Fairfield University turns 75 this year, and today is being celebrated around town as Fairfield University Day! The ay will kick off with a Flag Raising & Employee Reception at the University flagpole at 11:30 for the raising of a 75th anniversary flag and a Mass at 12:10pm in Egan Chapel of Ignatius Loyola. Also, the Fairfield University Bookstore will hold a 75th Anniversary Open House from 3-5 pm with refreshments, snacks and activities.

The photo here shows Mailands, a 40-room mansion owned by the Jennings family in Fairfield. It was located on 76 of the finest acres in town. As the United States entered World War II, industry tycoon Oliver Gould Jennings put the estate up for purchase. The Society of Jesus purchased it for approximately $42,000 to establish their new school. In September of that year it was adapted for classroom use, blessed and renamed McAuliffe Hall in honor of Bishop Maurice McAuliffe of the Hartford Archdiocese. McAuliffe Hall is now one of Fairfield University’s signature structures.

In March, 1942, Rev. John J. McEleney, S.J., formerly Rector of the Shadowbrook novitiate in Massachusetts was given a new assignment: head of the soon-to-be-established Jesuit educational institution in Fairfield. It began as a boys’ preparatory high school originally called Fairfield College of St. Robert Bellarmine and grew into Fairfield University within a few years. Father McEleney is considered to be Fairfield University’s first president. In 1944 Rev. James H. Dolan, S.J. became the second rector and president of the college, and in 1947 the first class of 303 male students was admitted to the College of Arts & Sciences. More than one-third of those students were veterans of World War II.

Since that time, Fairfield University has grown from a commuter college to a prestigious university with more than 5,000 undergraduate and graduate students. Its rich history of academics, student activities, compassionate service to others and competitive athletics will be celebrated throughout 2017. A special exhibition will be held at the Fairfield Museum starting on May 11. The exhibition will include photographs, yearbooks, memorabilia and more.

As part of the 75th, students and others are being asked to consider committing to 75 hours of community service in 2017. The school’s website notes that “Fairfield University has a strong history of serving the community around us and there is no better way to celebrate our anniversary than giving back.” In addition, Fairfield University is holding an essay contest to find out “What does Fairfield University Mean to You?” Fairfield University is accepting essays, videos and artwork about how the university has impacted local students, alumni, faculty and community members spiritually, academically, socially and professionally. Six winning entries will be selected and each will receive a $250 award. The deadline is April 21.

The Fairfield Museum and History Center is located at 370 Beach Road. Learn more about the history and culture of Fairfield, view rotating exhibitions and purchase Fairfield-themed gifts at the Museum Shop. For more information visit Fairfieldhistory.org or call (203) 259-1598; Fairfieldhistory.org. Open daily, 10am to 4pm.