What Does the Future Hold for Cabrini University?

Radnor's Cabrini University officially closed on June 30 and will transition ownership of its campus to Villanova University.

“Know that your home still exists,” Kylie Kelce told Cabrini University’s 2024 graduating class during her commencement speech on May 19.

Kelce, a 2017 alum who played on the women’s field hockey team, guided students through Cabrini’s emotional final commencement ceremony with words of reflection and reassurance.

The 112-acre Radnor campus that has been the home of Cabrini students since 1957 will assume a new identity this summer under the ownership of Villanova University. The two Main Line university campuses are just two-and-a-half miles apart.

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Cabrini’s closure on June 30 and the transition process following Villanova’s purchase will be a sudden change for sure, as the latter takes over Cabrini’s property.

 

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Cabrini President Helen Drinan and Villanova President Rev. Peter M. Donohue, OSA, PhD first announced the plans through a joint statement in June 2023.

According to the statement, Cabrini could not overcome “financial challenges stemming from declining enrollment, the pandemic and economic uncertainty” but would support its students by working with other small Christian colleges along the Main Line. Ursinus College, Holy Family University, Gwynedd Mercy University and Eastern University have committed to taking in former Cabrini students in fall 2024 as partner institutions. Cabrini also established three program partners in the region for specific academic areas.

Cabrini and Villanova, in addition to the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus who founded Cabrini, reached a final deal in November 2023.

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Villanova stated its intention to honor Cabrini’s legacy by keeping the same campus name, after Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini. In November, it also announced several related academic initiatives. The plans include establishing a center on immigration, incorporating the work of Cabrini’s Wolfington Center into Villanova programs for social change and continuing to fund the scholarship program with Cabrini High School in New Orleans.

“Villanova’s and Cabrini’s shared faith, common values and corresponding missions allowed for a strong alignment of two like-minded institutions,” Donohue observes.

Both Cabrini and Villanova University share the same Catholic faith. St. Thomas of Villanova Church is pictured here. Photo credit: Ben Silver

It is a time of significant upheaval at Villanova beyond the acquisition of a second campus. On June 4, the University announced a massive Campus Master Plan that Villanova will realize across the next 10 years. Ongoing projects include the recent completion of Drosdick Hall for the College of Engineering and the demolition of the current bookstore, which will be replaced with a new library, Vic Magitti Hall.

In the video accompanying the Campus Master Plan announcement, Donohue described the Cabrini Campus as a place to pursue “opportunity projects,” such as “possibilities for housing, recreation and dining, as well as new spaces to support programs within Villanova Athletics.”

On July 1, Villanova begins updates and renovations of Cabrini’s campus, which will close apart from the Upper Gulph entrance and the athletic facilities used for summer camps.

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“We anticipate that the infrastructure updates and renovations will take place over the next couple of years and reopen in fall 2026 at the earliest,” Donohue said in a university email statement on Monday, June 24. “While our current plan is to close the campus for two years, we will continue to monitor opportunities for access as work progresses.”

Villanova has not provided a definitive answer to some of the myriad questions encircling the transition process. For instance, the university has not clarified how it will make use of all campus facilities, such as athletic fields.

However, the Day Care/Children’s School will remain open at its current location in Wayne for two years before moving onto Cabrini’s former campus as part of the Villanova family once renovations are complete. Other specific community concerns are addressed on the official FAQ page.

“What has been an exciting and forward-looking year for the Villanova community has been an emotional and nostalgic year for the Cabrini community,” Donohue acknowledged in Monday’s statement. “We are honored and humbled to be the new stewards of the Cabrini legacy and its beautiful campus.”

Further decisions and announcements will continue across the next year.

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