The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

Looking to the past and future


Reflecting on St. Joe’s history and marking progress

While the Hawk has flown strong for over 100 years, Saint Joseph’s University, as we know it, has evolved over time. For example, City Avenue was not always the powerhouse we know it to be, a raging force in the night where cars fly and horns blare. Decades ago, it was just an avenue, quiet and well-rested. There are other parts of our campus that come to mind when we think back on our time here on Hawk Hill: Barbelin, Campion Student Center, the Perch, Merion Hall and Mandeville Hall.

These buildings are pieces of our student experience and physical representations of our core values of the magis and cura personalis. Our physical campus, both the Philadelphia County and Lower Merion side, act as places where our mission can manifest through academics, extracurricular activities and relationships. While they may be firmly rooted in our mission, they are not necessarily rooted in our past. History tells us a different story.

We started with something simpler. The idea for St. Joe’s as a college was planned back in 1741, but the actual establishment began  in 1851, more than 100 years later. Back then, St. Joe’s  was a college, not a grandiose and expanding university. Even Barbelin, a beacon for the university, wasn’t built until 1927. These physical spaces we have come to love and adore grew out of an idea and a passion for something greater.

The physical marks of time are not the only things that have signified such change through the years. Our university has experienced visible urbanization and growth. Simultaneously, our campus culture has transformed and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. While U.S. military veterans made up the majority of students more than 60 years ago, most of us cannot imagine what it would be like to graduate from high school and fight for our country before proceeding on to a higher education. Now most students envision a college education at a young age, because it has become the new norm to earn a bachelor’s degree before entering the professional world.

The class of 1950 consisted of 755 men who graduated from St. Joseph’s College, many of whom were commuters and or veterans. Just two years prior, the first African American graduated from St. Joseph’s College. By 1970, women joined the ranks of our college, which was vital for fostering acceptance and acknowledging the equality of men and women. The next major milestone for our intimate community was in 1978 when St. Joe’s officially became a university. We may still share that same Hawk spirit that prioritizes our Jesuit values, but our standards of excellence have continued to change.

It’s important to recognize that diversity around us continues to expand, but progress doesn’t stop there. One step we have made as of late is providing 36 gender inclusive bathrooms for students across campus. This past January, the new center for the Office of Inclusion and Diversity space in Campion opened in an effort to create an area for both inclusivity, open mindedness and tolerance. Steps like these do not act as full solutions, but do remind us of our constant goal towards progress.

Some of the most radical changes have been in technology—whether that takes the form of smartboards, iPads, computer software or even just campus Wifi—has drastically changed the way we communicate with those around us. We have a way to quickly connect with professors, students, community members and others not just on the local level, but globally; consequently, we are more aware of the heterogeneous world in which we live.

It goes without saying that with our roots in Catholicism, we have to maintain a delicate balance between respecting our past and looking towards our future. But moving forward, we also need to continue opening the doors of our education to those of different socioeconomic statuses, diverse backgrounds and sexual orientations. Clubs such as the Women’s Leadership Initiative, Asian Students Association (ASA), Black Student Union (BSU), Down to Pray (DTP) and Active Minds recognize tolerance and understanding within our current student body.

Another part of our Jesuit mission expects compassion for the community that supports us. There are many faculty members, staff and employees that contribute to our learning experience. We look forward to further extending equal benefits and privileges to all of those who progress the ideals of St. Joe’s and inspire us everyday. We have an obligation to respect the legacy of the approximately 66,000 Hawks that came before us.

History teaches us that our past is not much different from our present. Collective history is something that binds all of us together. Respecting our roots is just as important as questioning them. Only by maintaining an open mind and heart can we truly accept more changes for the better.

And maybe, in 50 years, when we return as esteemed alumni, we won’t recognize ourselves in the students that walk the campus. What we will recognize is the all-too-familiar spark of tenacity and fire in their eyes, as a student of a university that never settles and an institution that reaches further.

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