When it appeared as though Lone Mountain College would close in 1978, then-USF President John Lo Schiavo, S.J. saw an opportunity to help shape the university’s future. The purchase of the Lone Mountain property paved the way for a range of advancements at USF, including a larger student body and a wider variety of majors. Without Lone Mountain, USF wouldn’t be what it is today.
The year was 1978 and the University of San Francisco was hurting. Like colleges across the country, USF faced declining enrollment as the last of the Baby Boomers moved through their college years. Finances were tight. It was hardly the time to buy property.
Yet that’s precisely what then-President John Lo Schiavo, S.J. had in mind when it looked as though Lone Mountain College would close and its 23-acre property with panoramic views of the city would be for sale.
“I was bound and determined to not let this possibility pass us by,” said Fr. Lo Schiavo, now USF chancellor. “I didn’t want my successors 50 years from now to think, ‘Who was this jackass who passed up the opportunity to buy the most valuable piece of real estate in San Francisco?’”
That may be hyperbole, but it’s no exaggeration to say that the purchase of Lone Mountain was a defining moment of Fr. Lo Schiavo’s presidency and one of the most significant events in USF’s history. With the purchase, USF almost doubled its physical size and, most importantly, paved the way for other advancements.
Lone Mountain’s importance is clear from the moment prospective students set foot on USF’s campus. Admission tours begin on Lone Mountain, instantly stamping it as an integral—and postcard perfect—part of USF. “When students get up here, they say, ‘Oh my god, this is so cool. What a view you have,’” said BJ Johnson, vice provost and dean for academic and enrollment services.
But Lone Mountain’s importance extends far beyond its picturesque appearance. Since acquiring the property and the accompanying Spanish Gothic building, USF has made the campus its own, remodeling some existing dorm rooms into classrooms and offices, and transforming the building’s chapel into One Stop, the central location for key offices such as the registrar and financial aid. The university also extensively renovated the old Lone Mountain auditorium and turned it into offices for business and finance, and information technology services.