompass over 9,300 students and is situated on an isolated 49-acre hilltop campus in Pittsburgh’s Bluff district. The school offers a variety of 10 programs of study and has associate campuses in Rome. The student body consists of 80% of students from Pennsylvania and the surrounding area, as well as international students from 80 countries. The university is classified as a Doctoral University with High Research Activity according to the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education. The alumni of the university number more than 93,000, including two cardinals and the current bishop of Pittsburgh, David Zubik.

Competing in Division I of the NCAA, the Duquesne Dukes have had some impressive basketball performances. In the 1950s, they appeared in two national championship games. In 1955, they even went on to win the National Invitation Tournament.

History of Duquesne University

Duquesne University

On October 1, 1878, the Pittsburgh Catholic College of the Holy Ghost was established by Father Joseph Strub and his fellow Holy Ghost Fathers, who were expelled from Germany as a result of Otto von Bismarck’s Kulturkampf six years earlier. At the time of its founding, the college had six faculty members and 40 students.  It was granted a state charter in 1882.  Classes were initially held in a rented space above a bakery on Wylie Avenue in downtown Pittsburgh. Subsequently, the college relocated to its current site on the Bluff and constructed the iconic five-story red brick “Old Main” in 1885. At the time, it was the highest structure on the skyline of Pittsburgh.

On May 27, 1911, Fr. Martin Hehir was the leader who steered the college to becoming the first Catholic educational institution in Pennsylvania to be granted the title of a university. It was then named Duquesne University of the Holy Ghost in honor of Ange Duquesne de Menneville, Marquis du Quesne, the French governor of New France who had originally brought Catholic observances to the Pittsburgh region. In 1913, Sister M. Fides, from the Sisters of Mercy, became the first woman to graduate from Duquesne, and the following year, the university’s Graduate School was established.

The 1920s saw expansive development for the growing university. Canevin Hall was constructed as the first single-purpose academic building, with the addition of a gymnasium and central heating plant. The university also added the School of Pharmacy in 1925, School of Music in 1926, and School of Education in 1929. However, the Wall Street Crash of 1929 caused the university to put a stop to further expansion plans.

In 1931, Fr. J. J. Callahan took the place of the beloved Fr. Hehir. Though he was not as adept in administration, he did oversee the addition of many new programs, the short-lived School for the Unemployed, and, in 1937, the Duquesne University School of Nursing. The sports teams particularly flourished during this time, with the football team’s 6-0 triumph over the University of Pittsburgh being a standout moment of elation. Finally, in 1940 the university library was completed.

Duquesne University

Duquesne During World War II

During the World War II era, the university was led by the young Fr. Raymond Kirk. In 1940, the school’s enrollment was 3,100, but by the summer of 1944, only one thousand students remained enrolled. This strain caused a toll on Fr. Kirk’s health, and he was relieved of his duties by Fr. Francis P. Smith in 1946. After the war, the school was faced with a surge of veterans seeking higher education and the enrollment peaked at 5,500 in 1949. Fr. Smith took advantage of the Lanham Act and obtained three barracks-type buildings from Army surplus. The science curriculum was expanded, and the School of Business Administration saw its enrollment increase to over two thousand. During this time, a beautification project was implemented and WDUQ, Pittsburgh’s first college radio station, was founded.

In 1952, Fr. Vernon F. Gallagher proposed a large-scale campus expansion plan, and Assumption Hall, the first student dormitory, was opened two years later in 1954. Rockwell Hall, home to the schools of business and law, was dedicated in 1958. Fr. Henry J. McAnulty then implemented Fr. Gallagher’s expansion plan from 1959 to 1980, resulting in the renovation or construction of buildings for academic needs such as College Hall, the music school, and the library. Additionally, four more dormitories, a Student Union, and Mellon Hall were erected as part of the plan. However, in 1970, the university was almost forced to close due to a financial crisis. Students made it their mission to “Save Duquesne University” and raised nearly $600,000 through door-to-door fundraising, which allowed the university to stay open until 1973. Fr. McAnulty’s term as president was also when Duquesne University played a significant role in the development of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal, which had its beginnings at a retreat of faculty members and students in February 1967.

After McAnulty’s tenure, Fr. Donald S. Nesti took up the presidency. During the 1980s, construction began on the A. J. Palumbo Center, which was inaugurated in 1988, and the law school expanded. In 2001, John E. Murray Jr., the university’s first lay president, saw the establishment of three new schools – the Rangos School of Health Sciences, the Bayer School of Natural and Environmental Sciences, and the School of Leadership and Professional Advancement. Over the years, Duquesne University has continued to develop, with the completion of the Power Center, a Forbes Avenue mixed-use project, and a new residence hall in 2012.

By 2024, the university intends to have their first osteopathic medical school class enrolled in the fall semester.

Duquesne’s Growth

Duquesne University has drastically increased in size since it first opened on Boyd’s Hill with a mere 12.5-acre site. It now occupies a vast 49-acre main campus in Pittsburgh’s Uptown area. Of the 31 buildings present in the Bluff campus, many are newly built or have recently undergone renovations. Such constructions include a health sciences facility (Rangos Hall), two recording studios, two parking garages, the multipurpose recreation center (Power Center), and a theater-classroom complex (Bayer Hall).

The “Old Main” Administration Building was the first structure to be erected on the university’s campus. This Victorian Gothic building still provides office space for the administration. Canevin Hall, which was named for the bishop of Pittsburgh Regis Canevin and constructed in 1922, is the oldest classroom and has been refurbished twice, in 1968 and 2009. These two structures, along with Bayer Hall, the Richard King Mellon Hall of Science (designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe), and the Victorian Laval House, are situated at the western end of Academic Walk, a path that provides pedestrian access to the majority of the campus. The Student Union, situated on the northern side of campus, is the hub of campus life and student activities, hosting numerous meeting rooms, three dining spots, a Starbucks, a PNC branch, a recreation center, and an art gallery. The five-story Gumberg Library, opened in 1978 and containing a wide selection of print and digital collections, is located on the northern side of the campus.

Duquesne University has recently expanded its presence on Forbes and Fifth Avenue by constructing new buildings. This expansion has allowed the university to increase its size and scope.

The Power Center, named in tribute to the university’s first president, Father William Patrick Power, is the newest addition to the campus. Located on Forbes Avenue between Chatham Square and Magee Street, the 125,000 square foot multi-purpose facility provides students with a recreation center, a Barnes & Noble bookstore with a Starbucks, Freshens, Red Ring Restaurant, and a conference center and ballroom. In October 2010, the university purchased the eight story, 100,000-square-foot building at 600 Fifth Avenue from Robert Morris University, which included 87 classrooms, 1,100 seats, and new music facilities. In August of 2019, Duquesne announced plans to construct an 80,000-100,000-square-foot structure near the PPG Paints Arena to house the osteopathic medical school. WDUQ, the NPR and jazz station, has relocated to the Cooper Building and Clement Hall.

During the years leading up to 2009, Duquesne University had a branch of its School of Leadership and Professional Advancement located in Wormleysburg, Pennsylvania.  Additionally, classes were provided at Fort Indiantown Gap.

International Campuses for Duquesne University

Since 2001, Duquesne has provided a campus in Italy. The site, part of a large tract of land owned and maintained by the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth, is situated west of the city center of Rome and near Vatican City. University materials explain that the campus is “enclosed by a wall, containing attractive gardens and pathways, with classrooms, computer access (including the Internet), a library, a dining hall, recreational areas, and up-to-date living quarters that feature a bathroom in each double room.”

The Italian campus curriculum is structured to incorporate the historical and cultural setting of Rome with courses such as history, art history, Italian language, philosophy, theology, sociology and economics. Visiting professors and resident scholars make up the majority of faculty, with a few additional distinguished professors from the home campus.

The Duquesne Experience

Duquesne has 9,344 students, consisting of both undergraduates and graduates.The university offers 189 degree programs at the baccalaureate, professional, masters, and doctoral levels and is the only Spiritan institution of higher education in the world. Students from eighty nations attend Duquesne.

At Duquesne, the student experience is an important part of the university atmosphere. Students are offered an array of activities and programs to participate in, including athletics, clubs, and organizations. Through these, students can engage with their peers and develop a sense of community.

At Duquesne University, the residential life experience is an integral part of the student’s overall educational experience. On-campus living provides students with the opportunity to engage in a variety of activities and programs that enrich their educational journey. Students who live on campus gain access to resources and support that help them to build a sense of community and to develop their skills and interests.

Housing At Duquesne

Duquesne University’s housing consists of five residence halls and one apartment complex. Its first hall, Assumption Hall, was constructed in the 1950s and is capable of holding 300 occupants. Later residential buildings from the 1960s, St. Ann’s Hall and St. Martin’s Hall, accommodate freshman students. The largest facility, Duquesne Towers, is home to 1,200 people, including Greek social organizations. The 1997 Vickroy Hall and the 2004 Brottier Hall, originally an apartment complex, are also part of the university’s housing. Altogether, Duquesne provides residential spaces for 3,600 students.

In March 2010, the university announced a plan to build a new residence hall due to high retention rates and a student desire to stay on campus for junior and senior years. The hall was constructed on the former site of Des Places Hall– named after Claude Poullart des Places, the founder of the Spiritan congregation– and opened for the fall 2012 semester.

Student Organizations at Duquesne University

Duquesne University is home to more than 150 student organizations, 19 fraternities and sororities included. Students have access to a number of media outlets, such as WDSR (Duquesne Student Radio), founded in 1984 and broadcasting solely through the Internet streaming audio.There’s also the The Duquesne Duke campus newspaper and L’Esprit Du Duc, the university’s yearbook. Additionally, Duquesne offers student-run organizations like the Student Government Association, Program Council, Commuter Council, Residence Hall Association, Interfraternity Council, Panhellenic Council, and Knights of Columbus, as well as numerous departmental Honor Societies.

The Duquesne Student Union provides a base for student life with offices, a ballroom, eateries, and a Starbucks. This building is the hub of activity for the students attending the University.

Greek Life At Duquesne

Duquesne University is home to a variety of fraternities and sororities, including Alpha Delta, Alpha Phi Delta, Delta Chi, Delta Sigma Pi, Gamma Phi (a local fraternity founded in 1916), Iota Phi Theta, Phi Kappa Theta, Sigma Alpha Epsilon, Sigma Nu, Sigma Tau Gamma, and Tau Kappa Epsilon. Sororities on campus include Alpha Gamma Delta, Alpha Omicron Pi, Alpha Phi, Alpha Sigma Tau, Delta Zeta, Gamma Phi Beta, Sigma Kappa, and Zeta Tau Alpha. Most of these organizations have suites or wings in the Duquesne Towers building, while some are not housed on campus.

The Performing Arts

At Duquesne University, the Tamburitzans, the longest-running multicultural song and dance company in the United States, call home. This troupe is comprised of talented young folk artists dedicated to preserving and performing the music, songs, and dances of Eastern Europe and related cultures. The members of this group receive scholarship awards from the university to cover their tuition, in addition to assistance from Tamburitzans Scholarship Endowment Funds.

The Mary Pappert School of Music often showcases a variety of performers, both in-house and guest artists. Several of the school’s ensembles have the privilege of performing at Carnegie Music Hall in Oakland. These ensembles include the Symphony Orchestra, Wind Symphony and Symphony Band, the Contemporary Ensemble, Jazz Bands featuring Sean Jones and Mike Tomaro, as well as multiple chamber groups. Vocal ensembles such as the Opera Workshop, Voices of Spirit, and the Women’s and Men’s chorales are also featured. The school’s ensembles regularly give performances and even take part in tours abroad.

The university houses three theater societies: the Red Masquers, Spotlight Musical Theatre Company, and the Medieval and Renaissance Players. Annually, the Masquers perform three main-stage plays, one classical, one modern, and one contemporary, as well as two sets of one-act plays. Student-written plays, known as “Premieres”, are presented in the winter, and “One Acts for Charity” featuring works of professional playwrights are shown in the spring. In addition, the company also takes part in the Pittsburgh Monologue Project. Spotlight is a musical theatre company that stages two full-length Broadway musicals per year. The Medieval and Renaissance Players provide spectators with a Medieval experience, featuring plays, morality plays, and farces from the English Medieval and Early Renaissance periods, which are sometimes combined with the Red Masquers.


Duquesne University

At the NCAA Division I level, Duquesne Dukes participate in varsity football, men’s and women’s basketball, bowling for women, men’s and women’s cross country, men’s and women’s soccer, swimming & diving for women, men’s and women’s tennis, men’s and women’s outdoor track & field, women’s indoor track & field, lacrosse for women, rowing for women, and volleyball for women. The teams are either a part of the Atlantic 10 Conference or the Northeast Conference (football and bowling). Recently, Duquesne football was a member of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference. Starting in the 2023-24 academic year, varsity women’s triathlon will be held at Duquesne and they will begin with varsity women’s golf and acrobatics and tumbling in 2024-25.

At Duquesne, there are two prominent club ice hockey teams that are part of the American Collegiate Hockey Association (ACHA) and are affiliated with College Hockey Mid-America (Division 1) and College Hockey East (Division 3).


Duquesne University

The coat of arms of Duquesne University was adapted from the emblem of the Marquis du Quesne. Father John F. Malloy, a Spiritan father and alumnus, designed the coat of arms and had it reviewed and partly altered by renowned ecclesiastical heraldic artist Pierre de Chaignon la Rose. The design was officially adopted in 1923 and used for the first time above Canevin Hall, which was still under construction. The arms were included in the university seal for the first time in 1926.

The heraldic blazon of the arms is described as follows: The shield is silver and features a black lion, with red claws and tongue, gripping a gold-trimmed book of the same color. The upper portion of the shield is divided in two parts: the left is blue and the right is the same color as the lion. On the left side is a white dove outlined in fourth color. The motto inscribed on the shield reads, “Spiritus est qui vivificat.”

Duquesne University Alma Mater

Joseph Carl Breil, a graduate of the class of 1888, achieved fame for crafting the first movie score. Additionally, Breil also composed the music for Duquesne University’s alma mater, with lyrics penned by Father John F. Malloy, the same individual who designed the university’s coat of arms. The first performance of the song took place in October 1920.

Our old friend Duquesne, beloved Alma Mater, has been guiding us throughout our younger days.

All your children and daughters combined are faithfully shouting out loud.

The part of our lives we spent at your side, drinking from the fountain of knowledge, will forever be kept in our minds, no matter where we go.

We wish for you to rule, unrivaled, over our hearts, for eternity.

Let’s march forward, our cherished Alma Mater, and hail thee, Duquesne!

Duquesne and Sustainability

Duquesne made history in Pennsylvania as the first university to be awarded the Energy Star Combined Heat and Power Award by the United States Environmental Protection Agency for its natural gas turbine located on campus. Additionally, Duquesne utilizes an ice cooling system to cool its buildings and decrease peak energy demand. The university’s Power Center facility also achieved a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Silver Rating. The Center for Environmental Research and Education (CERE) at Duquesne offers undergraduate and graduate courses in environmental science and management and was evaluated by the College Sustainability Report Card in 2009 and 2010.

Notable graduates of Duquesne University

Approximately 93,000 former students from Duquesne exist, and the Law School reveals that almost one third of lawyers in the western area of Pennsylvania are alums of the university.

Duquesne University has produced many notable alumni in the world of media and sports. These include sportswriter John Clayton, actor Tom Atkins, and television actor Terry McGovern. German filmmaker Werner Herzog attended the school but did not graduate. Sports personalities Leigh Bodden, Chip Ganassi, Mike James, baseball hall-of-famer Cumberland Posey, and Chuck Cooper, the first African-American to be drafted in the National Basketball Association, all graduated from Duquesne. Singer Bobby Vinton, Major League Baseball pitcher Joe Beimel, and big-band composer Sammy Nestico are among the school’s alumni as well. Norm Nixon, who holds the all-time assist record for the Duquesne Dukes, went on to play for the Los Angeles Lakers, while Indiana Pacers point guard T.J. McConnell spent two years playing for the Dukes. Pakistan’s Federal Minister of Finance and Revenue, Miftah Ismail, is also an alumnus of Duquesne.

Duquesne University has produced three Bishops and two Cardinals in the Roman Catholic Church, such as David Zubik, the current leader of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh; Vincent Leonard, former Bishop of Pittsburgh; David Bonnar, the Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Youngstown; and Cardinals Daniel DiNardo and Adam Maida. Notable figures in politics include Donald A. Bailey, Father James Cox, former Director of the CIA General Michael V. Hayden, former Lieutenant Governor of Pennsylvania Catherine Baker Knoll, U.S. Representative Bud Shuster, and United States ambassadors Thomas Patrick Melady and Dan Rooney. Additionally, Duquesne has quite a few alumni in the sciences, such as George Delahunty.

For more information about Duquesne, you can visit their website right here.


Scroll to Top