History & Tradition

St. John’s Jesuit -- A Strong Foundation

St. John's High School Opens 

The first Jesuits came to minister in northwest Ohio in 1749.  The colonists had not yet declared independence from England when Fr. de Bonnecambe visited the Wyandot tribe along the Maumee River in 1749.

The population continued to grow and Toledo became a city. In 1869, a group of Jesuits from the Buffalo Mission in New York established a pastorate at St. Mary's Church on Cherry Street, to be followed by the establishment of St. John’ s Jesuit.  The school was made largely possible by Otto von Bismarck, who was part of the Buffalo Mission. 

The school opened on property at the corner of Superior and Walnut in September, 1898, and was cited by the Toledo Blade as “one of the most colorful chapters in the city's educational progress."

During the first year, 41 students enrolled in the school, studying German, Latin and Greek, as well as courses in mathematics, science, history and sociology.
 St. John's Jesuit Today

The student body nearly doubled the second year, and the first section of a high school building was constructed. A small barn at the rear of the property became a gymnasium, and an adjoining playground served as a field for kick ball, and later the game of football. A baseball team was organized as well. Nearly the entire student body participated in the athletic activities, with sports playing an integral part in the St. John's tradition from its formation. 

In 1902, the first students completed the four-year high school program. Seventeen of the students who completed the academy enrolled as the college's first class and St. John's University was chartered.

In 1907, a new wing was added to the building to accommodate increasing numbers of students. The new building provided students with a 5,000-square-foot museum on the top floor and an observatory housing one of the first telescopes in northwest Ohio.
  SJJ Founded
Athletics continued to expand, with a gymnasium added in the basement of the building for basketball, which quickly became the school's major sport. 

The college’s mascot at the time was the Saints, who played Notre Dame University in basketball and beat them in 1921. Ten thousand people packed the gym that year. The news account read: "little old St. John's did the impossible in the halls of eternal athletic fame and went undefeated for 12 straight games over the best teams in the Midwest." After winning against Michigan, the University of Detroit, Dayton, Campion, St. Louis, Carnegie Tech -- the Saints were declared the Middle West Non-Conference Champions.

St.  John's continued to grow and in 1919, the Pomeroy home was purchased and remodeled to house the arts college. St. John's now included a four-year high school program and a four-year program that culminated in a Bachelor of Arts degree. Graduates of this program could then pursue a Master's degree in arts and sciences. Alumni continued to assume prominent leadership roles in the Toledo community. 
St. John's Dome Gym
In 1922, the St. John's Endowment League was organized and 24 acres of land on Bancroft street across from Ottawa Park was purchased to construct a multi-building campus with an athletic field.  However, the stock market crash of 1929 impacted St. John’s expansion plans as tuition assistance needs far outweighed the amount of revenue being donated. The $100 tuition was a difficult payment for most students.
  Father Sweeney
The Great Depression continued to erode the nation's vitality and in 1936, St. John's was forced to close. The school had made a measurable mark on the community.  St. John’s 661 graduates included clergymen, attorneys, physicians. Dentists, teachers and social workers. A newspaper account read: "The Jesuits formed a nucleus of culture in the city which grew to permeate every walk of sound civic life."
 
In the late 1950s, the need for another Catholic high school became apparent. In 1963, Bishop Rehring invited the Jesuits to reestablish St. John's high school. Fr. Nicholas Gelin, a graduate of St. John's class of 1927, was charged with leading this initiative.  In 1964, he and a small group of Jesuits including Fr. Roman Weltin, Fr. Bob McAuley Fr. Dennis Schmitt and Br. John Sebian located 30 acres at the corner of Chicago Pike and Holland-Sylvania Road to build a new school.

Plans for the new St. John's high school were underway, and Msgr. Sawkins, the first student to register at the former St. John's, came to bless the site at the groundbreaking.  Through a combination of monetary gifts and donations from the Jesuits, parishioners and alumni, the $3 million school became a reality.
 St John's Jesuit
At the official opening, Fr. Gelin said, "Today, St. John's begins its second springtime with a planting that we pray will yield a harvest comparable to the first." Traditions from the former St. John's were reflected in the new school, and doors opened on Sept. 13, 1965.
 
Although chartered as St. John's Jesuit High School, the school was always referred to as St. John's, and the new mascot became the Titans. 

The football team, playing a JV schedule, was undefeated that first year. Wrestling and basketball teams also began competition. With the addition of new students, the theater department produced Julius Caesar. The freshman class also organized a food drive and a Christian volunteer program.
 St. John's Spirit Squad
Early faculty arrivals Fr. Charles Sweeney, Andy Babula, Fred Beier, and Ron Miller left a lasting imprint on thousands of graduates. Other popular faculty were Fr. Hussey, everyone's grandfather, and Leo LeCamp, a social activist.

In 1969, the first class graduated from the new St. John's. The football team placed second in the City Blue Division and the cross-country team, formed just two years earlier, placed first in City, District and Regional competitions, finishing 11th in the state.

Fr. McAuley, the first principal of the school, began a seven-year term as President. The cigar-smoking cleric was known for his aura of calm competence and his cheerful support made him a source of strength for faculty and students alike.

In 1972, the Alumni Association established the Grant-in-Aid program, designed to assist students with tuition through a school-work program. More than 100 students were helped with tuition, which was $600.  And that year, Soccer was added as a sport.
 
In 1975, the math department purchase of 35 pocket calculators. This was also the year that the senior project was introduced, providing seniors the opportunity to shadow professionals to gain a glimpse of life beyond college.

By the early '80s, building repairs were needed. Compounding capital demands was the declining number of Jesuits available to teach. Hiring more lay teachers increased tuition costs, making financial assistance for many students a necessity. 

In 1984, Rick Sullivan became the first layperson to lead the school as principal. Development efforts became essential, with both parents and alumni actively fund-raising. This is also the year the Board of Trustees was established.
  St. John's Jesuit Maintenance
After 20 years of winning athletics, the Titans gained their first state championship as the tennis team won the title in 1985. And in 1987, the Titans flexed their athletic muscles with two more state titles in tennis and golf.

In 1986, 24 acres of land were bought for a baseball diamond as well as football and soccer practice fields. 

An annual spring musical production became an instant success with the first show- "Once Upon a Mattress." With girls from local high schools participating, the experience gained great popularity.
 
In 1991, the Jesuit living quarters were renovated for a college counseling resource area to assist students in college placement making college counseling a hallmark of St. John’s.

Enhancing the spiritual dimension of student development took new focus in the '90s. A growing Campus Ministry program with retreats planned for each class made an impact. A four-day senior retreat, "The Kairos," was the highlight.

Fr. Don Vettese became president in 1992. He called for a strategic plan for the school. Setting the pace was the drive for $10 million in endowment, renovation and additions to the building and 54-acre campus. To ensure the future of St. John's, Fr. Vettese also built an active Board of Trustees and formed a Board Council of area CEOs.

The school's connection to the worldwide mission of the Society of Jesus was highlighted with the decision in 1993 to use "Jesuit" in the school name. 
St. John's Jesuit
The '90s saw Christian volunteering increase with an annual trip to Appalachia and two overseas experiences to the Dominican Republic and Guatemala.  

Titan athletics stepped into a new arena in the '90s, the football team playing in the state playoffs for the first time. In 1992, Coach Ed Heintschel, one of the winningest coaches in Ohio basketball, and the basketball team journeyed to Columbus and finished as the state semifinalist.

Bonfires, pep rallies, senior hallway, the Promethean, the Cavalier, and athletics were the mainstays of student life.  Also, an Admissions department was added to attract students, and the innovative 20/20 program was created to attract qualified minority students.  

Carl Wagner became the first alumnus to serve as principal in 1993.
 
In 1998, the $3 million Iott Center opened with a new production studio, music technology lab, publication offices, a tiered computer lab with distance learning capabilities, and an expanded library. The Chapel of St. John Berchmans has been expanded and renovated. Additional expansions included the Lyden Fitness Center, and Lyden Field, a state-of-the-art track and turf athletic complex.  The McQuade Theater and Sawicki Family Music Center are significant investments in the arts.
 Fred Beier
In 2004, the St. John’s Jesuit Academy opened with 100 7th and 8th grade students.  In 2006, a sixth grade was added to the Academy to fulfill a true middle school model.
 
In the past 10 years, academically, St. John's Jesuit has been a leader in northwest Ohio in its number of National Merit Scholars and Honorees. Graduates are offered millions in college scholarships and grants. Donors have helped create an endowment that yields funds given annually in tuition assistance. More than 70 percent of the student body receives need-based financial aid, as St. John’s Jesuit provides its students with more financial aid than any other school in Northwest Ohio.

Donors giving time, talent and treasure supply the lifeblood of St. John’s Jesuit. Alumni, parents and friends of the school, as well as corporate partners and foundations, who believe in the work we do, give strength to our mission.

St. John’s Jesuit is blessed with a 100-year history of developing young men in conscience, competence and compassion. Students are molded and guided into men for others, becoming leaders, serving the needs of families, community and church. Alumni make lasting contributions in fields as diverse as medicine and marketing, education and engineering, crime fighting and counseling. Many of our graduates take seriously their call to volunteer in church and community. 
St. John's Jesuit Band
The Jesuits, in accordance with their centuries-old traditions, have educated and inspired their students through academics, the arts, athletics and spirituality.

St. John's Jesuit continues "ad maiorem dei gloriam" - for the greater glory of God.

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