USF History Books

Legacy and Promise: 150 Years of Jesuit Education at the University of San Francisco

Written by Alan Ziajka, USF Historian

Legacy and Promise Book CoverLegacy and Promise tells the story of the University of San Francisco in a series of 150 vignettes. The book illuminates the university’s long and varied history by highlighting many of the important individuals; key social, economic, political, and religious influences; and major national and international events with which the school’s growth and development are intertwined. The University of San Francisco cannot be understood without an appreciation for the Jesuit ideals first articulated by Saint Ignatius of Loyola in the sixteenth century, the wave of immigrants to the United States in the nineteenth century, the rapid development of San Francisco following the California Gold Rush of the late 1840s, the earthquake and fire of 1906, and the two world wars and major economic depression of the first half of the twentieth century. In ways that are both obvious and subtle, the students, alumni, faculty, administrators, and staff that have formed the nucleus of the university community have been connected to the external world since the institution’s founding. The choices these individuals made were both shaped by and helped to shape the local, national, and international events taking place around them. The complex interaction between individual choices, institutional development, and the history of the city, the nation, and the world is the basis for understanding the legacy and the promise of the University of San Francisco.


The University of San Francisco School of Law Century

Written by Alan Ziajka, USF Historian

Edited by Angie Davis, USF School of Law Director of Communications

USF School of Law Century Book CoverThe University of San Francisco School of Law Century tells the story of change and continuity at USF’s School of Law during its first 100 years. The changes have been dramatic. During the law school’s first academic year, beginning in September 1912, 49 young men, mostly first- and second-generation immigrants from Europe, began taking evening law classes at the University of St. Ignatius College of Law, located on the 6th floor of the Grant Building on Market Street, in downtown San Francisco. At the beginning of the fall semester of 2011, 734 men and women, of diverse ethnic and racial backgrounds, were enrolled in day and evening classes at the University of San Francisco School of Law, housed in the magnificent Koret Law Center, encompassing Kendrick Hall and the Zief Law Library, located a block from the edge of Golden Gate Park, in the geographical center of San Francisco. In 1912, evening classes were taught by less than a dozen part-time instructors and special lecturers who worked during the day as lawyers, judges, or government officials. By the 2011-2012 academic year, the USF School of Law employed 28 full-time and 48 adjunct and part-time faculty members.

Despite enormous changes, several features have remained constant at the University of San Francisco School of Law during the past century: a firm commitment to Jesuit ethical principles; a strong emphasis on service to the local, national, and international communities; a focus on the practical aspects of the law coupled with rigorous academic preparation; and an inextricable bond between the law school and the university as a whole. The University of San Francisco and its School of Law share a common mission that stresses academic excellence, service to others, global justice, the primacy of ethical considerations in professional life, and the education of men and women from diverse social, ethnic, and economic background to shape a multicultural world for the betterment of all. Robert F. Kennedy, Attorney General of the United States, said it best during the dedication of Kendrick Hall and the celebration of the school’s 50th anniversary in September 1962, when he expressed his confidence that future graduates of the USF School of Law will be “dedicated to the highest ideals and richest tradition or their heritage…lawyers courageously dedicated to the broadest horizons of citizenship and service.” For 100 years, Kennedy’s confidence has been well placed.


Lighting the City, Changing the World


Lighting the City, Changing the World by Alan Ziajka Book Cover
The University of San Francisco, founded in 1855 as the first institution of higher education in the city of San Francisco, drew upon its rich Jesuit academic heritage to initiate a robust science program during its first decades. In the 1860s and 1870s, St. Ignatius College, as USF was then known, developed an outstanding academic reputation because of the famous Jesuit scientists it attracted. Joseph Neri, S.J., for example, published in scholarly journals, taught chemistry and physics, gave public lectures, and was the first person to demonstrate electric light to the citizens of San Francisco. During the 1870s, the school developed highly acclaimed scientific laboratories, called “cabinets” in that era, complete with the latest equipment. The U.S. Bureau of Education rated St. Ignatius College in the top 120 of 500 colleges surveyed in the teaching of chemistry and physics during the decade from 1870 to 1880. Science continued to play a major role in the curriculum of the students who attended St. Ignatius College during its Golden Age, from 1880 to 1906. The 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire completely destroyed St. Ignatius Church and College along with two-thirds of the city. During the next two decades, the school and its science programs slowly rebuilt at a temporary location before moving to the current campus in 1927. In 1930, St. Ignatius College was renamed the University of San Francisco. The Depression and World War II, however, impeded enrollment and program growth at USF until 1945. After World War II, the science programs at USF significantly expanded. Classrooms, science laboratories, faculty offices, and the administrative offices for the science programs moved to the Harney Science Center in 1965. In the fall of 2013, science classes began in the newly completed John Lo Schiavo, S.J. Center for Science and Innovation, a five-story academic building in the heart of the campus that houses state-of-the-art scientific equipment for use by undergraduate and graduate students. Through creative use of space, the building facilitates the integration of all the sciences, including biology, chemistry, physics and astronomy, environmental science, computer science, mathematics, biochemistry, analytics, biotechnology, and kinesiology. The new building is named for John Lo Schiavo, S.J., president of USF from 1977 to 1991, and currently the school’s chancellor. He raised millions of dollars for USF, including major gifts for the science building that bears his name. Today’s faculty members and students are engaged in research that is on the cutting edge of science, but with a social conscience. They are changing the world through their research, the application of that research to real-world problems, and their commitment to making the world a better place. Current faculty and students are following the path of Joseph Neri, S.J., and the many other faculty members and students at St. Ignatius College who in the first decades of the institution used their scientific research to enhance the lives of San Franciscans. The USF sciences are now, however, global in their reach. This book tells the story of the sciences at the University of San Francisco, a rich legacy that fuels our confidence that the institution’s contributions to the city and the world have only just begun.


University of San Francisco


University of San Francisco by Alan Ziajka Book Cover
The University of San Francisco began in 1855 as a one-room schoolhouse named St. Ignatius Academy. Its founding is interwoven with the establishment of the Jesuit Order in California, European immigration to the western United States, and the population growth of California and San Francisco as a result of the California Gold Rush.

On October 15, 1855, the school opened its doors to its first class. Three students showed up, a number that gradually grew to 65 by 1858. In 1859, Anthony Maraschi, S.J., the founding president of St. Ignatius Academy, incorporated the institution under California state law, obtained a charter to issue college degrees, formed a board of trustees, and renamed the institution St. Ignatius College. Student enrollment, composed largely of first- and second- generation Irish and Italian immigrants, increased to 457 by 1862.

Further growth in the number of students prompted St. Ignatius Church and College to move in 1880 to the corner of Hayes Street and Van Ness Avenue, the current site of the Louise M. Davies Symphony Hall. The college began at this new location with 650 students and rave reviews in the local press. The institution occupied a full city block and was described as having “scientific laboratories and departments” as “thoroughly equipped as money can make them” and a library that contained “the cream of knowledge on all necessary subjects.” The attached church was depicted as “magnificent” and could hold up to 4,000 people. In 1903, the college added a “splendid new gymnasium,” portrayed as the best in the city.

The history of St. Ignatius Church and College at this location came to an abrupt end on April 18, 1906. On the morning of that day, an earthquake, followed by several days of fire, brought the church and college, and most of San Francisco, to almost complete ruin. The city and the institution, however, quickly rebuilt from the devastation. In September 1906, St. Ignatius Church and School reopened in temporary quarters, known as the “shirt factory,” on the southwest corner of Hayes and Shrader streets, currently the site of one of the buildings of St. Mary’s Medical Center. In 1927, St. Ignatius College moved into its new Liberal Arts Building, the present day Kalmanovitz Hall, near the corner of Fulton and Parker Streets. In 1930, at the request of several alumni groups, St. Ignatius College changed its name to the University of San Francisco.

For 159 years, the University of San Francisco has served the citizens of San Francisco and enriched the lives of thousands of people. The institution has graduated students who went on to become leaders in government, education, religion, business, journalism, sports, the sciences, and the legal and the health-related professions. Among its alumni, the university counts three former San Francisco mayors, numerous current city officials, a former United States Senator, one current and three former California Supreme Court Justices, a former California Lieutenant Governor, two Pulitzer Prize winners, three Olympic medalists, several professional athletes, and the former president of Peru. USF has more than 100,000 alumni living in all 50 states, 6 United States territories, and 129 countries.

Today the University of San Francisco enrolls more than 10,000 students in its four schools and one college: The School of Law, founded in 1912; the College of Arts and Sciences, organized in 1925; the School of Management, which began in 1925 as the College of Commerce and Finance and was merged with the College of Professional Studies in 2009; the School of Education, which started as the Department of Education in 1947 and was upgraded to a school in 1972; and the School of Nursing and Health Professions, which began as the Department of Nursing in 1948 and became a school in 1954. USF is one of the most ethnically diverse universities in the nation. Among the entire fall 2014 student population, 47 percent were Asian, African-American, Latino, Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander, or Native American, and 16 percent were international. In 1964, USF became completely coeducational, though women had been enrolled in the evening programs in law and business since 1927, in education since 1947, and in nursing since 1948. In the fall of 2014, 63 percent of the overall student population was female.

In 2005, the University of San Francisco celebrated the 150th anniversary of its founding. The main USF campus currently occupies 55 acres near Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. In addition, the university offers classes at four Northern California additional campuses (Sacramento, San Jose, Santa Rosa, and Pleasanton), at a Southern California additional campus, and at locations in downtown San Francisco, including the Folger Building at 101 Howard Street, and at the Presidio. The university also offers students a multitude of international experiences and study-abroad programs that enrich the learning community. The institution has grown dramatically since its modest beginning. It continues, however, to fulfill a mission that stretches back in time to the founding of the Society of Jesus in 1540 by St. Ignatius of Loyola, that took root in San Francisco in 1855, and that flourishes today in a premier Jesuit Catholic University.