The University of St. Louis, probably the oldest university west of the Mississippi River, was founded in the City of St. Louis in 1818 by the Right Reverend Louis William Du Bourg, Bishop of Louisiana. Since 1827 the institution has been under the direction of the Society of Jesus. On 16 November, 1818, Bishop Du Bourg opened St. Louis Academy, putting it in charge of the Reverend François Niel and others of the secular clergy attached to St. Louis Cathedral ; in 1820 the name of the institution was changed to St. Louis College. The college was successful, but the secular clergy, owing to their numerous ecclesiastical duties, found it difficult to attend to this professorial work. In consequence Bishop Du Bourg, who had been President of Georgetown College , soon began to formulate plans to put St. Louis College in care of the Society of Jesus, for he realized that its existence would be precarious without some such guarantee for supplying a corps of trained professors. He therefore made application to the Provincial of the Jesuits in Maryland, but his request could not be granted, as the establishments of the Society at Georgetown and elsewhere in the eastern states fully occupied all the members at that time. However, early in 1823, Bishop Du Bourg visited Washington to consult with James Monroe, President of the United States, and John C. Calhoun, Secretary of War, on the Indian affairs of his diocese. Mr. Calhoun suggested that he invite the Maryland Jesuits to give him their assistance in this difficult pioneer work. Bishop Du Bourg thereupon once more entered into negotiations with the Provincial of Maryland offering to make over to the Society of Jesus his cathedral property in St. Louis, which comprised church and college, as well as a farm near Florissant, Mo., for an Indian seminary, if the Jesuits would establish themselves in his diocese. The provincial accepted that part of the proposition which referred to the Indian seminary, but stated that priests could not be spared for the St. Louis educational project. Accordingly in June, 1823, the Jesuits from Whitemarsh, Md., took up their abode in Florissant where they opened an Indian seminary. In 1824 they yielded to Bishop Du Bourg's earnest solicitations to take over St. Louis College, but the transfer was not actually effected until 1827.
The last session of St. Louis College under the management of the secular clergy was that of 1826-27. The Jesuits decided to erect new college buildings on property given by Bishop Du Bourg, and in the interval the pupils of St. Louis College were accommodated at Florissant. Thence they were transferred to the new establishment in St. Louis where classes were opened under Jesuit masters on 2 November, 1829. In its new environments the college flourished, and in 1832 received its charter as a university by act of the Missouri Legislature. President Verhaegen at once began to organize the post-graduate faculties. In 1834 the school of divinity was established, which continued its courses until 1860. A faculty of medicine was constituted in 1836 and was eminently successful until 1855 when, owing to the Know-Nothing movement, its separation from the university was deemed advisable. A law school was organized in 1843 but was closed four years later. In 1889 the work of reconstructing these faculties was begun. The school of philosophy and science was opened in 1889; the school of divinity in 1899; the school of medicine in 1903; the dental college, school of advanced science, and institute of law in 1908; the department of meteorology and seismology in 1909; and the school of commerce and finance in 1910. Although founded in the pioneer days of education in the West, the old professional schools of the university did excellent work. Dr. William Beaumont, widely known for his observations in the case of Alexis St. Martin, was among the first professors of the medical school. Rush Medical College of Chicago owes its existence to an early professor at the school, Dr. Brainard, and the Cooper Medical College of San Francisco was founded by an alumnus, Dr. Cooper. Another student of those early days, Dr. L.C. Boisliniere, wrote a text-book on obstetrics, which is still of considerable value. In 1848 Dr. M.L. Linton organized the first medical monthly in America, "The St. Louis Medical and Surgical Journal." Buckner, Barret, Garesche, and Sharp, of the old Law School, were men of national prominence in their day. Eight American prelates have had intimate connections with the university : Du Bourg of Louisiana, as founder; Rosati of St. Louis, as patron and benefactor; Van de Velde of Chicago and Carrell of Covington, as presidents; Miège, Vicar Apostolic of Indian Territory, as a professor; de Neckere of New Orleans, Harty of Manila, and Chartrand, Auxiliary of Indianapolis, as students. Other students of the university who rose to prominence in ecclesiastical affairs are the Very Rev. A.M. Anderledy , General of the Society of Jesus , and the Reverends Joseph Keller and R.J. Meyer, English assistants to the General of the Society. Fathers Carrell, Heylen, Smarius, Damen, and Conway were noted preachers connected with the university.
From an early date, members of the faculty devoted themselves to writing. Walter H. Hill, S.J., was among the first to write text-books on scholastic philosophy in English, and his works are still widely used. "The Happiness of Heaven," by Florentine Boudreaux, S.J., and "The Imitation of the Sacred Heart ," by Peter Arnoudt, S.J., have gone through many editions (the most recent, 1910), and have been translated into most modern languages. Joseph Keller, R.J. Meyer, F. Garesché, and Joseph Fastre, all of the Society, wrote on ascetical subjects, while the writings of Pierre Jean de Smet did much to bring the Indian Missions into public notice. Within recent years books and studies on philosophy, theology, apologetics, ecclesiastical history, pedagogy, and canon law have been published by the Jesuit professors, Poland, Otten, Higgins, Coppens, Gruender, Conway, Rother, Martin, Conroy, and Fanning. Fathers Coppens and McNichols have issued textbooks on English literature. Father Thomas Hughes is well known as an authority on the history of the Jesuits, and is the author of "Loyola and the Educational System of the Jesuits." Fathers Finn, Copus, and Spalding are the authors of books of fiction for the young which have an extensive circulation. Professors Harris and Steele have published text-books on law, Professor Harris' work on "Wills" being noteworthy among recent contributions on the subject. Professors Eycleshymer, Thompson, Lyon, Neilson, Chaddock, Engman, and Loeb have written on medical topics. Scientific studies have been published by the Jesuit professors, de Laak, Monaghan, Borgmeyer, and Coony. Among the alumni who have won distinction in the field of history may be mentioned, E.B. O'Callaghan, Lucien Carr, Paul Beckwith, and Firmin Rozier; and in general literature, John Lesperance, Conde B. Pallen, and Irwin Russell.
Through its early missionaries who founded many settlements throughout the West, and through its alumni, many of whom have risen to high rank in civil and professional life, the university has contributed much to the upbuilding of Church and State in the West. Within a few years after the coming of the Jesuits to St. Louis more than forty establishments had been made; the work of de Smet, who founded missions as far to the North-west as Oregon, is famous. Adrian and Christian Hoecken, Ponziglione and others from the university evangelized Indians and whites throughout the West; many of these early missions became the centres of flourishing communities. In education the direct influence of the university has been wide, no less than thirteen colleges and professional schools having been founded by its professors or alumni. Degrees have been conferred from 1834 to 1911 as follows: Doctors, Ph.D., 27; LL.D, 33; M.D., 935; D.D.S., 107; Mus.D., 1; total, 1103. Masters, M.A., 175; M.S., 1; total, 176. Bachelors, B.A., 402; B.S., 75; Ph.B., 5; LL.B., 59; B.F.A., 2; B.C.S., 1; total, 544. Grand total of degrees conferred, 1823. During this period 722 members of the Society of Jesus completed the full courses of the schools of divinity and philosophy.
St. Louis University consists of the college, the school of divinity, the school of philosophy, the school of advanced science, the department of seismology and meteorology, the school of medicine, the school of dentistry, the institute of law, and the school of commerce and finance. In December, 1910, the General of the Society of Jesus, Very Rev. F.X. Wernz, by official act constituted St. Louis University a collegium maximum . This is a title conferred in recognition of the university's rank among Jesuit educational institutions.
The University Library contains more than 70,000 volumes, among them many rare and valuable works. There are also special libraries in each department of the university. The museum contains specimens illustrating the fields of geology, palæontology and ethnology; the art collection though small contains some paintings of considerable merit. The "Fleur de Lis," a literary publication, and a number of philosophical, literary, and scientific societies, several of which publish their proceedings, furnish the student added opportunities for mental development; the Sodality of the Blessed Virgin Mary and other religious organizations offer additional aids to piety. University athletics are controlled by a students' association working in connection with the Faculty Board of Athletics. The gymnasium is fairly equipped and a splendid campus has been recently secured. The Alumni Association with records dating from 1828 is well organized and helps much to promote loyalty to the university. The General Catalogue, issued annually, and the Announcements published by the schools from time to time during the year, furnish detailed information in regard to the university.
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