Place Published: Philadelphia
Publisher: Saint Joseph's University Press
Date Published: 2000
Book ID: 31
398 pages + preface and introduction | 10.75 x 9.25 inches | 561 color and b/w images
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In telling the story of Saint Joseph's, David R. Contosta examines five intertwined and shifting forces that have shaped the university since its founding in the mid-nineteenth century. These are the fortunes of Philadelphia and its surrounding suburbs, the Society of Jesus (Jesuits), the Roman Catholic Church, the overall development of American higher education, and a welter of external events during 15 decades of national and world history. In Saint Joseph's, Philadelphia's Jesuit University, Contosta shows how the institution's four successive locations have paralleled the development of Philadelphia itself. Starting out in 1851 on the site of Old Saint Joseph's Church, the city's first Roman Catholic parish, the fledgling college soon outgrew an increasingly noisy and commercialized location on Willing's Alley, near Fourth and Walnut Streets. From there the college moved in 1856 to a building at Juniper and Filbert Streets, then in a prosperous residential neighborhood near the future site of City Hall. In 1889 Saint Joseph's inaugurated its third site at Seventeenth and Stiles Streets in North Philadelphia, in the heart of Philadelphia's booming industrial zone. Then, in 1927, recognizing population shifts toward the western part of the city and into the western suburbs, the college moved to 54th and City Avenue, at the very entrance to Philadelphia's fashionable Main Line. In the post-World War II era, Saint Joseph's began to acquire properties across City Avenue on the Main Line itself, propelling the institution physically as well as culturally into the suburbs proper.
As Saint Joseph's was evolving with the city and its suburbs, it became more and more enmeshed in the mainstream of American higher education. In the process, the college had to abandon the traditional Jesuit seven-year course of studies that combined secondary and higher education. Saint Joseph's also greatly altered its governance system in the late 1960s and early 1970s, as did many Catholic colleges and universities, when it legally separated ownership of the college from the Society of Jesus. In 1970, Saint Joseph's admitted women to all its programs for the first time, and in 1978 it was granted university status. As a Jesuit institution, Saint Joseph's is by definition Catholic. A militant Catholicism, often associated with the Jesuits, was evident during the college's earlier decades, when Catholics frequently found themselves a spurned minority in an overwhelmingly Protestant nation. But with the election of John F. Kennedy as the country's first Catholic president in 1960 and Vatican II's emphasis on ecumenical dialogue, such militancy vanished quickly. Most recently, debate has centered on the real and potential conflicts between the official teachings of the Roman Catholic Church and the principles of academic freedom. This came into sharp focus with Pope John Paul II's apostolic constitution Ex Corde Ecclesiae (1990) that sought to ensure that universities calling themselves Catholic were faithful to Church teaching. For Saint Joseph's, this entailed focusing on just what it means to be a Catholic institution of higher learning at the dawn of a new millennium.
Includes 561 color and black-and-white photographs (many of alumni) and illustrations culled from the SJU archives, newspapers and archival collections around the United States in addition to a 13-page index of people, places and events.
David R. Contosta, professor of history at Chestnut Hill College in Philadelphia, is author of 14 books, as well as numerous articles.
"[Contosta] makes naked the very real dilemmas with which Saint Joseph's and other American Catholic universities are confronted, and offers no easy solutions. Contosta is also successful in showing how a multitude of wider forces beyond the influence of the Jesuit community, the Catholic Church, the Philadelphia metropolitan area, and the requirements of American higher education as a whole, have shaped Saint Joseph's. […] Photographs and other illustrations are skillfully woven into the text, creating a visual and mental dynamic that adds both clarity and excitement to the book. Overall, this reader has been with the pleasant feeling that there is still hope that the study of Catholic educational institutions can be taken beyond the hagiographic, which has characterized so much of what has been undertaken to date, and contribute to some real understanding of the major issues involved."
Tom O'Donoghue, History of Education Review
"This handsome, richly and tastefully illustrated book recounts the history of a Jesuit college whose image is typical of early Catholic, especially Jesuit, colleges in the United States."
Edward J. Power, Catholic Historical Review