University Archives History

Learn About Our Laker History

Read about the history of Mercyhurst University, the University Archives, Sister Mary Lawrence Franklin, as well as the Thomas J. and Michele Ridge Collection.

Mercyhurst University

In 1926, the Sisters of Mercy in the Diocese of Erie founded Mercyhurst College on a hill overlooking Lake Erie. Leading the effort was Mother M. Borgia Egan, whose determination and supervision made the venture a success. The Sisters of Mercy believed strongly in the education and empowerment of women, and accordingly, Mercyhurst College was a women-only institution for its first several decades.

Since its founding nearly a century ago, Mercyhurst has undergone significant changes. From welcoming its first male students in 1969 to offering its first graduate program in 1978 to gaining university status in 2012, the institution has proven time and time again its ability not only to adapt to changing times but to put change in motion. Today, Mercyhurst enrolls approximately 3,000 undergraduate and graduate students, a far cry from its humble beginnings. Even so, Mercyhurst remains loyal to its roots in the Mercy tradition, keeping the Mercy Core Values at the heart of its mission.  

This webpage will continue to be updated as a more comprehensive account of the institutional history is developed.

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The University Archives

The Mercyhurst University History Department established the Archival Center in the 1971. The archives were originally housed in the Learning Resources Center. In its beginnings, the Archival Center collected and preserved material related to university, local, and regional history. In September 1995, the Archives Center was named for Sister Mary Lawrence Franklin R.S.M, Mercyhurst Archivist from 1980-1994, and the Archives’ focus has since shifted towards preserving primarily Mercyhurst institutional history. The archives is now held on the 3rd floor of Hammermill Library.

Sister Mary Lawrence Franklin

Sister Lawrence was born in Erie and was a graduate of Mercyhurst University. She taught at several elementary and secondary schools and served as the archivist for the Sisters of Mercy from 1986-1995. As a Sister of Mercy, she was active in the Mercy community and with several local volunteer organizations. A poet, Sister Lawrence had published five booklets of her work and authored From Eire to Erie, a history of the Erie Sisters of Mercy

Thomas J. and Michele Ridge Collection

The Thomas J. and Michele Ridge Collection at Mercyhurst University covers the timeline of their years in public service. Consisting primarily of documents, audiovisual material, photographs, and artifacts, the Ridge Collection includes Thomas Ridge’s services as the U.S. Congressman from Pennsylvania’s 21st district (1983-1995), and, more extensively, his two terms as the 43rd Governor of Pennsylvania (1995-2001). The Collection also includes Michele Ridge’s papers from her time as First Lady of Pennsylvania (1995-2001).

Governor and Mrs. Ridge’s papers incorporate subjects of research interest regarding Erie, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and national and international topics. These subjects range from welfare reform, education, the environment, Americans with Disabilities Act, and budget balancing. Of note, the Collection includes both Governor and Mrs. Ridge’s daily schedule and every speech given from 1995-2001, the September 11th terrorist attack, and the subsequent forming of the Office of Homeland Security, the predecessor to the Department of Homeland Security.

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