The University of San Francisco, the city's first university, was established by the Jesuits in October 1855. USF’s founding president, Anthony Maraschi, S.J., arrived in San Francisco as an Italian immigrant in 1854. The next year, he borrowed $11,500 to build a Jesuit church and school on a few sand dunes on the south side of Market Street and proclaimed, “Here, in time, will be the heart of a great city.” Father Maraschi was right. Around the original site of USF, a dynamic, diverse, distinctive city has grown and thrives. And at each step of that city’s development, USF has provided leadership and service.

When the original college, known as St. Ignatius Academy, opened its doors to its first class, three students showed up—that number grew to 65 by 1858. The State of California granted the college a charter in 1859.

In 1880, the College moved to a new building on Van Ness Avenue in the Civic Center (currently the site of the Louise M. Davies Symphony Hall). After the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire, the college was relocated to a “temporary” quarters at Hayes and Shrader Streets, known as the “shirt factory,” and currently the location of one of the clinics of St. Mary’s Medical Center.

The Jesuits acquired a small strip of property at the corner of Fulton Street and Parker Avenue, and in 1914, they completed the current St. Ignatius Church at that site. By 1927, to accommodate the growing student population, a liberal arts building was built just to the east of the church, and the college moved to its present location.

In 1930, on the occasion of its Diamond Jubilee, and at the request of alumni groups, St. Ignatius College was renamed the University of San Francisco. In 1964, the university became fully co-educational, welcoming women to all programs. Lone Mountain was purchased by USF in 1978, extending the campus to 55 acres.