History & Tradition
THE FOUNDING AND GROWTH OF FORDHAM PREP
On June 24, 1841, the Feast of St. John the Baptist, Fordham Prep and University were founded together as St. John’s College by the Most Rev. John Hughes, the Bishop of New York. Six students arrived in Fordham, New York for that opening summer session. The first president of Hughes’ fledgling institution was Rev. John McCloskey, who would later become the first American-born cardinal.
In 1846, Bishop Hughes invited members of the Society of Jesus from Kentucky to take over operations at St. John’s. They rechartered the college as a full university and incorporated the traditions of Jesuit spirituality and scholarship which remain Fordham Prep’s mission to this day.
During the mid-19th century, little distinction was made between high school and college. A St. John’s education was a seven-year continuous course of study beginning at age thirteen. Fordham was a boarding school in those days, home to students from across the country, as well as from Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean and South America. Some boarders even arrived as young as ten for what is currently considered middle school instruction. These youngest of Fordham students comprised St. John’s Third Division. The oldest students, basically college men today, were called First Divisioners. The young men in between were students of the Second Division of St. John’s College, the Prep’s first official designation.
Originally housed in a long-demolished wing of today’s University’s Administration Building, Second Division was moved into a newly-constructed Hughes Hall in 1890. The home of Fordham Prep until the early 1970s, Hughes Hall still stands today as Fordham University’s Gabelli School of Business.
During the late 19th-century, with several other institutions known as St. John’s across the city, it became convenient to refer to the school by its location. First Division became increasingly known as Fordham College and Second Division as Fordham Prep. A 1904 photograph of the Prep’s baseball team is the earliest example of Second Division using this name formally.
The Jesuits again rechartered St. John’s College in 1907, legally changing its name to Fordham University. Officially, the Prep became St. John’s College High School, although the school’s nickname, Fordham Prep, continued to persist. The next major change would come in 1920 as the boarding school days of old St. John's Second Division drew to a close. Now a day school with its own distinct principal, the Prep was legally designated Fordham College High School.
By 1937, the name Fordham Preparatory School was officially adopted when the school was given its own certification by the University of the State of New York. For the next three decades, under the watchful eye of Rev. Arthur Shea, SJ, the school’s prefect, or dean, as well as the priests, laymen and Jesuit scholastics who served alongside him, generations of young men from the Bronx, Manhattan and the surrounding areas would help to reforge what had been born as part of St. John’s College a century before into an institution unto itself.
After 129 years as one of the founding divisions of Fordham University, Fordham Preparatory School legally separated from the University in 1970 and secured its own educational charter from the New York State Board of Regents. With Hughes Hall no longer able to contain the school, construction of the current Prep building was begun on the northeast corner of the Rose Hill campus, just across from the historic University Church. Shea Hall opened in 1972. Maloney Hall, containing the Hall of Honor, a second gymnasium and the Leonard Theatre was added in 1991 coinciding with Fordham’s 150th anniversary. A fourth-floor addition, the Boller Science Center, was dedicated in 2009.
Today Fordham Prep stands ready, as in the past, to meet the educational needs of students in an ever-changing world, carrying out the work of the Jesuits and their lay associates ad maiorem Dei gloriam, for the greater glory of God, as it has since 1841.
St. Ignatius was born in 1491 at the family castle of Loyola in the Basque region of Spain. In his own words, Ignatius "was given to the follies of the world," and what he enjoyed most was "warlike sport," having "a great and foolish desire to win fame." At Pamplona in 1521, Ignatius’ search for fame ended when a French cannonball severely wounded his legs. A long, complicated convalescence contributed to a period of soul searching and reflection. Ignatius discovered God at work in his life, and his desire for fame turned into a desire to dedicate himself to God.
After time spent as a pilgrim and a process of conversion to loving service of God, Ignatius returned to school. He eventually studied in Paris for seven years, spending his free time preaching and sharing his insights about the ways of God. Attracted by his experience of God’s love, several men joined Ignatius. This small group of companions would eventually grow into the Society of Jesus, an order of Catholic priests and brothers dedicated to service for the good of souls.
While the original purposes of the Society did not include education, it was not long before Ignatius was requested to include local boys in his schools for men entering the Society. The first Jesuit school opened in 1548 in Messina, Sicily. By the time of Ignatius’ death, there were over 40 Jesuit schools, and within a few decades, there were 245 schools. Today there are more than 2,000 Jesuit educational institutions in 56 countries around the world.