Welcome to Saint Joseph's University and to Barbelin Hall
By Carmen R. Croce ’71
Named for founder and first president, Felix J. Barbelin, S.J. (b. France 1808-69)
Dedicated November 13, 1927; Architect, Francis Ferdinand Durang; Builder, John McShain, ’22
When Saint Joseph’s College decided to separate from St. Joseph’s Prep in 1922 and to establish a new campus, it chose a site on the western edge of the City of Philadelphia, high above its historic center. By November 1927, in its 76th year, Saint Joseph’s achieved its longed-for goal of a Collegiate Gothic college on a hill with room to grow. After three moves in its brief history, the soaring 150-foot-high Barbelin Tower, reputed to mark the highest point in the city, served as a most distinguished exclamation point to the message that Saint Joseph’s had finally arrived.
In its first seventy-five years, Saint Joseph’s built and developed two other sites that included parish churches, and secondary and primary schools, a model typical of Jesuit educational institutions that sought to form its students from adolescence to adulthood and to benefit from a reliable income stream to underwrite tuition-free education. Thus, the new City Avenue campus was a significant departure from that traditional model and a leap of faith for Saint Joseph’s, absent the reliable financial support of a parish church and the reliable enrollment feed of an on-site secondary school. This reckoning with the realities of higher education in twentieth-century America also served to strengthen the urban mission strategy of the Jesuits, for as the city grew and expanded its borders outside the city center, so, too, did Saint Joseph’s, ever more prepared to bring Jesuit education to bear on the urban environment.
A brief overview of the mission strategies of three local universities undertaken by their founding religious communities offers interesting points of contrast and a nod to William Shakespeare.
Saint Joseph’s University was founded by the Jesuits in 1851.
About the founding order: The Society of Jesus (Jesuits) was founded in Paris in 1540 by St. Ignatius Loyola (1491-1556). He and his closest companions were graduates of the University of Paris, and, as products of the Renaissance which promoted man as the measure of all things, rejected the monastic life and located their apostolates in highly visible city locations where they taught, preached, and ministered in the context of urban culture.
Thus, the choice of the City Avenue site for Saint Joseph’s was no accident of real estate. Rather, it connected Philadelphia’s Jesuits more directly to the charism of the Society of Jesus and what some have called its “urban mission strategy,” that is, the “corporate” decision by the Society, from its founding, to site its institutions in major cities throughout the world to educate action-oriented Christian humanists: men prepared to transcend the abstractions of a classical education by transforming ideals into ideas and ideas into action.
Of course, the City Avenue site satisfied a number of practical needs like size, cost, and access to public transportation, but of far greater importance was a visible urban location for the Jesuits to dialogue with urban culture in order to change it for the better. This Saint Joseph’s did as it soldiered on to four different campus locations, all within the boundaries of the city of Philadelphia.
Villanova University was founded by the Augustinians in 1843.
About the founding order: The Order of St. Augustine (Augustinians) was founded in Tuscany (Italy) in 1244 to follow the Rule of St. Augustine of Hippo (354-430). Augustinian friars preached, taught, and established missions, but as mendicants living in monastic communities, the intellectual life of prayerful contemplatives connected more directly to the charism of the order. Augustinians saw the world as deeply flawed and threatening to Christians, in stark contrast to the Jesuits’ determination to find God in all things of this world.
Mindful of this, the Augustinians’ choice to found Villanova College on 197 acres of farmland in what was then a rural area about fifteen miles from the city of Philadelphia was apt. Far enough to protect students from the distractions of city life, Patrick Moriarty, O.S.A., fifth president of Villanova, said of the site at the time of its purchase: “. . . [the farm] affords a religious retreat to persons very often found in this country, who are anxious to retire from the world, and to give their services to religion in the character of the lay brothers of a monastic establishment.”
La Salle University was founded by the Christian Brothers in 1863.
About the founding order: The Institute of the Brothers of the Christian Schools (Christian Brothers) was founded in France by St. John-Baptist de La Salle (1651-1719) in 1680 to provide a basic and free education to poor Christian youth. This focus on improving the lives of the poorest youth prompted the decision to offer instruction in the vernacular — what use would Greek and Latin be to the poor, they reasoned. It followed, then, that the Christian Brothers would, like the Jesuits, found their schools in urban locations. This they did, and in Europe, the Jesuits provided classical education based on the study of Latin texts, often to the wealthy, while the Christian Brothers provided practical education in the vernacular to the poor.
Such distinctions were less relevant in nineteenth-century America, so the Christian Brothers began teaching Latin and Greek in their American schools despite the clearly-expressed charism of their founder. The Jesuits, not grateful for the competition, protested to the Vatican’s Propagation of the Faith and the Brothers were ordered to respect their charism and refrain from teaching Latin and Greek. Thus, it is easy to see how the charism of these two teaching orders and the so-called “Latin Question” would combine to chart divergent paths for LaSalle and Saint Joseph’s and determine locations for new campus sites for both institutions in the 1920’s.
To be clear, the charisms of these three communities of men continue to animate their respective institutions but not in the ways that they once did. Saint Joseph’s no longer follows a curriculum grounded in the Ratio Studiorum, Villanova no longer endeavors to isolate its students from worldly distraction, and LaSalle teaches Latin and Greek and is no longer tuition-free to poor students. These things notwithstanding, Saint Joseph’s, Villanova, and LaSalle continue to be shaped by the charisms of their founding religious orders; in fact, all three institutions are what and where they are today precisely because of those differing charisms.
The Jesuit charism, or mission, coincided perfectly with a grand plan envisioned by a group of wealthy Catholics from Overbrook and Bala Cynwyd in 1922 to develop City Line into an uber-Catholic community — a Catholic Main Line. The two wealthiest and largest parishes in the archdiocese, Our Lady of Lourdes in Overbrook and St. Matthias in Bala Cynwyd were already in place. Cardinal Dougherty was planning to erect what was projected to be the largest preparatory seminary in the world on what is now the campus of St. Charles Borromeo Seminary, just a few blocks from the proposed site of the New St. Joseph’s. Realization of that grand plan awaited a Jesuit college and a residence for the Cardinal Archbishop of the Philadelphia Archdiocese. With Cardinal Dougherty’s move from center city to his City Avenue residence (now Loyola Hall), in 1927; the dedication of the New Saint Joseph’s College on City Avenue, in 1927; and the dedication of the Preparatory Seminary, in 1928, the grand plan for the Catholic Main Line had been realized.
In the 1920s and ’30s, Collegiate Gothic was widely regarded as the ideal architectural style for colleges because it reflected an ancient and noble heritage that derived from the medieval English colleges of Oxford and Cambridge. The towers, quadrangles, battlements, gargoyles, neo-Gothic flourishes, and Latin inscriptions embodied permanence and elitism, as well as the monastic ideals of scholarship, faith, community, and introspection.
Indeed, Fr. Albert Brown, the president who initiated Saint Joseph’s building campaign, described his vision for the new collegiate Gothic building as “the architectural embodiment of a spiritual ideal.” But, ecclesiastical though the look may be, the Collegiate Gothic style was not particularly Catholic. What was Catholic, and particularly Jesuit about Barbelin Hall, were certain architectural and decorative embellishments, for example, the Shield of the House of Loyola, copied from the Loyola family castle in Spain and carved in limestone on the Barbelin Hall fire tower, the limestone heads of Jesuit college presidents in the Quad, and the stained-glass window medallions commemorating Jesuit saints, scholars, inventors, explorers, and dramatists.
Barbelin Hall’s Quadrangle is open on one side because a second Collegiate Gothic building was to have been built around a second quadrangle and joined to Barbelin Hall forming a more coherent complex surrounding two fully-enclosed quadrangles. The Great Depression (1929) derailed that plan as well as the original master plan for campus development. The Lonergan wing that extends from Barbelin Hall to the west along City Avenue was built in 1933 instead. Due to the Great Depression and to World War II, there would be no more construction on campus until the Alumni Memorial Fieldhouse was built in 1949. By then, the Collegiate Gothic style had fallen from favor as colleges looked to the future rather than the past to cope with the complex and unpredictable nature of higher education in the post-war era.
There was no going back: the dislocations wrought by the Great War changed America, its culture, its institutions, its economy, and its people. Confidence in the future, exuberance, and prosperity defined the decade known as the Roaring Twenties and found expression in mass-produced automobiles, talking pictures, jazz music, modern art, newspaper comic strips, and the cult of celebrity. But the penultimate event of the decade was Charles Lindbergh’s solo, non-stop flight from New York to Paris on May 21, 1927, an achievement that heralded and reinforced American determination, enterprise, and superiority throughout the world.
Saint Joseph’s expression of confidence in its own future, indeed its embrace of modernity, was expressed by its decision in 1922 to fully separate itself from Saint Joseph’s Preparatory School and to build a new campus on City Line Avenue on the border between the city of Philadelphia and its storied Main Line. The visuals told the tale: The new Saint Joseph’s, shorn of its nineteenth -century Second-Empire buildings and newly clothed in the fashionable Collegiate-Gothic style, was prepared to move beyond the religious and cultural separatism of the nineteenth century and embark upon a new era more in step with contemporary norms and practices in American higher education.
The dedication of the “New Saint Joseph’s” (Barbelin Hall) was a major success by any measure but positively astonishing in view of the institution’s modest profile at the time. Matthew L. Fortier, S.J., was the masterful planner behind both the fundraising efforts for the new campus and the dedication ceremonies.
The principal guest was Charles A. Lindbergh, the twenty-five-year-old hero of the age, who just six months earlier had electrified the world when he became the first person to fly alone and non-stop across the Atlantic Ocean in his single-engine airplane “The Spirit of St. Louis.” A crowd estimated at 10,000 gathered on the campus. The newspaper reported that at one point Lindbergh’s feet were actually off the ground as police forced him through the crowd to the safety of the Dean’s office to change for the ceremony. Also in attendance were British Ambassador, Sir Esme Howard; French Ambassador, Paul Claudel; and the ambassadors or ministers of Belgium, Chile, Argentina, Greece, Dominica, and Haiti. Ferdinand Foch, Marshall of France and Commander-in Chief of the Allied Armies during World War I, tentatively accepted an invitation extended from his friend, Fortier, but frail health prevented him from attending. Foch was a loyal and devoted friend of the Jesuits who had been educated at a Jesuit college.
Fortier’s choice of special guest speakers evokes the tension between tradition and modernism in the aftermath of WW I both for the nation and for Saint Joseph’s. Lindberg was the very embodiment of modernism at the time, while Paul Claudel, renowned French dramatist and devout Catholic, was a principal in the post-war Catholic revival in France. Claudel congratulated Saint Joseph’s on its new campus and thanked the Jesuits who were at that very time educating his son in France. Foch, had he been well enough to attend, would have tipped the scales in the direction of tradition for he was another conservative French Catholic who had, himself, been educated by the Jesuits. His brother was a Jesuit priest and Foch remained loyal to the Jesuits throughout his life.
Congratulatory messages were read at the luncheon that day from President Calvin Coolidge; Pope Pius XI; Vladimir Ledochowski, Superior General of the Jesuits; and General John Pershing, Commander of the American Expeditionary Force in France during World War I. Claudel also spoke, and upon finishing, the orchestra played “La Marseillaise,” the French national anthem. The crowd stood and sang along —a Hollywood-worthy scene if ever there was one.
And so, it seemed that Saint Joseph’s College had finally arrived, yet there was much to be done: those exalted public ceremonies disguised the fact that fewer than 200 students were enrolled at Saint Joseph’s at the time.
The Campus Master Plan
Emile G. Perrot (1872-1954) was the architect chosen to develop the first comprehensive master plan for the new campus site in 1922. Perrot’s plan included ten buildings, in addition to an athletic field, tennis courts, and a central campus green — all within the two-block area bound by City and Overbrook Avenues and 54th and 56th Streets. Among the buildings planned in addition to Barbelin Hall and a Jesuit faculty residence were Schools of Finance, Engineering, and Law, a Science Center, library, chapel, auditorium, and gymnasium. No provision for parking was made on the site, so, picturesque as Perrot’s plan was, it was a blessing that it was not followed. Twenty-two years were to pass before Perrot would undertake another project for Saint Joseph’s: the original Alumni Memorial Fieldhouse, completed in 1949.
Architect of Barbelin Hall
To the disappointment of Perrot, it was Francis Ferdinand Durang (1884-1966) who was chosen as the architect of Barbelin Hall. Durang was the son of Edwin Forrest Durang (1829-1911), whom Fr. Burchard Villiger had chosen as architect of The Church of the Gesù and the college buildings at 17th Street and Girard Avenue (currently the campus of SJ Prep). The Durangs, father and son, were the most accomplished Catholic architects in the area. Principally known for their ecclesiastical commissions, Durang buildings remain among the most beautiful and iconic in the city of Philadelphia.
Architect of the John E. Lonergan Addition to Barbelin Hall
To the disappointment of Francis Ferdinand Durang, it was Sigmund J. Laschenski (1891-1980) who was chosen as the architect of the John E. Lonergan wing of Barbelin Hall, completed in 1933. A few years before, in 1929, Laschenski had been commissioned to design an athletic stadium on the site of the current Sweeney (formerly Finnesey) Field. Saint Joseph’s may be the only institution in America to benefit from the Great Depression, for it dashed institutional dreams of Laschenski’s misbegotten stadium — a neo-Gothic carbuncle with a seating capacity of 70,000 at a time when Saint Joseph’s enrolled about 200 full-time students.
The son of Irish immigrants, John McShain (1898-1989) became one of the greatest building contractors in the United States. He was graduated from Saint Joseph’s College (lower form) in 1918 and is an honorary member of the class of 1922 (upper form.) John McShain was just twenty-seven years old when he was entrusted with the commission to build Barbelin Hall, the first building on this site and McShain’s first important project. Thus, he had much to prove, especially since the choice was opposed by Ignatius Horstmann, the college’s most distinguished trustee.
When Barbelin Hall with its 150’ high tower was completed in November 1927, it was celebrated as a landmark of the City of Philadelphia and significantly enhanced the profile and prospects of its architect, both personally and professionally. McShain’s triumph merited the admiration of Horstmann and his daughter, Mary, and so it was that McShain and Mary Horstmann were married that same year. Within four years, McShain won his first federal contract for the Naval Hospital in South Philadelphia. Two years later, he won the first of many important building commissions in our nation’s capital: the Jefferson Memorial (1939), the Pentagon (1941), Georgetown Hospital (1944), Dupont Circle (1945), the rebuilding of the White House (1948), the National Institutes of Health Hospital (1949), the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception (1954), and the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts (1965), among many others; thus, the well-deserved sobriquet, “The Man Who Built Washington.” Of these iconic commissions, none was as prestigious as the reconstruction of the White House under President Harry Trumann who moved to Blair House for the duration (1948-1952). The entire interior of the White House was gutted, millwork was carefully removed and later returned, sub-basements were dug, foundations were reinforced, and the Trumann Balcony was added.
The McShains’ interest and successes in horse racing brought them to Ireland several times a year through the 1950s and ‘60s, and in 1961, they purchased the Lakes of Killarney and Killarney House on the 25,000-acre property that Queen Elizabeth I had bestowed upon the Earl of Kenmare 400 years before. It was there that John McShain died in 1987.
At his funeral Mass at the Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul in Philadelphia, McShain was eulogized by his good friend, Fr. Michael Smith, after whom the Chapel of St. Joseph — Michael J. Smith, S.J., Memorial on the SJU campus is named. The theme of Smith’s homily was not scriptural but classical, based on a verse from the Latin poet, Horace, that McShain and Smith had studied as students of the Jesuits. The talk was entitled Exegi Monumentum Aeneus Perennius, meaning “I have built a monument more lasting than bronze” — and indeed he had, many times over.
John McShain’s philanthropic work was legendary in Catholic Philadelphia. His generosity to Saint Joseph’s University was foundational to the growth and development of the institution. In addition to Barbelin Hall, he is best remembered on campus for his support of the McShain Student Residence, The John McShain Chair in Ethics, and the John McShain Endowed Scholarship.
Gargoyles grouped on building facades are associated with the great cathedrals that typify the Gothic style constructed between the 12th and the 15th centuries. Their original purpose remains a mystery, but it is generally thought that gargoyles represent the fears and superstitions of medieval men. As life became more secure, the gargoyles became more comical and whimsical — and so they are at Saint Joseph’s University.
Grotesques, gargoyles, bosses, heraldic devices, inscriptions, and other carvings decorate the façade of Barbelin Hall. Most of the limestone carving was done anonymously but the name of Anthony Agunsday comes down to us as craftsman and foreman of the team of stone masons working on the building. A photograph in the university archives shows Agunsday in the Quadrangle carving a gargoyle (chimera) composed of fifteen parts of different animals. All of the carvings began the same way, as blocks of limestone cut to the right size, then set into their proper places on the façade. All were carved in situ. A 1926 photograph of the construction work in progress shows the words “carve, don’t chip,” as a caution to the stonemasons, printed on a limestone block from which a carving was to emerge.
Carvings on the Blocked Minor Tower
The Blocked Minor Tower at the main entrance to Barbelin Hall on City Avenue is decorated with four limestone carvings on its upper register: two facing City Avenue and two facing the Quadrangle. Among the gargoyles and carvings on the building, these four are unmistakable markers of the year of construction and windows into Saint Joseph’s new understanding of itself. Chosen as symbols of modernity, success, and leisure, not only did these carvings refer to the transformation of American culture in the early decades of the 20th century, they also signaled a radical new beginning for Saint Joseph’s College. Newly separated from the Prep and relocated to a new campus with contemporary science labs and plenty of room to grow, these witty carvings signaled the College’s readiness to accept the changing relationship of collegiate life to education in the first decades of the twentieth century.
The four carvings, taken together, are representative of the richness of American cultural life in the early years of the twentieth century, and most importantly, the power that culture exerted in shaping a truly diverse American experience that quickly spread across this vast land uniting it in ways that nothing else could have. Automobiles and the improved roads they required, the development of the motion picture industry, a taste for music rising from the African-American experience, the rise of modern art, and the spread of continuity comic strips all played significant roles in creating a common American experience in which nearly everyone could share and in which distance was no obstacle. The tide was turning; the best things were no longer to come from Europe.
The four carvings on the Minor Tower include, left to right:
- Andy Gump. The Gumps was a popular comic strip, running from 1917 until 1959, about a middle-class family led by Andy Gump, the bungling father of the clan. Gump had an impossibly long nose and no chin whatsoever. The Gumps symbolized American frivolity and launched a craze for continuity strips. National distribution of their hair-brained adventures signaled the rise of a widely accessible and popular cartoon culture.
- Pan. The Greek god of music, Pan, plays a saxophone symbolizing the Jazz Age. The movie, The Jazz Singer, starring Al Jolson, was the first true “talking picture.” Released in 1927, The Jazz Singer forever changed the motion picture industry and set the stage for the so-called “Golden Age of Hollywood” and the dissemination of American culture in theatres throughout the world.
- Modern Art. A human face is depicted reduced to its basic form and positioned over a detail of a classical architectural capital symbolizing the evolution of Modern Art from classical forms.
- The Joy Ride. Two students are depicted at the wheel of a car enjoying a hair-raising adventure that symbolizes the rise of the Automotive Age and machine-age ideals. Henry Ford’s Model A was unveiled in 1927, replacing the more basic Model T open touring car.
The Mischievous Student and the Watchful Professor
The Gothic arch at the main entrance to Barbelin Hall on City Avenue was carved with the inscription: Dominus custodiat introitum tuum et exitum tuum (May the Lord watch over thine entering in and thy going forth).
On the spring-line of that Gothic arch carved limestone reliefs are found of a professor and a student: on the left, “The Mischievous Student”; on the right, “The Watchful Professor.” On the cornerstone of the building, appropriately positioned just below the Watchful Professor, is inscribed the admonition: Conserva Eorum Istam Immaculatam in Aeternum (Preserve your house immaculate forever.)
The Courageous Lion
The Courageous Lion is the guardian of the Barbelin Quadrangle. He looks down from under the oriel bay at the top of the staircase in the northwest corner of the Quad. His eyes are human and wise, his wings are prominent symbols of divine mission.
Lions were accepted as symbols of power, fortitude, and justice even in ancient cultures and that trope was appropriated by Christian art, architecture, and literature. The medieval belief that lions slept with their eyes wide open caused Christian symbolists to conflate leonine perpetual watchfulness with Christ who appeared to have died on the cross yet remained all-seeing. Biblical descriptions of Solomon’s Throne of Justice resting on six steps guarded by twelve lions linked the animals symbolically to the concept of justice. The lion continues to the present as a metaphor for Christ through “The Chronicles of Narnia,” the mid-century series of seven novels by British author and poet, C. S. Lewis.
When Barbelin Hall was the only building on Saint Joseph’s campus and the Quad was the center of campus life, activities, and even commencement exercises, the Courageous Lion was particularly well positioned from his lofty lair to fulfill his role as admonitor and symbol of courage, justice, and fortitude — especially fortitude, for the courage he enjoins is not reckless but the fortitude to do the right thing no matter how difficult.
That was an important message for the Jesuits to impart to their students and the winged anthropomorphic lion with its medieval Christological associations was an apt vehicle to highlight the importance of steadfastness in the face of adversity and temptation. Central to Catholic moral theology and philosophy, fortitude, one of the four cardinal virtues, was recognized in Classical Antiquity in the thought and writings of Aristotle, Plato, and Cicero. Fr. John O’Malley, S.J., has posited that the Jesuits knew Cicero better than they knew the Bible, so committed were they to humanist education. A line from Cicero’s De officiis, often quoted by the Jesuits, highlights the ideal: “We are not born for ourselves alone,” thus relating learning to the life of virtue and public service advocated in the contemporary Jesuit mission to educate “Men and Women for Others.”
The Emblematic Tympanum
To the right of the main arched-entrance to Barbelin Hall is another entrance distinguished by an emblematic tympanum upon which are carved three shields featuring conventionalized symbols of Learning, Holiness, and Health on a background of intertwined grape and oak foliage. Learning is symbolized at left by the lamp of knowledge on a book; Holiness, by a Latin cross on a larger shield at center, and Health, by a baseball bat, basketball, football, tennis racket, and cricket bat, all interlocked. The grapes, oak leaves, and acorns are interpreted here as emblems of Christianity: grapes as symbols of the Eucharist; oak leaves and acorns as symbols of Christ, strength, and steadfastness, in that acorns develop only on mature trees.
These three emblematic components, taken together, symbolize the knowledge, Christian virtue, and physical well-being (Scientia, Sanctitas, Sanitas) that Saint Joseph’s University proposes for its sons and daughters, and, as such, are also emblazoned on one of the four flags that the university flies at City Avenue and Lapsley Lane.
The Biology and Chemistry Grotesques. On the north (City Avenue side) of the building flanking the east window group (2nd fl), within which the science departments were originally located, are found a carved limestone creature holding a frog and another creature holding a distilling tube representing the disciplines of biology and chemistry, respectively.
The Ex Libris Grotesques. Also on the north (City Avenue side) of the building but flanking the west neo-Gothic tracery-window (2nd fl) are found two literate grotesques, creatures reading books inscribed with the words Ex Libris (from the library). There was no mistaking the location of the library within.
The Agunsday Grotesque, so called because it is the only carving attributable to a particular stone mason. Anthony Agunsday, craftsman and foreman of the stone masons, was photographed putting the finishing touches on a grotesque, or chimera, said to be composed of parts of fifteen different animals. Such animals of no known species may have been symbols of the unpredictability and chaos of life. It is called a grotesque instead of a gargoyle because it was not meant to function as a decorative spout to carry water away from the building.
The Bat Gargoyle in the Barbelin Quadrangle is the only genuine gargoyle on the building in that it is the only creature designed to function as a spout to divert water from the building.
Heraldic Symbol of the House of Loyola. The east-facing fire tower of Barbelin Hall is inset with a limestone carving of two wolves and a kettle, the coat of arms of the House of Loyola, said to symbolize the hospitality of the House. The image derives from the original, inset into the portal of the Loyola castle in the Basque region of northern Spain. The wolves and kettle image is also included in the upper right quarter of the heraldic shield of Saint Joseph’s University and is also found in the shields of a number of other American Jesuit universities.
Heraldic Shield of Saint Joseph’s University. The Blocked Minor Tower (City Avenue side) features the full heraldic shield of the university. The shield is quartered, that is, divided into four parts by a cross. The upper left quarter displays seven bands representing the seven sons of the House of Loyola: St. Ignatius and his six brothers. The upper right depicts two wolves and a kettle, symbolizing the hospitality of the Loyola family. The lower left quarter features a lily, an iconographic attribute of St. Joseph, the patron of the university. The lower right quarter features the letters “IHS,” the first three letters of the name of Jesus in Greek, the monogram of the Society of Jesus.
The class of 1943 was fast-tracked, due to the war, and was graduated in February as the Class of 1943A. Alas, that class was particularly hard hit having lost twelve men — nearly one-fourth the total number of Saint Joseph’s men who died in all of World War II. As a memorial to those heroic alumni, their classmates, families, and friends erected the statue of Our Lady of Grace in the Barbelin Quadrangle in October, 1947.
The devotion to Our Lady of Grace derives from the apparitions of Mary to St. Catherine Laboure (France, 1830) in what have come to be called the Miraculous Medal Apparitions. Rays of light shone from Mary’s outstretched hands in two of those apparitions to symbolize the graces she obtains for those who ask for them. It is this image of Mary as Our Lady of Grace that appears on the Miraculous Medals, one of the most recognized symbols of material Christianity in the 19th and 20th centuries.
The statue of Mary as Our Lady of Grace was given pride of place in the Barbelin Quadrangle in the aftermath of World War II. Its placement, just below the stone rostrum or pulpit from which the president addressed the assembled student body, positioned it at the very heart of the institution. Our Lady of Grace quickly came to define the space. Seventy years later, it is perhaps, difficult to appreciate the significance of that gesture until it is remembered that Barbelin Hall was the only building on the Saint Joseph’s campus at that time and literally all collegiate activities happened within its embrace. Thus, it is appropriate that the stones of Barbelin Hall, witness to the collegiate lives of the heroes of the Class of 1943A, should forever harbor a memorial to their sacrifice.
Commencement exercises were held in the Quadrangle from 1928 through 1948. The president of the university presided from the natural rostrum on the elevated landing. For that final commencement in the Quad, the president was positioned just behind the statue of Our Lady of Grace with the plinth bearing the memorialized names of the Class of 1943A, installed seven months before. This visual and its evocative association with Saint Joseph’s heroic alumni, would have made a powerful impression upon an audience with vivid memories of the dislocations of war.
Students of the late-1940s and early-1950s thought the Quadrangle a special place and had vivid memories of the “Living Rosary” staged there each May by the Sodality. Students framed the outline of a rosary by forming a line that looped around the statue of Our Lady of Grace and the rostrum. Each student, representing one rosary bead, said a “Hail Mary” in turn.
Founded and Nurtured by Emigres
Seven Jesuits served as presidents of Saint Joseph’s in the nineteenth century, five of them were foreign- born (Barbelin, Ryder, Villiger, Dooley, and Gillespie); two sought refuge in America from religious and political oppression (Barbelin and Villiger) — not uncommon statistics for Jesuit colleges in America during the period. In fact, the Jesuit educational network in America was founded on the backs of a cadre of extraordinary Jesuits emigres, including nearly one fourth of the Jesuits in the Maryland Province. Of the twenty-five founding presidents of Jesuit colleges in the nineteenth century, all but two were born outside the United States.
The Limestone Presidential Busts
Eight of the most accomplished of the thirteen Jesuit presidents who served Saint Joseph’s between 1851 and 1927 are memorialized with sculpted busts integrated into the north and east cornices of the Quadrangle.
The omission from this group of Charles W. Lyons, S.J., president from 1909-14, is curious as his portfolio is stronger than some of those who were chosen for distinction. In 1912, he opened the first “wireless” telegraphy station in Philadelphia, allowing Saint Joseph’s to claim to have had the earliest radio station in the city. The college baseball team also distinguished itself that same year, when, in an exhibition game held in April 1912, Saint Joseph’s defeated the then-world-champion Philadelphia Athletics by a score of 8 to 7 at Shibe Park. The following year, 1913, the college erected a large new Jesuit faculty residence at the corner of 18th and Thompson Streets. After leaving Saint Joseph’s, Fr. Lyons served as president of Boston College (1914-19) and president of Georgetown University (1924-28).
These portraits in limestone are well sculpted; all of the men are easily recognizable, their physiognomies having been modeled on period photographs. But their images serve more than a mere commemorative function, for like all public art, they are meant to make legends credible, to model modes of being and behavior, and to record specific events and evoke convictions more permanent. When the Quadrangle was the center of campus life, the Jesuit Eight bore stolid witness to the daily drama of life at Saint Joseph’s. In the Society of Jesus, those who hold authority are assigned an admonitor, whose task it is to represent the Jesuit community and counsel the superior should his leadership prove problematic. The presence of those limestone busts of distinguished former presidents would also have served as silent admonitors to Saint Joseph’s Jesuit administrators.
Felix J. Barbelin, S.J., Founder, first (1851-56) and fourth (1860-68) president
Barbelin’s image is found in the Quadrangle, first position on the east cornice in a group of three with Walsh and Gillespie.
He wears a surplice, a preaching stole, and a biretta on his head.
Felix Joseph Barbelin was born in Luneville, France in 1808 and died in Philadelphia in 1869. He served as prefect of studies at the minor seminary at Pont-a-Mousson, France, until the Revolution of 1830 closed the seminaries and Barbelin was conscripted to serve in the army. Armed with a passport and documentation of his education, he fled to the port of Le Havre, France — gendarmes in hot pursuit. He arrived in New York on December 21, 1830. Ordained at Georgetown College in 1832, Barbelin was sent to Philadelphia two years later. He was granted citizenship on November 20, 1840 and spent the rest of his life at Old St. Joseph’s Church in Willing’s Alley.
Barbelin was an indefatigable organizer and charismatic pastor whose vision of parish life was based on European models of piety and Ignatian models of service and justice. In addition to founding Saint Joseph’s College in 1851, he pioneered a number of other educational initiatives: a parochial school, academy for young girls, a night school for adults, and English-language lessons for Acadian refugees, among them. He welcomed the Acadian refugee, African-American, and Italian immigrant communities to Old St. Joseph’s and sponsored their activities in the parish hall. The rush of Irish immigrants at the nearby docks along the Delaware River prompted Barbelin to organize the Society for the Relief of Irish Immigrants in 1848. The next year he established St. Joseph’s Hospital on Girard Avenue in North Philadelphia.
Barbelin was a well-known and respected figure in the city of Philadelphia. He was close friends with the banker Francis A. Drexel and presided at his marriage to Emma Bouvier at Saint Joseph’s Church in 1860, Drexel’s first wife having died shortly after giving birth to their daughter, Katherine, later to become St. Katherine Drexel. The Bouviers were parishioners at Saint Joseph’s, and, like Barbelin, were of French descent. Emma’s father, Michael Bouvier, was the paternal great-great grandfather of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.
Full of historic and interesting events though Barbelin’s life was, nothing could have prepared him for what awaited on July 17, 1856, for that was the day of the Great Train Wreck of 1856, the deadliest railroad catastrophe in the world, to that point in time. St. Michael’s parish had organized an excursion to Fort Washington for the children of the parish and their parents. Special trains were chartered with two departures scheduled for the crowd of 1200. As the first train rounded the curve, it crashed head-on at high speed into the regular service train. Both trains were smashed to pieces and the wreckage of the St. Michael cars caught fire immediately. The blaze could be seen for miles. A crowd rushed to the scene ripping shutters from houses along the way to carry the dead and injured children away. In all, sixty-five were killed and hundreds injured. Directing the rescue effort was Mary Ambler, an elderly Quaker woman who lived nearby. Ambler’s home was used as a temporary hospital, and for her service, the railroad company changed the name of the station from Wissahickon to Ambler in 1869, one year after Ambler’s death.
Coincidence also placed nearby both Barbelin, the outgoing president of Saint Joseph’s College, and Patrick E. Moriarty, O.S.A., former president of Villanova College. The two priests rushed to the scene to anoint the injured and the dead. In a letter to his brother in France, Barbelin wrote: “Never shall I forget the heart-rending scene which presented itself — the cars heaped together in a burning mass, from which persons were trying to extricate burned and partially consumed bodies.”
Barbelin’s life and accomplishments are memorialized at Old St. Joseph’s Church, Saint Joseph’s Prep, and Saint Joseph’s University.
James A. Ryder, S.J., second president (1856-57)
Ryder’s image is found in the Quadrangle, first position in the northwest corner of the cornice in a group of four with Dooley, Ward, and Villiger.
He wears a shirt with an upright collar and a bow tie.
Ryder dressed as a gentleman and was referred to as “Dr. Ryder” during the period, because when hostility turned to violence during the anti-nativist, anti-Catholic Know-Nothing movement of the 1840s and 50s, Charles Stonestreet, Jesuit provincial of the Maryland Province, 1852-58, forbade his Jesuits to wear clerical garb in public. Ryder had good reason to be cautious since he had been twice stoned in the streets of Washington, D.C. during his two terms as president of Georgetown University (1840-45 and 1848-51).
James Ryder (1800-1860) was born in Dublin, Ireland, and brought to the United States as a young boy by his widowed mother. He entered the Society of Jesus after two years at Georgetown. Ryder and two others, of the most promising Jesuit scholastics were sent to Rome for training in the 1820s. Ryder, thought to be the most brilliant of that trio, was appointed to teach theology and sacred Scripture at the University of Spoleto after his ordination in 1824. Ryder returned to America in 1829 and was appointed president of Georgetown in 1840.
By then, considered to be one of the foremost Catholic orators in the country, his talks in Washington and Georgetown attracted hundreds, including members of the administration and Congress. He developed a warm relationship with President John Tyler who became a regular participant in Georgetown’s commencement exercises during Ryder’s tenure. Tyler’s son attended Georgetown and Tyler’s sister became a convert to Catholicism in those years. President James Buchanan often attended Ryder’s sermons and took private instruction in Catholicism from him.
Ryder left Georgetown in 1845 to assume the presidency of the College of the Holy Cross. Three years later, he returned to Washington for a second term as president of Georgetown. There, he was an able if severe administrator. He was an ardent temperance advocate and banned consumption of alcohol by students both on and off campus. By 1845 Ryder had extended the ban to the Jesuits as well which won him no friends. Smoking also became a forbidden practice under Ryder at a time when students were not easily controlled.
As a scholastic, Stonestreet was compelled to maintain authority in his classroom at Georgetown with his fists. Once after besting a defiant student at the cost of a black eye and ruined habit, Stonestreet protested to President Ryder that he had not entered the Society of Jesus to become a prize-fighter. “Why, man,” replied Ryder, “you got the better of him — what more do you want?”
Ryder’s first act in his second term (1848-51) was to commit Georgetown to build a new church to be called “Trinity” on college property, completed in 1852. In 1849, he established Georgetown Medical School.
Ryder spent only one year (1856-57) as president of Saint Joseph’s. Failing health and bad luck prevented him from making a lasting contribution. His opening initiative was to negotiate the move of Saint Joseph’s from Willing’s Alley to the St. John’s school building at Juniper and Filbert Streets including the transfer of St. John’s Church (the pro-Cathedral) to the Jesuits. Ryder was installed in the parish house by September 1856. Alas, Ryder’s initiative proved unviable in the long term for reasons embedded in the complex relationship between Saint Joseph’s and the archdiocese.
James A. Ward, S.J., third president (1857-60)
Ward’s image is found on the cornice of the northwest corner of the Quadrangle in a group of four with Ryder, Dooley, and Villiger.
He wears clerical garb and a biretta on his head.
James Ward was born in Philadelphia in 1813. He was ordained a priest of the Society of Jesus in 1843 at Georgetown, where he eventually died in 1895. Ward served as the dean of discipline and vice rector at Georgetown until 1850. He did not suffer rebellious students gladly, and, to his chagrin, collegiate rebels were particularly problematic at Georgetown and many other American colleges during the period. Above all, Ward was a teacher and a scholar. Trained as a classicist, he taught in a number of disciplines at Loyola College, Baltimore, the College of the Holy Cross, and Georgetown.
Throughout the 1850s, the American Jesuits were preoccupied with the Know-Nothing movement and its anti-immigrant and anti-Catholic agenda. In 1854, a Know-Nothing crowd tarred and feathered John Bapst, a Swiss Jesuit, who had come to America with Villiger. The Jesuits were keenly aware of that episode when, in that same year, they were charged with electing the next provincial of the Maryland Province. The Italians endorsed Angelo Paresce, the Germans backed Villiger, and the Americans favored one of their own, Philadelphia-born James A. Ward.
Ward told Superior General, Peter Beckx, S.J., that he should keep the Know-Nothing threat in mind when making his choice. An imprudent appointment could “lead to worse things” in the “particularly dangerous . . . present state of this republic.” Paresce and Villiger were sensible and “well versed in our rules,” Ward advised, “but they are not Americans, nor are they well acquainted with the American spirit.” Nevertheless, Villiger, a well-acculturated Swiss, got the job.” Neapolitan, Angelo Paresce succeeded Villiger as provincial in 1859. The European Jesuits had endured far worse treatment in their homelands and were not easily influenced by American provincialism and intimidation.
Saint Joseph’s was struggling in 1857, when Ward arrived as president; enrollment was down, debt was up, and discipline was flagging. His predecessor, Ryder, was not well enough to accomplish much except to negotiate transfer of the college to St. John’s at Juniper and Filbert Streets.
Ward restored discipline and academic standards; he reconstructed the course of studies in the college in accordance with the strict requirements of the Jesuit Ratio Studiorum. Philosophy having been added to the curriculum, students were now eligible to earn the baccalaureate degree. And, it was during Ward’s presidency that the first baccalaureate degree was conferred on July 8, 1858. As Ward’s tenure came to a close, St. John’s Church and school were returned to the archdiocese and Saint Joseph’s returned to Willing’s Alley.
Burchard J. Villiger, S.J., fifth president (1868-93)
Villiger’s image is found on the cornice of the northwest corner of the Quadrangle in a group of four with Ryder, Dooley, and Ward.
A native of Switzerland (b. 1819), Burchard Villiger was a scholastic studying theology at Fribourg in 1847 when the Swiss Diet expelled the Society from the republic. He escaped from Fribourg with a companion and proceeded to the United States in 1848 with 40 other Jesuits under orders from his Jesuit superiors. By the end of his life, Villiger had undertaken or overseen important building projects at Santa Clara College, St. Ignatius College (now University of San Francisco), Boston College, Gonzaga College (Prep), and, of course, Saint Joseph’s College. He had been provincial of the Maryland Province of the Society of Jesus, Superior of the Jesuit Mission in California, and Rector of Woodstock College, widely acclaimed as the academic flagship of the Society of Jesus in America.
But in 1851, Villiger was a young newly ordained Swiss exile missioned to Saint Joseph’s College in Philadelphia. As Prefect of Studies (Dean), he shared the stage with founding president, Fr. Felix Barbelin, on the morning of September 15, 1851 to welcome the first students of Philadelphia’s new Jesuit college. He stayed only one year before moving on to some of the assignments mentioned above, but here, unknown to him, the greatest work of his life awaited.
Upon his return to Philadelphia in 1868 as fifth president of Saint Joseph’s, it was clear to Villiger that the future of the institution depended upon better facilities than Old St. Joseph’s in Willing’s Alley would allow. Thus, he immediately undertook construction of a new campus and parish church on a plot of land in North Philadelphia, off Girard Avenue that had been purchased by Barbelin.
After twenty long years of construction, Saint Joseph’s College moved to its new campus building anchored by the magnificent Church of the Gesu which the Jesuits described as “pure Roman” in style. By this they meant a building endowed with baroque architectural references, a cavernous nave, dedicated side chapels, altars decorated with paintings and sculpture, and an ample collection of relics of the saints. At last, Saint Joseph’s had been properly “Romanized” in the grand tradition of its European Jesuit forebearers. Villiger’s bold strategy, “to show yourself to the world and strike their senses with a decent appearance,” had successfully rebuilt and invigorated Santa Clara College and it did the same for Saint Joseph’s College. Thus, Villiger left an indelible mark on both the East and West coasts and is lauded as the second founder of both Jesuit universities today.
Fr. Villiger’s final illness was reported on the front page of the New York Times on November 3, 1902, as was his death in Philadelphia shortly thereafter. One hundred priests attended the funeral Mass on November 5, 1902, at Villiger’s beloved Church of the Gesu; fifty-five policemen managed the crowd.
Patrick J. Dooley, S.J., sixth president (1893-96)
Dooley’s image is found on the cornice of the northwest corner of the Quadrangle in a group of four between Ryder and Ward.
Born County Mayo, Ireland, in 1853, Patrick Dooley came to Saint Joseph’s as Prefect of Studies (Dean) in 1889. At that time, Saint Joseph’s, like other Jesuit institutions that followed the Ratio Studiorum, offered a seven-year program of high school and college — tuition free.
His arrival date in 1889 was fortuitous for Dooley who served four years as dean to the first class accepted to Villiger’s new campus in North Philadelphia. He then served three years as president until ill health forced his resignation. And so it was that Dooley had the distinction of being the first Saint Joseph’s president to guide a class through an entire seven-year program of studies to commencement. Of course, the entire college would have delighted in that graduating class of seven men in 1896, since there had been none other since 1858. The alumni association was founded that June.
Patrick Dooley would have been a refreshing change on the heels of his dour and assertive predecessors: James Ryder, James Ward, and Burchard Villiger. As a tongue-in-cheek chronicler of early Woodstock College, Dooley wrote that “Emilio De Augustinis shunned the dangerous gift of originality in theology, for originality bordered too closely on the precipice of heresy to suit his mind.” And, “In reverence for what he perceived as Catholic tradition, [Fr. Camillus] Mazzella set a commanding example. A big man, physically and intellectually, the lordly Neapolitan looked like a tower of orthodoxy,” Dooley said, “always following in the footsteps of approved leaders.”
Dooley had always been a humble, self-effacing man. At the celebration of his Golden Jubilee in the Society, the Rector addressed Dooley in a few words of congratulation and asked him to tell his own feelings of fifty years to those assembled. “Fr. Dooley arose, and after joyful applause, gratefully thanked us for our kindness, and wittily likened us to little boys who were throwing stones at a helpless frog. ‘The boys, he said, ‘enjoyed it, but the frog was ill at ease.’ Such were his feelings at being the object of so many compliments.”
William F. Clark, S.J., seventh president (1896-1900)
Clark’s image is found alone on the east cornice of the Quadrangle.
He is the only president depicted wearing eye glasses.
Described in his 1947 obituary as “by nature a forthright person, somewhat fiery in temperament, courageous in his convictions and resolute in the extreme,” is probably an accurate characterization of the man who acquired the nickname “Daddy Clark” while a seminarian at Woodstock. We also learn from his obituary in Woodstock Letters that Clark had a “horror of taxis” and, indeed, of all automobiles as did so many people of his generation.
Born at Smithtown, Long Island, in 1856, Clark earned a well-deserved reputation as a distinguished classicist and scholar who taught at Georgetown from 1882 to 1887. He was appointed President of Saint Joseph’s in 1896, and, in a break with tradition, served as his own Prefect of Studies (Dean), a title he held subsequently at Xavier (NY), Holy Cross, Canisius, and Brooklyn Colleges. Clark was the first to be appointed Prefect of Studies for the entire Maryland Province (Assistant Provincial for Higher Education), a position eventually instituted throughout the American Assistancy.
At Saint Joseph’s, Clark built the remarkable Second Empire “college building” in 1899 on the corner of 17th and Stiles Streets (destroyed by fire, January 1966) that served as an architectural balance to the Church of the Gesu at the 18th Street end of the block. Construction of that building was the lynchpin in the plan to separate the high school from the college. Enrollment in that year nearly doubled to 280 students in the college division. Among his other achievements, Clark founded the Dramatic Society in 1897 and the Debating Society in 1897.
Cornelius Gillespie, S.J., eighth (1900-1907) and tenth (1908-1909) president
Gillespie’s image is found on the east cornice of the Quadrangle in a group of three with Barbelin and Walsh.
Cornelius Gillespie was born in County Donegal, Ireland, on September 12, 1851 (just three days before the opening day of Saint Joseph’s College). He emigrated to Philadelphia at age sixteen. Although Saint Joseph’s was officially closed while the new campus in North Philadelphia was under construction, Gillespie was accepted and studied under Patrick Jordan, S.J., for six years. Since Gillespie’s time at Saint Joseph’s prepared him to enter the novitiate at Frederick, Maryland in 1873, he is considered the first alumnus of Saint Joseph’s to serve as president. Ordained in 1887, Gillespie spent two years at Georgetown.
Gillespie was appointed President of Saint Joseph’s on August 20, 1900. His term at an end, he left Philadelphia in September 1907, and returned as tenth President on June 16, 1908, due to the untimely death of ninth president, Denis T. O’Sullivan, S.J., that same year. Alas, Gillespie’s own poor health forced him to hand over the reins to Charles Lyons, S.J., on July 9, 1909.
In his eight years as president, Cornelius Gillespie accomplished a great deal, among his initiatives are the following:
- The Cadet Battalion (founded 1892) was more fully developed in 1900. A drillmaster was detailed to the Corp by the War Department in 1901.
- The year 1901 was celebrated as the Fiftieth Anniversary Year of Saint Joseph’s. It was a source of great joy given the difficulties of so many of those years. Honorary degrees were conferred upon ten men, some of whom had been among the first students entering in 1851. Also in that year, the first College Annual was issued.
- Courses for the high school program were listed separately for the first time in 1901-1902. This program was given the name “St. Joseph’s Preparatory School” about 1904.
- Beginning with the school year of 1902, Saint Joseph’s ceased to be a “free college.” The growth of the student body, the increase in debt for the construction of the new building, and the renovation of the old made it clear that free tuition could no longer be sustained. Tuition was set at $100 per year.
- The debating and dramatic societies also flourished during Gillespie’s presidency. At least seven productions were staged during his tenure, at least one of these in Latin and one in Greek. Each year the French and German classes also produced plays.
- The first varsity athletics program was established in 1909.
Gillespie, “Neil” to his family and friends, was by all accounts a warm and jovial man. He brought his considerable financial acumen to bear throughout his tenure and left Saint Joseph’s in much better shape at the time of his death, in February 1910, than he found it.
An interesting postscript to the story of Fr. Cornelius Gillespie (eighth and tenth president) is that it seems likely that he and Fr. C. Kevin Gillespie (twenty-seventh president) are distant cousins, both with family roots in County Donegal, Ireland. They are the only two alumni of Saint Joseph’s to serve as presidents of their alma mater.
Redmond J. Walsh, S.J., thirteenth president (1917-20)
Walsh’s image is found on the east cornice of the Quadrangle in a group of three with Barbelin and Gillespie.
Redmond J. Walsh, S.J., was born in New York City on March 30, 1875, and received his early education at the College of St. Francis Xavier (now Xavier High School) in Manhattan. He studied philosophy at Woodstock and taught classics and mathematics at Boston College for the next five years. Ordained at Woodstock in 1906, he returned to Boston College as Prefect of Studies (Dean). He was appointed chair of philosophy at Brooklyn College, newly founded by the Jesuits and now closed (1908-21). In 1917, Fr. Walsh was transferred to Philadelphia and assumed the presidency of Saint Joseph’s, a position he held until his health failed. He died on January 20, 1921, and was buried at St. Andrew-on-Hudson.
The principal accomplishment of Walsh’s presidency at Saint Joseph’s was connected to the government’s preparations for World War I. Early in 1918, the War Department asked that a quota of Saint Joseph’s students be detailed to the Special Officers’ Training Camp at Plattsburg, New York. At the same time, Washington made Saint Joseph’s a government military school for the duration of the war. It established here a Students’ Army Training Corp (or S.A.T.C.), the only training facility of its kind at a Catholic College in Philadelphia. Five hundred applications were received but only 121 could be accepted. The usual curriculum of classical and philosophical studies was suspended and war courses were instituted under the direction of an army officer with the cooperation of the college faculty. The new “War College” opened on September 30. The Department of War took over almost every classroom on the SJC campus significantly increasing enrollment and revenue — albeit for a very brief time until the armistice was signed in November of 1918. By the time of the armistice, 240 current students and another roughly 500 alumni had served in the military. Fourteen died in service.
Twenty-one of the first-floor windows in Barbelin Hall are inset with stained-glass medallions that represent and honor saints, scholars, inventors, explorers, and dramatists who were Jesuit priests, educated by the Jesuits, or connected to the Society of Jesus in a significant way.
Cornelius a’Lapide, S.J. (1567-1637), was a Flemish Jesuit and biblical exegete.
Francisco Suárez, S.J. (1548-1617), was a Spanish philosopher and theologian.
St. Robert Bellarmine, S.J. (1542-1621), was a renowned theologian and Doctor of the Church.
Pope Benedict XIV (1740-58), was described by Montesquieu (d. 1755) as “the scholar’s pope.” Among the many accomplishments of his pontificate, he:
- Promulgated the papal bull "Immensa Pastorum Principis" against the enslavement of the indigenous peoples of the Americas and other countries.
- Published improved edition of the Index of Forbidden Books in 1758, prescribing fairer and more scholarly standards of inclusion.
- Expanded the Vatican Library and brought distinguished scholars to catalogue manuscripts and arrange archives.
- Protected the Jesuit editors of the Acta Sanctorum whose rigorous investigation of the legends of the saints was causing offense to reactionary critics.
- Was the first pope to make use of the encyclical letter as a favored form for teaching.
Ascetics and Litterateurs
Joannes Bollandus, S.J. (1596-1665), was the founder of the now-famous school of hagiographical studies and responsible for the initiative to publish the Imago primi saeculi (1640), the nonpareil emblem book to celebrate the centennial of the founding of the Society of Jesus. Bollandus compiled the Acta Sanctorum, a collection of the lives of Christian saints, and was founder of the Bollandists, who continue to research, edit and publish the Acta.
Alonzo Rodriguez, S.J. (1526-1616), was the author of The Practice of Perfection and Christian Virtues, a book that stresses the importance of the ascetic life in Christian spirituality.
Robert Southwell, S.J. (1561-95), was a Jesuit poet and martyr of England.
Torquato Tasso (1544-95) is considered by some to be the greatest Italian poet of the Renaissance. He was educated by the Jesuits in Naples.
Pierre Corneille (1606-84), was a French poet and dramatist, known as the Father of French Tragic Theatre. He was educated by the Jesuits at the College de Bourbon (Lycée Pierre-Corneille since 1873).
Molière (1622-73), was a French play wright and master of comedy, educated by the Jesuits at the College de Clermont.
Noted Scientists of the 17th century: Jesuit Students of Renown
Athanasius Kircher, S.J. (1602-80), “the Man Who Knew Everything,” was a German Jesuit polymath, inventor, museologist, and scholar who established at the Jesuit’s Collegio Romano, one of the world’s first museums to be open to the public.
Galileo Galilei (1564-1642), was an Italian astronomer and pioneer of modern science. He was not educated by the Jesuits but he had the steadfast support of the Jesuit, Christopher Clavius, and the other scientists at the Collegio Romano — for a time. That support was critical for Galileo. It is acknowledged that Galileo was given and relied to a great extent upon lecture notes of those Jesuits at the Collegio. Alas, though Jesuit scientists accepted Galileo’s observations, his telescopic observations that the Earth revolves around the Sun posed a serious threat to the natural philosophy of Aristotle, and therefore, to Church doctrine. Thus, Galileo was silenced by the Church with the assent of Cardinal Bellarmine — a Jesuit. Pope St. John Paul II issued an apology to Galileo on October 31, 1992, acknowledging that Church theologians in 1633 had not recognized the formal distinction between the Bible and its interpretation. [Note: Though the presence of the Galileo medallion is noted in descriptions of the construction of Barbelin Hall, it has been missing from the window since the 1950s.]
Christopher Clavius, S.J. (1538-1612), was an astronomer and mathematical genius who founded the world-renowned school of mathematics at the Jesuit’s Roman College. He is perhaps best known for reformation of the calendar under Pope Gregory XIII — thus, Pope Gregory became the eponym of the Gregorian calendar.
Giovanni Domenico Cassini (1625-1712), was an Italian-born French astronomer who was educated by the Jesuits at Genoa.
Don John of Austria (1547-78), was half-brother to Philip II of Spain. His paternal family, the Habsburgs, were benefactors of the Jesuits. Don John is best known for his naval victory at the Battle of Lepanto in 1571 against the Ottoman Empire. The cult of Our Lady of Victory owes its origin to the victory at Lepanto, for Pope Pius V instituted the feast day of Our Lady of the Rosary to commemorate the intercession of Our Lady of Victory on that day in 1571. The victory was celebrated in the poem Lepanto by G.K. Chesterton in 1911.
Marshal Ferdinand Foch (1851-1929), was the Supreme Commander of the Allied Armies during WW I. He was educated at the Jesuit College at Saint-Etienne.
Frederick William von Steuben (1730-94), was a German officer who served the cause of American Independence by converting the revolutionary army into a disciplined fighting force. He trained the troops at Valley Forge and wrote the “blue book” for the American army entitled “Regulations for the Order and Discipline of Troops of the United States.” Von Steuben was educated by the Jesuits in Prussia (Neisse and Breslau).
Pierre-Jean de Smet, S.J. (1801-73), was a pioneer and missionary among the North American Indians. He explored much of the Northwest at the request of the U.S. Government.
Jacques Marquette, S.J. (1637-75), was a French Jesuit missionary who traveled down the Mississippi River and reported the first accurate data on its course. He and Louis Jolliet were the first Europeans to see and map the northern portion of the Mississippi River.
Paolo Segneri, S.J. (1624-94), was a Jesuit orator who reformed the art of pulpit oratory.
Jacques-Benigne Bossuet (1627-1704), who was educated by the Jesuits at Dijon, became a French bishop and court preacher to Louis XIV of France. He was known as the “Voice of France in the Age of Louis XIV.”
Louis Bourdaloue, S.J. (1632-1704), was a renowned orator who preached at the court of Versailles during the reign of Louis XIV. Known as “King of preachers and preacher of kings,” Voltaire favored Bourdaloue’s sermons over those of Bossuet for the simplicity of his style.
It is likely that fewer than 1,000 students were accepted to Saint Joseph’s College from 1851 through 1899, in part due to the closure of the college while the North Philadelphia campus was under construction. Although some faculty remained and some students continued to be enrolled for private instruction, these students were actually graduated from Georgetown or Fordham. Retention rates throughout the entire period were very poor for reasons embedded in the vicissitudes of daily life in nineteenth-century America. In fact, fewer than twenty students completed the prescribed seven-year program of studies leading to the Bachelor of Arts degree. Given those modest numbers, it is remarkable that so many of the earliest Saint Joseph’s students and/or alumni achieved distinction. Some of these are mentioned below:
Constantine Lippe ’58. Lippe was the only student from the first class (1851) who completed the seven- year program of studies, and thus, the first Saint Joseph’s alumnus. Son of Adolphus Lippe, one of the best known homeopathic physicians of his day; Constantine, too, became a physician of renown in Philadelphia.
Joseph McKenna (1851 to 1855). McKenna did not complete his education at Saint Joseph’s because his family relocated to California. He was elected four times to the U.S. Congress and was appointed Attorney General of the United States by President McKinley in 1897. The next year, McKinley appointed him an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court, where he served with distinction from 1898 to 1925.
Robert O’Reilly (entered 1851). O’Reilly was one of the consulting physicians at President James Garfield’s death bed in the aftermath of an assassin’s bullet. Alas, it is now thought that Garfield might have survived his wounds had it not been for his physicians’ attentions. O’Reilly was also physician in ordinary to President Grover Cleveland who managed to survive his physicians’ care.
Anthony A. Hirst (entered 1852). It is unclear if Hirst was graduated from Saint Joseph’s but he continued on to Georgetown where he earned master’s and law degrees. Said to be Georgetown’s most loyal alumnus, Hirst was a member of the Board of Regents. In 1902, he donated the Hirst Library and Reading Room and said at the time: “Forty-two years ago I entered this College [GU]; thirty-eight years ago I left it, and the verdict of these thirty-eight years proves to me that education from the hands of the Jesuit Fathers is a priceless legacy, a jewel that will shine with increased brilliancy in the years that are to come.” Hirst was one of Philadelphia’s most eminent attorneys. He was counselor to successive bishops of the archdiocese. He was also president of the Bryn Mawr Trust Co. Hirst maintained his friendship with Barbelin; in fact, Barbelin was a dinner guest at Hirst’s home on July 17, 1856, the evening of the Great Train Wreck at Wissahickon Station. Together, they rushed to the scene of the disaster to attend to the injured and dying.
Dr. John H. Mullen (entered 1854). Mullen was a physician who was graduated from Thomas Jefferson Medical College in 1867. Three years before he had served in the Union army and fought in the Battle of Gettysburg.
John Gregory Bourke, (entered ca. 1856 and left, 1859). Bourke, Captain in the United States Army, is said to have studied and mastered Latin, Greek, and Gaelic as a young boy — the Latin and Greek, no doubt, acquired at Saint Joseph’s. He joined the Fifteenth Pennsylvania Cavalry at age sixteen claiming to be nineteen. Considered a scholar-soldier, Bourke, a career officer in the U.S. Army, won fame as an ethnologist for his pioneering studies of Native Americans. He kept voluminous diaries of his experiences among Native Americans from 1872 to 1896 in the West. The 124-volume Bourke diaries are maintained at West Point. John Gregory Bourke was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for Gallantry at the Battle of Stone River, Tennessee in 1863. He is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
Ignatius F. Horstmann (entered 1857). Horstmann was an outstanding member of the American Catholic hierarchy. He completed his studies in Rome and went on to a professorship at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary where he taught philosophy, German, and Hebrew. In 1885, he was appointed Chancellor of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. Six years later, Horstmann was appointed Bishop of Cleveland by Pope Leo XIII and consecrated in 1892.
Henry Joseph Thouron (entered 1851). Thouron was a graduate of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. He was a well-known figurative artist and teacher of composition (drawing) at the PAFA from 1893 to 1903. He planned a mural cycle for PAFA’s auditorium that was executed by his students, John Sloan and William Glackens, among others. In 1902, he endowed two Henry Thouron Prize Awards for PAFA students that are still awarded today. Thouron sent from Rome the bronze sculptures that fill the niches on the façade of the Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul. He also painted two large murals for the Cathedral. Henry Thouron died in 1915 at the Hotel Eden in Rome, then as now, one of the city’s finest hotels. John McLure Hamilton, another well-known artist and Thouron’s colleague at PAFA, memorialized Thouron thusly in his book entitled Men I Have Painted: “. . . indeed, his life was one long devotion, either to his faith, . . . or to the service of those whom he could, with his abundant talents, minister.”
Samuel P. Town ’62 was descended from a distinguished Philadelphia family. His great- grandfather, the Rev. John W. G. Neveling was chaplain to George Washington’s army. Town enlisted in the Union army in 1864 joining the 20th Pennsylvania Calvary. A Colonel in the Grand Army of the Republic, Town served as a member of the Select Council of the City of Philadelphia and the Pennsylvania State Legislature.
Cornelius Gillespie, S.J., (entered ca. 1867). Gillespie served twice as president of Saint Joseph’s, 1900-1907, and then for one year, 1908-09, upon the untimely death of his successor in 1908. Gillespie studied at Saint Joseph’s for six years until 1873 when he entered the Jesuit novitiate at Frederick, Maryland. He was ordained at Georgetown. Gillespie is considered Saint Joseph’s first alumnus to serve as president of his alma mater.
Daniel James Gercke, ’95. After Gercke’s early education at Saint Joseph’s, he entered St. Charles Borromeo Seminary and was ordained in 1901. He was named Rector of Philadelphia’s Cathedral of SS. Peter and Paul in 1919 by Archbishop Dougherty with whom he had worked in the Philippines. Gercke was appointed Bishop of Tucson, Arizona in 1923 by Pope Pius XI. On the day he retired, after thirty-seven years at Tucson, he was named Titular Archbishop of Cotyaeum by Pope John XXXIII.
John J. Sullivan, ’96 (entered 1889). Sullivan studied business law and was graduated from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School in 1904, where he gained a full professorship in 1916. He was also vice president of the Market Street National Bank. President Calvin Coolidge appointed him to the U.S. Indian Commission in 1925. After his death, Sullivan Hall Student Residence on the Lower Merion side of Saint Joseph’s campus was named in his honor. In addition to a bequest to Saint Joseph’s, Sullivan left the bulk of his millions to the “Indian and Negro Missions of the United States.”
James V. Crowne, ’96 (entered 1889). James V. Crowne, along with John J. Sullivan, were two students from the 1896 class of seven who were the first to be enrolled and graduated from the new Saint Joseph’s campus off Girard Avenue in North Philadelphia. Crowne was elected a Fellow in English Literature at the University of Pennsylvania. After completing M.A. and Ph.D. degrees at Penn, Crowne was appointed Professor of English Literature at City College of New York.
Coleman Nevils, S.J., ’97. Coleman Nevils served as president of Georgetown University from 1928 to 1935 and as president of the University of Scranton from 1942 to 1947. Nevils was the first Jesuit president of Scranton and was therefore tasked with transforming the institution from a Christian Brothers to a Jesuit school. Nevils also founded Scranton Preparatory School.
James A. Newlin (entered 1854). Newlin was a prominent Philadelphia attorney, having been admitted to the bar at nineteen years of age by a special act of the Pennsylvania legislature. At age twenty-three, he was appointed Deputy Attorney-General of Pennsylvania. Just three years later, Newlin was elected a member of the State Constitutional Convention of 1872. The constitution of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania was ratified the next year and effected in 1874. Newlin also published a book entitled Proposed Indian Policy in 1881. He died in Germantown in 1914.
John Timothy McNicholas, ’97 (entered 1889). McNicholas joined the Dominicans in 1894. He was ordained in 1901 and sent to Rome as professor of theology and canon law at the Angelicum University. In July, 1918, McNicholas was appointed Bishop of Duluth, Minnesota. In July, 1925, he was appointed Archbishop of Cincinnati by Pope Pius XI.
It was suggested at the beginning of this study that a great leap of faith was required in the 1920s for the Jesuits to separate the Saint Joseph’s College from the Prep and the Church of the Gesù, and to undertake the purchase of a new property upon which to build a campus in the grand Collegiate Gothic style. This, at a time when fewer than 200 students were enrolled in the undergraduate program.
Yes, the Jesuits were a self-confident lot, but undergirding that great leap of faith were the storied lives of those extraordinary students from the earliest years of the college: the physicians, educators, jurists, politicians, scholar-soldiers, artists, lawyers, and leaders of the American Catholic hierarchy. Their contributions to society, to the faith, and to the nation were reason enough for continued confidence in Saint Joseph’s. Ninety years hence, that confidence continues to be justified by the thousands of alumni — men and women educated for others, as the Jesuits would have it —that Saint Joseph’s has sent forth into the world.
*Note on North Philadelphia campus street identification: Throughout this study, the Saint Joseph’s campus is located on Girard Avenue rather than on Stiles Street, in a nod to those who do not know the history of the property. When the property was acquired on which Saint Joseph’s College, Prep, and Church of the Gesu were built, the official street boundaries were Stiles Street between 17th and 18th Streets. At the time, Stiles Street was one block north of Girard Avenue. When the residential houses fronting on Girard Avenue between 17th and 18th Streets were built, Saint Joseph’s campus was partially hidden behind them. When they were razed, the Prep acquired that block and was able to build the new Prep building upon it in the wake of the fire of 1966.
* Note on building nomenclature: Barbelin Hall did not acquire its name until 1960, having been known simply as “the College,” “College Hall,” or the “Administration Building” from the date of its completion in 1927. Since it was the only administrative and classroom building on campus until Bellarmine Hall was built in 1959, College Hall had no particular need to distinguish itself by name. Two wartime barracks acquired after WW II for temporary use after the G.I. Bill of Rights, and situated at the bottom of the hill on land now occupied by the Mandeville Hall Parking Lot, were called Barbelin and Villiger Halls from 1946 to their demolition in 1960, allowing the “Barbelin Hall” designation to be shifted to the old “College Hall” building.
Francis F. Burch, S.J., American National Biography Online, American Council of Learned Societies and published by Oxford University Press, 2007.
David H. Burton and Frank Gerrity, Saint Joseph’s College: A Family Portrait, 1851-1976 (Philadelphia: Saint Joseph’s College Press, 1976).
Louis Charbonneau-Lassay, The Bestiary of Christ (New York: Parabola Books, 1991).
James F. Connelly, ed., The History of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia (Wynnewood: St. Charles Seminary, 1976).
David R. Contosta, Saint Joseph’s: Philadelphia’s Jesuit University, 150 Years (Philadelphia: Saint Joseph’s University Press, 2000).
David R. Contosta, Villanova University, 1842-1992: American, Catholic, Augustinian (University Park: Penn State University Press, 1995).
Robert Emmett Curran, S.J., The Bicentennial History of Georgetown University: From Academy to University, 1789-1889, Vol. 1 (Washington, D.C.: Georgetown University Press, 1993).
Jean M. Farnsworth, Carmen R. Croce, and Joseph F. Chorpenning, O.S.F.S., eds., Stained Glass in Catholic Philadelphia (Philadelphia: Saint Joseph’s University Press, 2002).
James J. Gormley, S.J., St. Joseph’s Preparatory School: A History, 1851-1976 (Philadelphia: St. Joseph’s Preparatory School, 1976).
The Hawk, Student Newspaper of Saint Joseph’s University
Thomas A. Lucas, S.J., Landmarking: City, Church & Jesuit Urban Strategy (Chicago: Loyola Press, 1997).
Matthew McDevitt, Joseph McKenna, Associate Justice of the United States (Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 1946).
William C. McFadden, ed., Georgetown at Two Hundred: Faculty Reflections on the University’s Future (Washington, D.C.: Georgetown University Press, 1990).
Gerald McKevitt, S.J., Brokers of Culture, Italian Jesuits in the American West, 1848-1919 (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2007).
Coleman Nevils, S.J., Miniatures of Georgetown, 1634 to 1934: Tercentennial Causeries (Washington, D.C.: Georgetown University Press, 1934).
John P. Rossi, Living the Promise: A 150th Anniversary History of La Salle (Philadelphia: La Salle University, 2013).
The Saint Joseph’s University Archives
Charles J. Shindo, 1927 and the Rise of Modern America (Kansas: University Press of Kansas: 2010).
Francis X. Talbot, S.J., Jesuit Education in Philadelphia: Saint Joseph’s College, 1851-1926 (Philadelphia: Saint Joseph’s College, 1927).
The Urban Archives at Temple University
The Dorothy and Kenneth Woodcock Archives at The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts
Woodstock Letters (Woodstock: Woodstock College Press). Woodstock Letters, published by the Society of Jesus from 1872 until 1969, featured news and essays on the Jesuits and their activities in the Americas.