Loyola University New Orleans celebrates 100 years of Education, Service
The word came from on high — not from God, but from Archbishop James Blenk: New Orleans needed a Catholic university. New Orleans, where Catholics accounted for about 40 percent of the 339,000 residents, “is the place for it,” he declared in 1907, “and the fathers of the Society of Jesus are the men to develop it into final success.”
The Jesuits rose to the challenge, not only because the members of the Society of Jesus thrived on challenges but also because they had the basic elements in place.
They had established the College of the Immaculate Conception, a liberal-arts school, in 1849. In 1907, that school morphed into Loyola College, a high school and liberal arts college, on a tract across St. Charles Avenue from Audubon Park.
Acting on Blenk’s demand, a group of Jesuits, led by Jesuit Father Albert Biever, set to work transforming Loyola College into a multidisciplinary institution of higher education, complete with professional schools in fields such as dentistry and law.
Nearly five years later, on April 15, 1912, the Jesuits got their charter for Loyola University, which was envisioned as a school offering a broad-based education grounded in the Catholic faith and the Jesuit ideals of community service and social justice. Fr. Biever was its first president.
“Loyola has been nurturing the social and intellectual milieu of the community for the last 100 years,” said Jesuit Father Gregory Lucey, president of the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities.
That impact is especially potent when Loyola graduates move into positions of power, such as Xavier University President Norman Francis, former state Supreme Court Justice Pascal Calogero, former Mayor Moon Landrieu and Mayor Mitch Landrieu, Lucey said.
“It makes a difference in the culture of a community, the social awareness and good public policy of a community,” he said.
For Loyola’s president, Jesuit Father Kevin Wildes, the centennial represents “a chance for us to look back and celebrate, but also a chance to look forward, to understand who we are, where we’ve been and where we’re going. I think it’s pushed us back to be very mission-centric in terms of who we are and our planning.”
Read more about Loyola University New Orleans’ 100th anniversary plans in the article in The Times Picayune.