175 Years of Service to New York, the Church, and the Nation
With five cents in his pocket, John Larkin, S.J. travels downtown from Fordham to found Xavier—originally called The School of the Holy Name of Jesus—at the corner of Elizabeth and Walker Streets.
On Saturday evening, January 22, the church housing The School of the Holy Name of Jesus is destroyed in a fire. The next day, Fr. Larkin refuses to close the school, telling his Jesuit superior, “The professors will teach their classes tomorrow, and the Fathers attend to their confessionals as usual.” Classes are relocated to the basement of St. James Church on St. James Street.
The school moves to 77 Third Avenue, between 11th and 12th Streets. John Ryan, S.J. is named Xavier’s second president.
The Jesuits buy 10 lots of land on 15th and 16th Streets between Fifth and Sixth Avenues. A new school is built and at the request of Archbishop John Hughes, it is named after St. Francis Xavier. Students and faculty move in around Thanksgiving.
The first commencement ceremonies are held in July with Archbishop Hughes presiding. The highest grade level at the time is “Classics” (equivalent to the last year of high school or first year of college), so no diplomas are issued.
The cornerstone of the Church of St. Francis Xavier is laid.
In the fall, Xavier becomes a college in the complete sense, offering a full seven-year academic course.
Xavier’s first college graduating class consists of four students.
On November 3, St. John’s College (now known as Fordham University) plays Xavier in the first-ever college baseball game under modern rules. Fordham wins the game 33-11.
Xavier obtains a legal charter from the Board of Regents of the State of New York, allowing it to confer degrees. Ground is broken for a new building in August.
The Xavier Alumni Association is established. On July 7, Commencement Day, the new building is dedicated. A great hall, which seats 1,200 people, is considered the finest academic hall in the city. The building also features a chemistry lab and a space set aside for a small museum of natural history.
Fr. Loyzance, S.J., Xavier’s fifth president, establishes a student library. The Xavier Alumni Sodality, created to “confirm the practice of Christian piety begun in college days” and to offer networking opportunities, is founded.
Student societies become an important part of Xavier life. Sodalities for devotional activities, scholarly organizations, the Debating Society, and organizations devoted to literary activities flourish.
A fire breaks out in the Church of St. Francis Xavier, killing several individuals.
The cornerstone of the present Church of St. Francis Xavier is laid.
On December 3, the Feast of St. Francis Xavier, the present Church of St. Francis Xavier opens.
In June, the first edition of The Xavier is published, informing the community about student scholarship and the college in general. Xavier plays its first-ever football game against Fordham on December 2.
The first military drill is held at Xavier, beginning a lasting military heritage that continues to thrive today.
Construction on the five-story “New College Building” begins in August at 30 West 16th Street. The building features a Jesuit community residence, parlors, offices, a library, and a popular theatre.
Commencement is held at the Metropolitan Opera House.
To celebrate New York’s centennial, Xavier performs for President Grover Cleveland at the Metropolitan Opera House. A new theater at Xavier opens on St. Patrick’s Day.
William Pardow, S.J. 1864 is named Xavier’s 10th president. He is the first alumnus to hold the position.
The first public drill of the Cadet Batallion is held with Capt. John Drum commanding. All students of high school age are now part of the Regiment.
Xavier celebrates its 50th anniversary with a Pontifical Military Mass, a reception and exhibit, and Commencement Exercises. Cadets participate at the dedication of Grant’s Tomb on Riverside Drive.
The number of volumes in the school library tops 100,000.
At Commencement, 12 Bachelor of Arts degrees are awarded. It is the last Commencement held by the college; the College of St. Francis Xavier closes.
The Xavier Alumni Sodality celebrates its golden jubilee.
A military band is established to accompany the Regiment.
Eight hundred Sons of Xavier serve in the armed forces during the First World War. In the fall, Xavier closes briefly during the influenza pandemic.
Xavier celebrates its 75th anniversary in December. Brigadier General Hugh A. Drum returns to review the Regiment. A Xavier benefit held uptown features Ethel Barrymore and Will Rogers.
On November 11, Armistice Day, the Rifle Team is founded.
Patrick Cardinal Hayes visits Xavier in November. Upon his entrance, there is a military salute, the recitation of an ode, and the presentation of a coat of arms.
The Student Chapel of Our Lady is completed. Students served as models for angels that were painted on the upper sections of the walls.
Hudson Oliver, believed to be the school's first Black student, graduates from Xavier. A Harlem resident and physician's son, he was a three-season athlete on 16th Street. He went on to St. Peter's College, where his senior yearbook noted that "of all our Xavierites, he alone retains the military bearing."
The Xavier Regiment is reorganized as a JROTC unit.
The first Father-Son Night, a lasting Xavier tradition, is held.
A young Fordham University graduate, Leo Paquin, begins teaching at Xavier right out of college.
The first Block X Dinner is held at the King Arthur Restaurant. Leo Paquin serves as toastmaster. On December 7, Xavier students are at the Winter Review when news of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor comes over the public address system. One of the dead is Navy Ensign Robert N. King 1932. Nearly 1,500 Xavier men will serve in World War II.
On March 9, a special Gold Star issue of The Review honors Xavier’s war dead. Four days later, a solemn military Mass attended by students, faculty, relatives, and friends of the fallen is held in the Church of St. Francis Xavier. “They died in the service of their country,” The Review reported. “It cost them much to tramp through battlefield mud, sail through mine-infested seas, soar past anti-aircraft fire, but unflinchingly they obeyed because duty knows no compromise. For them it meant death that others might live.”
Xavier celebrates its 100th anniversary. Pope Pius XII and President Harry Truman are among the world leaders who send notes of congratulations to Xavier President John W. Tynan, S.J. On Thanksgiving Day, Xavier beats Fordham 13-8 in the last minute of play.
The rifle team wins the national championship. The undefeated varsity football team wins the city championship.
Xavier cadets enjoy the first Military Ball, held at the Manhattan Center.
Linda Salvati arrives as Xavier’s librarian, a position she would hold until 1987. She is the first female faculty member in Xavier history.
The first issue of the Xavier Alumnews, the precursor of Xavier Magazine, is printed in October. The Xavier publishes its first edition in color.
In December, after the election of John F. Kennedy, the nation’s first Catholic president, theologian John Courtney Murray, S.J. 1920 is featured on the cover of Time under the headline “U.S. Catholics and the State.” The magazine notes his contributions to American domestic and foreign policy debates and his keen understanding of religion in American public life.
The first Beefsteak Dinner for alumni is held on February 21.
One year before his assassination, President John F. Kennedy is in the crowd as Xavier cadets march up Fifth Avenue at the Columbus Day Parade.
At the Second Vatican Council, John Courtney Murray, S.J. drafts the third and fourth versions of what becomes On Religious Liberty.
Xavier's 16th Street entrance is dramatically altered. The high stone steps that had long marked the main entrance are replaced by an accessible, street-level entrance.
Francis Cardinal Spellman presides at the dedication of Xavier’s new building.
The U.S. Army JROTC program designates Xavier a military institute. Xavier is the first day school in the country to receive the designation, indicative of meeting military standards of organization, training, character development and discipline similar to those maintained at national service academies.
Grace Lamour, the first full-time female teacher in Xavier history, begins teaching science on 16th Street. She would serve for 38 years, including 16 years as science department chair.
Fr. William Wood, S.J. announces that participation in the Regiment will become optional. The Xavier prints its final issue.
Eight months before giving his landmark “Men for Others” address in Valencia, Spain, Pedro Arrupe, S.J., then Superior General of the Society of Jesus, visited Xavier to celebrate its 125th anniversary.
Before a Thanksgiving Mass celebrated by Terence Cardinal Cooke on November 12, 1972, members of the Regiment formed an honor guard as various dignitaries, including Fr. Arrupe, processed in the Church of St. Francis Xavier. The Review reported that Fr. Arrupe “grinned and said that when he saw the Regiment he felt for the first time in his life that he was really a general.”
The Xavier Hall of Fame is founded with an event in the gym on October 28. Fr. Paul Cassidy, S.J. serves as master of ceremonies as 66 members are inducted.
On February 26, Colonel Donald Cook, USMC ’52 is posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor “for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while interned as a Prisoner of War by the Viet Cong in the Republic of Vietnam.” The medal is presented to his family by Secretary of the Navy Edward Hidalgo ’29. At that year’s Commencement, held at St. Patrick’s Cathedral on June 5, Secretary Hidalgo addresses the graduates and salutes Colonel Cook.
On the Mall in Washington, D.C., the Xavier rugby team wins its first of its four national championships in a 7-6 victory over Highland High School of Utah. National titles follow in 1993, 2007, and 2010.
President Ronald Reagan nominates Antonin Scalia ‘53 to serve as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court. The first Italian-American justice, Scalia is confirmed by the Senate, 98-0, in September. At his swearing-in ceremony on September 26, he thanks his teachers at Xavier High School.
The Board of Trustees is formed. This governing body, consisting of Jesuits and laypeople, is charged with helping Xavier remain competitive, financially stable, and capable of addressing the educational and fiscal challenges it faces.
Xavier is named a Blue Ribbon School of Excellence by the United States Department of Education.
The Kairos retreat is introduced under the direction of headmaster Terry Baum, S.J.
On December 3, 1996, the Feast of St. Francis Xavier, students, faculty, alumni, and dignitaries begin celebrations to mark Xavier’s 150th anniversary.
Xavier establishes the Companions of St. Francis Xavier Service Program.
Ten Sons of Xavier—John Ryan ’74, Edmund McNally ’78, Christopher Hanley ’84, Michael Andrews ’85, John Farrell ’87, Jimmy Riches ’89, Matthew Burke ’91, Sean Lugano ’91, James Coyle ’93, and Charlie Heeran ’96—and dozens of family members and friends perish during the September 11 terrorist attacks. A New York Times cover story about Xavier's grief and resilience notes that 1,500 people packed the Church of St. Francis Xavier to remember the dead in late September: "A police officer outside, a Xavier alumnus, closed the street to traffic. Then, with a megaphone, he led the crowd in a chorus of the school's fight song: 'Maroon and blue, we'll see you through.'"
The Blue Night Band is the only civilian group allowed into the newly restored Pentagon to perform a peace concert in the center garden.
Michael LiVigni P'21, who will become Xavier's longest-serving headmaster, is nominated to the post. He serves for 15 years, succeeding Xavier's first lay headmaster, Dr. Joseph Gerics, and preceding its first female headmaster, Kim Smith.
Xavier appoints its first lay president, Jack Raslowsky P'16, a veteran Jesuit educator and former principal of Saint Peter's Prep in Jersey City.
Superstorm Sandy devastates the Tri-State area, deeply affecting many families. Hundreds of Xavier students volunteer to help clean up the neighborhoods most impacted by the storm. Xavier’s varsity football team—with 11 players who had to evacuate their homes after Sandy—wins the city championship, earning national attention and an ESPN spotlight. “You’re New York’s team,” head coach Chris Stevens ’83 tells his players, “the feel-good story of Sandy.”
In September, Pope Francis visits New York City. Xavier students await him on the steps of St. Patrick’s Cathedral before he celebrates Mass on September 24.
Fernandez-Duminuco Hall, a six-story, 33,000-sq. ft. addition to Xavier, is dedicated in September. It features a state-of-the-art music suite, a multipurpose performance space, and a robotics lab. It is named in honor of Mike Fernandez ’72, the principal donor, and the Xavier headmaster who influenced his life, the late Vincent Duminuco, S.J.
On March 12, as COVID-19 descends on New York City, Xavier announces its transition to remote instruction to help stop the spread of the pandemic. One month later, on Easter Sunday, New York surpasses 10,000 COVID-19 deaths.
In September, students return to campus in a hybrid model, with roughly 40% of the student body on 16th Street each day and the others attending classes virtually.
Kim Smith, former academic vice principal at Boston College High School, is named Xavier’s first female headmaster.