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Fairfield University is a private Jesuit university in Fairfield, Connecticut. It was founded by the Jesuits in 1942. In 2017, the university had about 4,100 full-time undergraduate students and 1,100 graduate students, including full-time and part-time students.

The school offers bachelor's degrees, master's degrees, and doctoral degrees through its five schools and colleges: the Fairfield University College of Arts and Sciences, the Charles F. Dolan School of Business, the School of Engineering, the Marion Peckham Egan School of Nursing and Health Studies, and the Graduate School of Education and Allied Professions.

In 1941, Rev. James H. Dolan, S.J., Provincial for the New England Province of the Society of Jesus, received written permission from Bishop Maurice F. McAuliffe of the Hartford Archdiocese to establish a Jesuit high school and college in the southwestern area of Connecticut. Fairfield University was officially founded in 1942 when the Jesuits acquired the two contiguous estates of the Brewster Jennings and Walter Lashar families. Upon its founding, it became the 26th Jesuit college/university in the United States.

In the same year, Rev. James H. Dolan, S.J. appointed the Rev. John J. McEleney, S.J. as the first President of the "Fairfield University of Saint Robert Bellarmine, S.J." and Vicar of the Fairfield College Preparatory School. In 1944, the Rev. James H. Dolan, S.J. himself, became the second President. During his tenure, the State of Connecticut chartered Fairfield University to grant degrees in 1945. In 1947, the College of Arts and Sciences admitted its first class of 303 male students. The State of Connecticut accredited the College of Arts and Sciences and the university held its first summer session of undergraduate courses in 1949.

In 1970, Fairfield became co-educational, admitting its first undergraduate class of women. In the same year, the School of Nursing, which is now part of the Marion Peckham Egan School of Nursing and Health Studies was formed, offering four year undergraduate programs.

The 1971 Supreme Court case Tilton vs. Richardson established an important legal precedent concerning the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment and government financial assistance to religious-based colleges and universities. This landmark court case questioned the legality of Fairfield and three other Connecticut religious-based institutions securing federal construction grants under the Higher Education Facilities Act of 1963. An appeal by the plaintiffs was denied by the Supreme Court on June 28, 1971, ensuring Fairfield a significant amount of federal money which contributed to the construction of the Nyselius Library (1968) and Bannow Science Center (1971).

In 1978, the School of Business, now known as the Dolan School of Business, was established, as a separate and standalone school. Prior to this the Department of Business was part of the College of Arts and Sciences. At the same time, the school began offering its first graduate business degree program, a Master of Science in Financial Management.

Aloysius P. Kelley, S.J. was installed as the school's seventh president in 1979. He would become Fairfield's longest serving leader, presiding over the school for 25 years. During his tenure, the relatively young school enjoyed a period of expansive growth. This period saw the construction of dozens of new campus buildings, the addition of multiple new undergraduate and graduate degree programs, and an increase the institution's endowment from under $2 million in 1979 to $131 million by 2003.

Under Kelley, the School of Engineering was formed after the acquisition of Bridgeport Engineering Institute in August 1994, offering both undergraduate and graduate degree programs. The university was accepted as a member institution into Phi Beta Kappa in 1995.

In 2004, Jeffrey P. von Arx, S.J. became the eighth president of the university, having served as an administrator at fellow Jesuit institutions in Georgetown University and Fordham University prior. That year von Arx launched the capital campaign, "Our Promise: The Campaign for Fairfield University," which raised a then record of $137.9 million. The capital raised resulted in the construction and renovation of seven buildings, the creation of four new academic chairs, and the significant increase in the university's endowment. In October 2006, the school opened the Aloysius P. Kelley. S.J. Center, named in honor of its longtime president. The building in the center of campus is an environmentally friendly welcoming center and administrative center.

After a twelve-year tenure, von Arx announced he would be leaving his position in 2016. A national search for his replacement followed, and on July 1, 2017, the school announced the appointment of Mark R. Nemec, who became the first lay president in the history of the university. Prior to Fairfield, Nemec was the Dean of the Graham School of Continuing Liberal and Professional Studies at the University of Chicago.

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