Sister M. Elise Kriss to Retire as President of the University of Saint Francis in June 2020

September 22, 2019

Sr M Elise Kriss

FORT WAYNE, Ind. – University of Saint Francis President Sister M. Elise Kriss, OSF, has announced she will conclude her presidency on June 30, 2020. She will complete her 27th year.

Sister Elise shared her retirement plan with the USF Board of Trustees on Wednesday.

“Since July 1993, I have been privileged to serve this wonderful university by working with the board, the campus community and the Fort Wayne community during an era of tremendous change and growth,” USF President Sister M. Elise Kriss said. “We have collaborated on projects both large and small. We’ve teamed to cultivate growth in our academic programs, in athletics and the arts, and in the addition of many new academic and related facilities that have strengthened the university, allowing it to meet the needs of today’s students. During this time, we have not only remained faithful, but we have deepened the impact of our Catholic and Franciscan mission and values.

“In my final year as president, I look forward to working with the board and the campus community to begin to implement the new strategic plan to set the best possible groundwork for the university and its future leadership. I also look forward to working with the entire campus community—board, faculty, staff, and students—on all the usual events of the upcoming academic year.”

Sister M. Angela Mellady, Provincial Superior of the Sisters of St. Francis of Perpetual Adoration, who sponsor the university, expressed her gratitude to Sister Elise for “her tireless efforts leading the university over these 27 years.”

Bill Niezer, USF Chairman of the Board of Trustees, praised Sister Elise for her vast contributions to the university.

“Sister Elise has provided tremendous leadership during her tenure as president,” Niezer said. “The contributions to the growth and success of the institution are truly amazing. She is always true to the mission of USF. Her influence upon the university will remain long after her retirement. It has been a privilege to have had the opportunity to work with her over the past years. Sister Elise will most certainly be missed by the entire university community.”

Among the highlights of President Sister M. Elise Kriss’ tenure at the University of Saint Francis:

  • The institution’s name was changed from Saint Francis College to the University of Saint Francis in 1998.
  • The number of programs offered increased to more than 70 undergraduate, graduate and doctoral programs, and enrollment more than doubled from 961 in 1993 to 2,199 in 2018.
  • USF acquired the Lutheran College of Health Professionals in 1998. Since that time, the USF School of Health Sciences has been a valuable training ground for area healthcare professionals.
  • USF experienced a tremendous growth in many areas, as endowment increased from $2,237,743 in 1993 to $34,054,011 in 2018, property and equipment increased from $10,405,621 in 1993 to $105,369,355 in 2018 and net assets increased from $6,775,030 in 1993 to $97,872,700 in 2018.
  • University fundraising efforts resulted in the construction and opening of many facilities, including Bishop D’Arcy Stadium, the Campus Ministry Center, Doermer Family Center for Health Science Education, the Mimi and Ian Rolland Art and Visual Communication Center, and Padua and Clare halls. Bonaventure Hall expanded to include the Pope John Paul II Center and the Lee and Jim Vann Library, and renovations to Brookside were completed.
  • Coach Kevin Donley was hired in 1997 to start the USF football program, the only college football program in Fort Wayne. The football team has been one of the most successful in the NAIA, winning national championships in 2016 and 2017. The Cougars have also won NAIA titles in men’s and women’s basketball.
  • Classes in Crown Point began at St. Anthony’s Medical Center in 2005 and Crown Point later opened its own facility in 2011. USF also increased its academic outreach to Lafayette and Indianapolis, as well as online.
  • Multiple land purchases were completed, including North Campus in 2008, expanding the size of the main campus.
  • The USF Downtown location opened in 2016. This new location houses the USF Robert Goldstine Performing Arts Center and the Music Technology program. The USF Business Center downtown includes the Keith Busse School of Business and Entrepreneurial Leadership in the restored Chamber of Commerce center.
  • Over the last two years, the university built and opened the St. Francis Chapel, the first free-standing chapel in university history; renovated and expanded Achatz Hall of Science and Research Center; and opened the Welcome Center in North Campus.
  • Sister Elise served on the boards of many local organizations, received the Sagamore of the Wabash award in 2016, and guided USF in building strong relationships with several local businesses, including Parkview Health, Lutheran Health, Ash Brokerage, Sweetwater, Fort Wayne Metals and STAR Bank. Sister Elise also worked closely with government leaders for economic growth and the growth of the arts.

The founding Congregation, the Sisters of St. Francis of Perpetual Adoration, is intent on continuing this important ministry of higher education in the name of the Catholic Church. The Provincial leadership, working closely with the USF Board of Trustees, will prayerfully appoint the next president, who will build upon the legacy of Sister Elise and all those Sisters who have served at the University of Saint Francis since its founding in 1890.

Media wishing to schedule an interview with USF President Sister M. Elise Kriss should contact Reggie Hayes at 260-399-7700, ext. 6413, or email

Founded in 1890 in the Catholic Franciscan tradition, the University of Saint Francis offers more than 70 undergraduate, graduate and doctoral programs through the School of Health Sciences, School of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Keith Busse School of Business and Entrepreneurial Leadership and School of Creative Arts. In addition to its traditional programs, USF designs focused curricula for working adults in Fort Wayne, Crown Point and online. USF Downtown houses the university’s business and music technology programs while offering enhanced internship and networking opportunities for students. The University of Saint Francis campus experience includes 18 athletic programs boasting two individual and four team NAIA national championships, and is recognized as an NAIA Five-Star Champion of Character institution. Approximately 2,200 students from a broad geographic region attend USF.