Fontbonne University takes its name from Mother St. John Fontbonne, who, in 1808 after the French Revolution, refounded the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph (CSJ). More than a century and a half before, in 1650, the Sisters of St. Joseph had been founded in DePuy, France. During the French Revolution, the sisters were forced to return to their homes and the community was dispersed. Some 28 years after the refounding, six Sisters of St. Joseph came to the United States in 1836 and established American roots at Carondelet, a small community in south St. Louis, Missouri. Five years later, in 1841, they opened St. Joseph’s Academy for girls.
The Sisters would eventually establish a college to provide access to higher education for women — a need in the early 20th century. Fontbonne College’s first classes were held in 1923 at Carondelet in South St. Louis, and then two years later, the school moved to its current Clayton campus.
The CSJ heritage of strength and stability stems from values found in the order’s original documents and repeated in other records through the succeeding centuries. At least eight values can be identified throughout this long CSJ history: quality, respect, diversity, community, justice, service, faith, and Catholic presence.
It is on the tradition of service and based on the values of the Congregation of St. Joseph that Fontbonne University was founded. Devotion to the tradition continues to move Fontbonne forward into the future.