Speech gives lesson in Georgetown’s history

By the

March 22, 2001

Rev. Brian McDermott, the rector of Georgetown’s Jesuit Community, and Dr. R. Emmett Curran spoke Monday on Georgetown University’s Jesuit history. The speech was part of Jesuit Heritage Week.

Dr. Curran, a Georgetown history professor, spoke on the history of the University, from the founding of the college through the 1950’s. Though most believe Georgetown was founded in 1789, the school was actually founded in 1788, Curran said.

Curran said the Jesuits did not exist at the time of the founding of the school. Due to a suppression in 1773, the Jesuit order was nonexistent.

Georgetown College was founded by John Carroll in the Jesuit tradition with the hope of educating students in the Jesuit faith.

In 1918, Edmund Walsh became the dean of the college. As the war became more involved, Walsh ran the Student Army Training Corps. It was through learning about foreign affairs that he began to understand the importance of educating students on international matters.

After founding SFS, Walsh took a position as emissary to the Soviet Union. In the 1950’s, he was accused of being an instigator of Joseph McCarthy during the blacklisting frenzy.

Curran also spoke on the effects of the Civil War on Georgetown. According to Curran, approximately 75 percent of the student body supported the Confederacy and about 1,100 alumni fought in the war.

“During the war [the student body] had a mock election, during the war of 1864, during the presidential campaign, and Jefferson Davis won in a walk over Abraham Lincoln,” Curran said.

McDermott spoke of his experience at Georgetown in the 1950’s. He spoke on memories, “Liturgical, residentially, academics and social.”

During the first year, “[students] were checked-in on week nights by two prefects at 7 p.m., 9 p.m. and 10 p.m. [Students] were checked in [their] rooms and lights out by 11 p.m.” McDermott said. On Friday and Saturday nights, first year students were allowed out until midnight.

“Freshmen would have to check-in with a priest who would smell their breath,” McDermott said. According to McDermott, students typically dated girls from schools that had similar late night hours.

McDermott said that the Jesuit tradition has been very important in Georgetown’s history.

“Until present, every president has been a member of the Society of Jesus,” Curran said. He said with the impending arrival of President DeGioia a new page in Georgetown’s history will begin.

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