Jesuit Mission USF history

History of the Sciences: Preparing Doctors

Many shuddered at the long line of gruesome skulls that grinned at them as they entered the Academy lecture hall on the occasion of the lecture on “The Physics of Sight and Hearing” by Dr. Constantine R. Bricca, M.D., A.B. ’01. Yet in the hands of this expert these bones and fragments of bone became a well-spring of information. Carefully going over the structure of the eye, explaining diseases of the eye with the aid of a rare series of charts, laying back the bones of the skulls and showing the inner ear in its bewildering detail, Dr. Bricca instructed us as we could never hope to be instructed outside a medical college. The Academy tendered a rising vote of thanks to Dr. Bricca on the conclusion of his splendid work.

James Harrington, a student at St. Ignatius College, made the above observation in the June 1912 issue of the Ignatian, the school’s literary magazine. During the 1910–1911 academic year, the students of St. Ignatius College began publishing the Ignatian, still published today. The first editorial stated the magazine’s goals: to afford St. Ignatius College students “an opportunity to contribute to a periodical in which their productions will reflect, not only honor on themselves, but also on their school; to cover literary and interesting topics in a style well calculated to hold the reader’s attention throughout; and to be a financial and journalistic success in every sense of the word.” The editorial concluded that the Ignatian would be “a journal of which none may be ashamed and of which they may be justly proud as the official organ of their beloved Alma Mater.” The first issue of the Ignatian covered a wide range of topics. There were seven student poems, two short stories, an essay on the spirituality of thought and will, and an article on Robert Lewis Stevenson and his novel Treasure Island. The first issue also included a section on the college’s alumni association: its founding in 1881 and subsequent history, an overview of the association’s meetings and reunion dinners, and highlights of prominent alums. It noted that a Milton Lennon had received a medical degree after graduating from St. Ignatius College and gone on to develop a national reputation as a nerve specialist, publishing numerous articles in medical journals and lecturing at the University of California before becoming the director of the biology department at St. Ignatius College.

Vig11.P1 St. Ignatius College Seal

The cover of the June 1912 Ignatian displayed the St. Ignatius College seal. Many of the design elements in the seal are traceable to the tenth century and the coats of arms of the Spanish noble families of Loyola and Oñaz. In 1261, these two families were united through marriage and became the Spanish noble family of Oñaz y Loyola. The Loyola family coat of arms depicted two wolves standing on either side of a kettle suspended on a chain from black pothooks. The kettle symbolized the generosity of the Loyola family in sharing food with others. Wolves were especially popular in Spanish coats of arms because they represented the wolves that nursed Romulus and Remus, legendary founders of Rome. The family of Oñaz was symbolized by seven red bars on a field of gold, standing for the bravery of seven members of the family who distinguished themselves in battle. In the mid-sixteenth century, Don Martin, a member of the united family, described the history of his family’s coat of arms. Martin was the older brother of Saint Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Society of Jesus. At a meeting of American Jesuit Alumni Associations held in Baltimore in 1889, it was proposed that a seal, badge, or button be developed that would identify the wearer as a student or alumnus of a Jesuit college. By 1900, several Jesuit colleges had created seals that adapted the coat of arms of the Oñaz y Loyola family. In 1909, George Blake Lyle, a student at St. Ignatius College, designed a variation of the seal, which first appeared on the cover of the 1911 Ignatian and still finds expression at today’s University of San Francisco. UNIVERSITY OF SAN FRANCISCO ARCHIVES.

St. Ignatius College changed its name to the University of St. Ignatius in August of 1912, in conjunction with creating a College of Law and a College of Engineering. After the name change, the Ignatian highlighted the students, programs, and alumni of those two new colleges, as well as the students in the pre-medical program that was initiated in the 1906–07 academic year. For example, the Ignatian noted that many students who graduated from St. Ignatius College (or the University of St. Ignatius) went on to enter medical school and pursue successful careers as physicians. These included J. Harold Mansfeldt, Joseph P. Sullivan, James M. Sullivan, James E. Murphy, Milton Lennon, T. Stanley Burns, Carolan Cronin, Edmond Morrissey, Stanley Burns, Julius Lister, Daniel Flanagan, Albert Shumate, and many other individuals. In 1918, the University of St. Ignatius closed its College of Engineering for want of students and reverted to its former name, St. Ignatius College.

Albert Shumate, St. Ignatius College class of 1927, earned his medical degree from Creighton University School of Medicine in 1931, which he followed with an internship at Stanford University Hospital and residency training at Columbia University Medical Center. After his residency, Dr. Shumate returned to the San Francisco Bay Area and joined the practice of Harry Anderson, chief of dermatology at Stanford University School of Medicine. When World War II started, Dr. Shumate joined the U.S. Public Health Service, serving from 1942 to 1946 and achieving the rank of major. After the war, he returned to San Francisco, started his own practice, and became a clinical professor at Stanford University Medical School, teaching residents, interns, and medical students. He also taught dermatology courses for nursing students at St. Mary’s Hospital, which in 1948 partnered with the University of San Francisco to offer a Bachelor of Science in Nursing. Dr. Shumate served as president of the San Francisco Dermatological Society, and he belonged to all of the major organizations in his specialty. Although medicine was his profession, history was his avocation. He became an avid history book collector, steeped himself in the history of San Francisco and California, and became a recognized authority by the academic community. He authored 11 books and 69 articles on subjects related to San Francisco history. Dr. Shumate served as president and trustee of the California Historical Society, Grand Historian of the Native Sons of the Golden West, and governor and director of the California Pioneer Society. He was president of many other organizations as well, including the Friends of the San Francisco Public Library, the Friends of the Bancroft Library, the Book Club of California, and the Friends of the Gleeson Library at USF. Ever loyal to his alma mater, Dr. Shumate was active in USF alumni affairs, serving as president of the USF alumni association. He was granted an honorary doctorate of humane letters by USF in 1976.

Vig11.P2. Albert Shumate M.D.

Albert Shumate, M.D. (on the right), graduate of St. Ignatius College, prominent San Francisco dermatologist, former president of the USF alumni association, and president of the California Historical Society presents an award to John McGloin, S.J., USF’s archivist, for his contributions to enhancing the “historic renown” of San Francisco. The photo was taken in July 1962 during the city’s 184th birthday celebration. UNIVERSITY OF SAN FRANCISCO ARCHIVES

The activities of the various science and medical societies of St. Ignatius College were also detailed in the first issues of the Ignatian. The Loyola Science Academy, for example, was composed of “science enthusiasts” at the college who wanted to foster interest in scientific studies, encourage science research, and deliver public lectures on science topics. Topics for the lecture series during the 1910–11 academic year included incandescent lighting, radium, magnetism, alternating current, x-rays, and wireless telegraphy. Likewise, the students of the pre-medical program organized a pre-medical club, “which had as its purpose the fostering of a proper spirit among the future medicos.” The club organized medical lectures by “some of the city’s leading doctors on subjects of the greatest interest to every prospective student of medicine.” In the spring of 1922, these lectures by San Francisco physicians covered physiology and the digestive tract; urology; topographical anatomy; hygiene; bone and skin grafting; the bones and muscles; the nervous system; and the eye, ear, nose, and throat. The club also held social outings and activities and awarded prizes to pre-medical students for the best essays on medicine.

Vig11.P3. USF Chemistry Lab

All of the pre-medical students at St. Ignatius College were required to complete a series of rigorous chemistry classes—just like USF’s pre-medical students today. The chemistry lab pictured here dates from 1910, when the school was located in the “shirt factory,” a temporary building on Hayes Street between Shrader and Stanyan Streets, two blocks south of the current USF campus. The school’s “shirt factory” era lasted from 1906 to 1927. UNIVERSITY OF SAN FRANCISCO ARCHIVES

The June 1916 issue of the Ignatian noted that New York University had recently made two years of college preparation a requirement for admittance to their medical school, claiming to be the “most advanced” school in this regard. With just pride, however, the editors of the Ignatian pointed out that New York University “is only now adopting the system which St. Ignatius University has long advocated and made use of.” For undergraduates hoping to continue on to medical school, “St. Ignatius is just a little ahead of her worthy sister in this respect that she now offers three years’ preparatory courses.”

The University of San Francisco was indeed advanced in its preparation of students to enter medical schools. In the history of higher education in the United States, the publication of Abraham Flexner’s Medical Education in the United States and Canada in 1910 is seen as the starting point for establishing rigorous academic expectations, standardization, and selectivity for medical school admission. Prior to Flexner’s report, there were few or no systematic academic requirements to enter medical school. The report was scathing in its criticisms of American medical education and resulted in significant changes in undergraduate curricula, the development of more consistent entrance requirements, and a standardized medical school entrance exam, which became the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT). By the 1940s, more stringent entrance requirements had significantly reduced the attrition rate of medical students from an all-time high of 50 percent in the 1920s to 7 percent by 1946.

Four years before the publication of Flexner’s report, during the 1906–1907 academic year, St. Ignatius College launched its pre-medical program, which is now part of USF’s pre-professional health programs. Today USF’s pre-medical students receive a rigorous series of courses in the sciences, social sciences, and humanities, which is also provided to students who plan to become dentists, pharmacists, optometrists, physical therapists, veterinarians, and other students who seek entrance to health-related professional schools and careers in the health professions. Since 1948, USF has also engaged in the preparation of nurses, first in conjunction with St. Mary’s Hospital, and since 1954, through a separate USF School of Nursing. For more than a century, USF has afforded its students some of the best opportunities in the nation to master an academic field in preparation for entering a health-related professional school and pursuing a successful career. Students can also join pre-professional organizations that sponsor networking award dinners and other educational and social events; attend lectures by outstanding professionals (often USF alumni); receive superb academic and career advising; and conduct primary research in labs and in the field alongside stellar faculty. USF remains true to its mission to offer students “the knowledge and skills needed to succeed as persons and professionals, and the values and sensitivity necessary to be men and women for others.”


The origins of the pre-medical program at the University of San Francisco are described in the St. Ignatius College catalogs from 1906 to 1912, and in the first issues of the Ignatian, from 1910 through 1924. The quote about the smiling skulls appears in the June 1912 issue, page 60. Other important details about the pre-medical program, and its students and alumni, are found in the Ignatian of December 1912, page 54; December 1914, page 38; June 1916, pages 65, 67, 68, and 79; June 1923, pages 64, 65, and 66; June 1922, pages 68, 73, 77, 78, and 90; and June 1924, pages 83 and 87. All these issues of the Ignatian are housed in the USF archives and maintained by the USF archivist, Michael Kotlanger, S.J. Documents related to the university seal were also obtained from the USF archives, and included the 1911 issue of the Ignatian, where Mr. Lyle’s design first appeared; the Woodstock Letters, a Jesuit publication from the early twentieth century; and a brief report on the seal written by the late W. Michael Mathes, former history professor at USF. Jim Muyo, the university’s former director of publications, also provided a file of helpful information regarding the USF seal. The life of Albert Shumate, M.D. is found at the following Web site,!search/profile/person?personId=6395. A brief history of the development of standards to enter medical school is given by Ruth Bingham et al. in “Preparing for the New MCAT,” which appeared in the fall 2012 issue of the journal Peer Review: Emerging Trends and Key Debates in Undergraduate Education, pages 25–26. The historical relationship between science and medicine is outlined in Making Modern Science: A Historical Survey, by Peter Bowler and Iwan Morus, pages 439–461.

Alan Ziajka, Ph.D.
Associate Vice Provost for Academic Affairs and University Historian