St. Louis University

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Founded in 1818, a coeducational institution in midtown St. Louis, Mo. operated by the Society of Jesus (see jesuits), the first university west of the Mississippi River and the second oldest Jesuit university in the United States.

History. The university's beginnings date from 1818, three years before Missouri became a state, and when St. Louis was a pioneer settlement of some 3,000 people. At this time Louis William dubourg, Bishop of Louisiana, opened St. Louis Academy under the direction of the Rev. Francis Niel and three other diocesan priests on the St. Louis Cathedral staff.

The academy began with French-speaking classes in a one-story stone house, which later became St. Louis College. It held its first classes in the fall of 1820 in a new two-story brick building beside the cathedral. The growing school soon overtaxed the secular clergy's limited time for ministerial duties, and steps were taken to transfer the administration to the Society of Jesus.

In 1823 at the suggestion of John C. Calhoun, Secretary of War, DuBourg offered the society a farm near Florissant, Mo., for a school for Native Americans, and additional property in the city for the building of a college. Although unable to furnish a college faculty, the Maryland provincial authorized a band of two Belgian Jesuits, seven scholastics, and three lay brothers to set out for Missouri in April 1823.

The group, under the leadership of Charles Felix van quickenborne, included Peter J. verhaegen, who later became the first president of Saint Louis University, and Pierre Jean de smet, the first treasurer of the university. They arrived in late spring at the farm 17 miles northwest of St. Louis, and there opened their school for native boys the following year. While negotiations continued for the society's adoption of St. Louis College, a teacher shortage forced the institution to suspend operations at the end of the 182627 session. For want of better schools, prominent St. Louis families enrolled their sons in the Jesuits' "Indian seminary" at Florissant. Among these students was Charles Pierre Chouteau, great grandson of Pierre Laclède, the founder of St. Louis. When the Jesuits agreed to staff the college, ground was broken in the autumn of 1828 for a three-story building on a city lot donated for a Catholic college. During construction, classes were conducted at Florissant. On Nov. 2, 1829, the college was formally reopened in St. Louis. Within a few weeks enrollment numbered 150 students. On Dec. 28, 1832, the institution became St. Louis University when Gov. Daniel Dunklin signed the charter granted by the general assembly of Missouri. That year also marked the founding of the graduate school. Degrees were first conferred by the university at commencement ceremonies two years later.

Shortly after the opening of the school of divinity in 1834, Verhaegen and a committee from the St. Louis Medical Society discussed the establishment of a medical school at the university. A medical faculty was appointed in 1836 and classes were started in 1842. Among the first professors were Daniel Brainard, later founder of Rush Medical College, Chicago; Moses L. Linton, founder of the nation's first medical monthly publication, the St. Louis Medical and Surgical Journal; and Dr. Charles Alexander Pope, later president of the American Medical Association. Although the medical school's reputation brought in students from cities throughout the West, the Know-Nothing movement in 1854 posed a threat to the school (see know-nothingism). University authorities and the medical school faculty agreed in 1855 to sever their connection as a matter of prudence. In addition to Know-Nothing persecution, the university suffered through war and pestilence during its first 50 years. Among the crises it weathered was the city's raging cholera epidemic of 1849, which left the student body and faculty unharmed. The student sodality subsequently placed a silver crown on a statue of the Virgin as they had vowed to do if protected from the plague.

Problems created by the Civil War included the state and Federal draft laws, from which all the Jesuits were exempted, and the Drake Constitution of 1865, which required a "no-Southern sympathies" oath of clergymen and teachers, and a heavy tax on schools. The Supreme Court declared the oath null and void in 1867 and the city remitted the tax, which had amounted to an annual $10,000 for the university. In 1888 the University moved to its present midtown site, which had been purchased in 1867.

A hundred years later, in 1967, the university moved toward adopting and implementing a lay board of trustees, the first Catholic institution to do so. Paul C. reinert, S.J., the university's 27th president, was a driving force behind this movement. He believed that lay boards were necessary for U.S. Catholic colleges and universities to survive and flourish in the contemporary world, a position that was later accepted in U.S. Catholic academic circles.

In 1987, Lawrence Biondi became president of St. Louis University. Under his leadership, the university experienced unprecedented growth. Biondi upgraded and modernized the university buildings and revitalized the surrounding campus environment. He committed vast resources to academics, student scholarships and financial aid, faculty research and technology. Financial exigencies however necessitated the sale of the university hospital to Tenet Healthcare in 1997, a decision that generated controversy between the university and the archdiocese.

Schools. Expansion of the university's academic programs continued at the turn of the century. In 1889, the school of philosophy was founded. Ten years later, the school of divinity, closed since 1860, was reopened. The school of divinity became a pontifical institute with the right to grant canonical degrees in 1934. In 1903, acquisition of the Marion-Sims-Beaumont College of Medicine, with its St. Louis College of Dentistry, brought medical education back to the university and marked the beginning of the university's school of dentistry. Five years later, law studies were added to the university's curriculum. In 1910, the university's school of commerce and finance (later renamed the John Cook School of Business) became one of the first collegiate schools of business in the West. Radio station WEW, which subsequently became a commercial station, received the second broadcasting station license in the U.S. in 1912, and became the first university station in the world.

Geophysics was pioneered by the university with the establishment of the department in 1925, under the direction of James B. macelwane, SJ. The department, which grew out of a geophysics laboratory set up in 1909, was the forerunner of the Institute of Technology, founded in 1944. In 1928, the school of nursing and health services was established, followed by the school of social service in 1933 and the Institute of Social Order in 1944. Parks College of Aeronautical Technology, founded in 1927 as the first federally approved aviation school in the country, became part of the university since 1946.

Libraries. Established in 1959, the Pius XII Memorial Library houses the university archives and the Vatican Film Library, which made Vatican documents available on microfilm for the first time in the western hemisphere. Official permission for the microfilm undertaking was granted by the Holy See on Oct. 23, 1950 with work beginning in 1951. The Vatican collection has been a primary source of information on the history of Western thought since Pope nicholas v founded the library in the 15th century. Manuscripts range in age from the 5th to the 19th centuries and many are copies of earlier works.

Other important collections housed in the library include a rare-book section especially rich in early Western Americana, the archives of the Missouri province of the Society of Jesus, the St. Louis archdiocesan archives, and the Jesuitica Americana with more than 1,000,000 micro-filmed pages dealing with the work of the Jesuits in the New World. Largely as a result of the latter, a branch of the Jesuit Historical Institute outside of Rome was established at the university. The university's Omer Poos Law Library, is one of the few law school libraries in the United States to be part of the Library of Congress National Cooperative Cataloging Project. In 2001, the university's libraries held more than 1.7 million volumes and more than 14,72 total journals.

Academics. The university boasts several firsts. It was the first to award medical and doctoral degrees west of the Mississippi (1839 and 1883 respectively), and it trained the first African-American surgeons in St. Louis (1919). It also developed the first department of geophysics in the western hemisphere (1925). Parks College of Engineering and Aviation was the first federally licensed school of aviation (1927). Alphonse Schwitalla, S.J, dean of the school of medicine from 1927 to 1948, was the first Catholic priest to serve as president of the North Central Association of Colleges and Universities. In 1944, the university admitted five African Americans to become America's first integrated school of any level in the South. The university was the site for the first human heart transplant in Missouri (1972), and it established Missouri's first medical helicopter (1979) and the state's first school of public health (1991). Faculty members have won various distinctions and awards. Among the most outstanding was the 1944 Nobel Prize in medicine given to Dr. Edward A. Doisy, director of the biochemistry department, for his work in isolating vitamin K.

St. Louis University was among the earliest American colleges and universities to offer its students an opportunity to study abroad when it expanded its "campus" across the Atlantic Ocean by opening a college program in Madrid, Spain, in 1969. This program initially was offered in conjunction with the Jesuit university of Comillas, Spain. When the Jesuit university moved in 1972 to a new suburban location, the St. Louis University program became independent and remained in Madrid near the University of Madrid campus. Spain's higher education authority has recognized the university in Madrid as an official foreign university, the first U.S. institution ever so recognized.

[p. c. reinert/

c. waldvogel]

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St. Louis University

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St. Louis University