Saint Peter's University, formerly Saint
Peter's College, was founded in 1872, the first college in
Jersey City. Saint Peter's with New
Jersey City University and Hudson County Community College provide
the city with three institutions
for higher education.
Saint Peter's College was chartered by a special Act of
the Legislature of New Jersey on April 3, 1872. Three departments were
established at that time for the education of young men: the Collegiate,
the Academic or High School (Preparatory) and the Grammar. It opened September
2, 1878, at the new Saint Peter's College on Grand Street building (now
Shalloe Hall on the campus of Saint Peter's Preparatory school), and first
conferred academic degrees on June 25, 1889.
The Grammar Department was separated from the College in September 1905,
and became Manresa Hall (Annual Catalogue, 1918-1919:5). It was
named for Manresa, Spain, where the Jesuit founder Saint Ignatius Loyola
began his spiritual exercises of prayer. The building was on a parcel
of the present site of the Jersey
City Armory at 269 Summit Avenue (Jesuit College in Jersey City:
2). In 1905 the College and the Prep also were "duly recognized by
the State Board of Education and registered at Trenton as maintaining
a full four years College and Academic Course" (Annual Catalogue,
1906-1907:7). They were separately incorporated February 10, 1955 (O'Donnell
Saint Peter's College, the Jesuit College of New Jersey, was founded as
a liberal arts college for men. When classes first started in Jersey City
in 1878, seventy-one students originally enrolled in the Preparatory Department.
That number grew to one hundred and twenty-three by year's end. As more
students arrived, work began on a new school building, Mulry Hall on Grand
and Warren Streets. It was dedicated in 1913.
By 1900 the College had granted 63 Bachelor degrees and 26 Master's degrees.
From 1918 to 1930, the College closed due to World War I and because Jesuit
superiors wanted to concentrate their manpower in other colleges on the
East Coast. As noted in the 1934 College yearbook, The Peacock Pie,
"The class rooms were empty. The faculty had closed their mark books
and left for the battlefield. The students had thrown aside the academic
black to don khaki for the flag that had floated above the school for
two score years." The Preparatory Department did not close at this
time and continues to operate at its original location at 144 Grand Street.
While the Jesuits in residence at the time, most notably James F. McDermott,
president 1915-1921, Thomas F. Graham, president 1921-1925, and Joseph
P. O'Reilly, president 1925-1931, petitioned both the Father Provincial
and the Father General vigorously to reopen the College, a defining gesture
of support came when His Excellency Right Reverend Thomas J. Walsh, D.D.,
Bishop of Newark, traveled to Rome in 1929 to urge The Very Reverend Father
General of the Society of Jesus, Wlodimir Ledochowski, to reopen the college.
His request was honored (Cronin, The Closing . . .: 29).
Saint Peter's College reopened in 1930 in space on the fourth floor of
the Chamber of Commerce Building at One Newark Avenue in downtown Jersey
City. Robert I. Gannon, S.J., was Dean. Father Gannon introduced five
new Jesuit faculty members who brought a new vigor and outlook to the
College, stressing, as their predecessors had done, a strong Catholic
liberal arts program, the hallmark of a Jesuit education. They were dubbed
"the Million Dollar Faculty," and included Dean Gannon, Arthur
J. Hohman, S.J., John P. Smith, S.J., Atlee F.X. Devereux, S.J., and scholastics
Messrs. William J. Gleason, S.J. And Paul J. Swick, S.J.
In December 1930, Fr. Gannon chose the peacock as the College's symbol,
or mascot. The main reason for his selection was the story of the peacock
in myth, which was committed to the flames of a funeral pyre and was reborn
more beautiful than before. Fr. Gannon felt that Saint Peter's College
was reborn better than before. It has also been recorded that in 1630
Michael Reniersz de Pauw, Burgomaster of Amsterdam and Lord of Achienhoven,
Holland, secured from the Director-General and Councilors of New Netherland
all of what is now Hudson County. Pauw is the Dutch word for peacock.
Michael Pauw gave the area a Latinized version of his name, "Pavonia,"
meaning Land of the Peacock (Grundy: 4).
Besides Pavonia, use of Pauw's name is also evident in street names such
as Communipaw Avenue. The peacock
as a symbol for Saint Peter's College was a fitting choice at that time
and remains so today. The seal of the college was also designed in 1930. It was a peacock surmounting
a rock, a couple of crossed keys, and the legend in perpetuum. The peacock
is symbolic of the soul finding immortality after death; the rock symbolizes
St. Peter as the "rock" upon which the church was built; the
keys represent the keys to heaven, and the words in perpetuum, denote
the hope of going on forever (O'Donnell, Jesuit College in Jersey City: 6).
In 1933 (November 9), the college published its first student newspaper that it named The Pauw Wow. On the front page, an article describes the choice of the paper's name and its historical background back to Michael Pauw, noting the placement of an image of Pauw (left side) in the masthead and a peacock (right side).
Hudson College of
Commerce and Finance, an evening school and a division of Saint Peter's
College that enrolled women, opened in September 1932. The name was changed
to Saint Peter's College, The School of Business in 1948, and subsequently
The School of Business Administration of Saint Peter's College (Saint
Peter's The College Magazine, Commemorative Issue, Vol. 15, No. 2:15;
and Hudson College: The School of Business of St. Peter's College Catalog,
Besides being the
only Catholic business college in the state, Hudson College was the first
in the area to offer advanced courses that led to a degree of Bachelor
of Commercial Science. The first graduation was in 1936. Of the five graduating
students, three were women (Jesuit College in Jersey City: 9). Classes
were suspended briefly with the outbreak of World War II in September
1942, but resumed in September 1945. The session program was reduced from
six to five years, and, in September of the following year, a day session
was established offering a four year program towards a Bachelor of Science
Degree. A major in Management was also introduced at this time (Hudson
College: The School of Business of St. Peter's College Catalog, 1947-1948:
By 1933, serious efforts were made to move Saint Peter's College from
downtown Jersey City to its present site on the former Edward
F.C. Young estate at Hudson (now Kennedy) Boulevard and Glenwood Avenue
on two and one-half acres. The first building to be constructed was Collins
Gymnasium in 1934, followed by Gannon Hall and the Arts Building in 1936
(Roehrenbeck). The Middle States Evaluation Committee accredited Saint
Peter's College at its annual meeting in Atlantic City on November 29,
1935 (Jesuit College in Jersey City: 9). Classes started at the
present site on September 24, 1936.
Changes were gradually made on the new campus. Over the next several years,
a building boom occurred, and from 1947-1999, Memorial Hall (1947), McDermott
Hall (1949), Dinneen Hall (1957), St. Peter Hall (1959), O'Toole Library
(1967), Pope Academic Building (1970), the Yanitelli Recreational Center
(1975), Whelan Hall (1993), and Millennium Hall (1999) were erected.
College records indicate that the World War II era brought the College
a new mission: "The Second World War emergency of 1941-1945, more
menacing even than the first, was met by an accelerated course of pre-induction
collegiate training which prepared more than one thousand students for
service in the Armed Forces of the United States. Alumni servicemen numbered
approximately sixteen hundred, of whom thirty made the supreme sacrifice.
The laboratory and instructional facilities of the college were utilized
from 1944 to 1946 by more than 300 student nurses enrolled in the United
States Nurses' Cadet Corps, for whom course affiliation at Saint Peter's
was provided by six metropolitan hospitals" (Annual Catalogue(s),
Saint Peter's College, 1946-1947: 11).
The United States Army approved a Reserve Officers' Training Corps (R.O.T.C.)
at Saint Peter's College on January 12, 1951, by establishing a Chemical
Corps Unit. Memorial Hall, formerly a classroom building and named for
alumni who gave their lives for their country during World War II, was
redesigned to accommodate "the offices, classrooms, arms room and
supply room of the Department of Military Science and Tactics" (Annual
Bulletin, Saint Peter's College, 1951-1952: 16).The temporary drill
field was at the rear of the building. ROTC training was mandatory for
full time freshmen and sophomore male day students until 1969 when it
became optional for all students. The program existed at Saint Peter's
until 1990, when the College entered into a cross-enrollment agreement
for ROTC training with Seton Hall University; the ROTC program at Saint
Peter's formally closed July 31, 1991 (Campus Monthly, September
One of the College's best known academic programs was its Institute of
Industrial Relations, established in 1946: "Saint Peter's, and several
other colleges affiliated with the Catholic church formed such schools
after World War II in order to heighten awareness of labor rights, union
bargaining, management objectives, and to guard against the threat of
Communist influence in the American workplace. Classes dealing with the
principles of 'Unionism' and 'Industrial Justice' were held on Wednesday
(sometimes on Thursday) evenings at the school building situated at 144
Grand Street in Jersey City, NJ The institute was originally open to men
alone, and the only criterion for admission was the possession of a union
card plus proof that each individual 'worked for a living.' Originally,
there was no registration cost to attend, but by the early 1950s a $1.00
fee was charged to those who could afford it. A student was usually allowed
to attend one class per term, and had the option to choose such course
titles as 'Job Evaluation,' 'Union Methods,' 'Parliamentary Law,' 'Industry
Councils,' 'Contract Bargaining,' and many others. A certificate of credit
was conferred on those who spent 32 weeks at the school over a two-year
period. Attendance at the institute piqued [sic] during the late 1940s and throughout
the 1950s, but declined steadily afterward until it closed in 1973"
("Dr. Edward Cornacchia Inaugurated First Lay President." http://www.saintpeters.edu/news/2007/10/22). The Presidential Medal of Freedom (1964) recipient and prominent Jersey City physician Lena Frances Edwards, MD, taught at the Institute until she retired in 1972.
The Division of Adult Education was started on January 27, 1953. Saint
Peter's College now consisted of: The College of Arts and Sciences, The
School of Business Administration-Day Division, The School of Business
Administration-Evening Division, and the Division of Adult Education.
By 1955, 3,431 students had graduated from Saint Peter's College (Cronin.
The Closing . . .: 36).
More than half the alumni of the school came from the graduating classes
1950-1955. Enrollment remained steady through the 1950s, and then grew
in healthy numbers throughout the 1960s.
Fr. Victor R. Yanitelli, S.J., holds the honor of being the longest serving
President of Saint Peter's College. The Yanitelli years, 1966-1978, saw
great growth and vast changes. The first Faculty Senate was formed and
Saint Peter's became fully coeducational in 1966 when women were admitted
to the Day Session. The Charter of Saint Peter's College was amended to
allow members of the laity to join the Board of Trustees. The Act of Enactment
was signed by New Jersey Governor Richard J, Hughes on January 17, 1970.
Two years later the Jesuit Community of St. Peter's was separately incorporated
(Cronin, The Closing . . .: 37).
The Englewood Cliffs branch campus, a "college for adults,"
opened in 1975, and held day and evening sessions until 1983, when the
day session was terminated. The Yanitelli years also witnessed unprecedented
growth in enrollment and the establishment of many new Academic programs,
including majors in Fine Arts and Computer Science, Humanities courses
in the Evening Division, and programs in Urban Studies and College Science
During the tenure
of its nineteenth president, L. Edward Glynn, S.J., Saint Peter's saw
the arrival of its first resident students. The College acquired apartments
on Glenwood Avenue and converted them into student housing (Pauw Wow,
Volume LIII, No. 1, Saint Peter's College 23 September 1984:2). Today's
students reside in seven locations in the immediate vicinity.
Also under Fr. Glynn, the College reestablished its graduate program (which
had been suspended in the late 1940s) in 1979 by introducing a Master's
degree in Education. In 1988 the College introduced the Master of Business
Administration with a concentration in Management Information Systems,
followed by additional concentrations in Management and International
Business (1995), and Finance and Marketing (2000). Masters programs in
Accountancy and Nursing were established in 1996 and 1997, respectively
(Graduate Bulletin: 3).
While religious, performing arts, debate and athletic clubs and societies
were always part of the extracurricular programs at the college, the 70s
and 80s saw a great increase in these activities. Today's extracurricular
activities also include organizations relating to community service, ethnicity,
academic achievement, student publications and additional sports teams,
including an intramural program.
Saint Peter's College has an enrollment of approximately 3,000 full-time
and part-time students; it represents a diverse student body from throughout
the United States and more than 60 countries. Approximately one third
of the undergraduates are resident students. The student to faculty ratio
There are 108 full-time professors, Jesuits making up seven percent of
the faculty. Twenty-four Jesuits reside at Saint Peter's, with seven serving
on the full-time College faculty. Saint Peter's is part of the Association
of Jesuit Colleges and Universities. Including Saint Peter's, there are
twenty-eight Jesuit colleges and universities in the United States with
Saint Peter's being the only one in New Jersey.
The College celebrated its 130th anniversary in 2002. It currently offers
38 Bachelor's programs along with numerous Associate degree programs.
The College of Arts and Sciences/School of Business Administration (CAS/SBA)
offers undergraduate programs for traditional day students while the School
of Professional and Continuing Studies (SPCS) offers undergraduate programs
for adult students. Areas of study within the CAS/SBA include pre-professional
joint programs in medicine and law. Other academic programs include: African-American
Studies, Army & Air Force ROTC, Cooperative Education, Executive Seminars,
Harvard Model United Nations, Honors Program, New Jersey Marine Science
Consortium, Service Learning, Study Abroad, and the Washington Center
Program. Areas of study within the SPCS include Business and Liberal Arts.
The School of Graduate Studies offers Master's Degree programs in Education,
Business Administration, Accountancy, Nursing, and Criminal Justice Administration. Doctoral programs are offered in Education and Nursing. Besides the campuses
in Jersey City and Englewood Cliffs, courses are also offered at various
corporate sites at the Jersey City Waterfront and in South Amboy, NJ.
The main campus offers five instructional buildings, including Gannon
Hall, a state of the art science building, which recently underwent a
$9 million renovation.
The Theresa and Edward O'Toole Library contains more than 50,000 square
feet of space and houses more than 260,000 volumes on its four floors.
The library at the branch campus at Englewood Cliffs offers an additional
30,000 volumes. The libraries subscribe to 750 periodicals and more than
10,000 full-text periodicals are available on or off-campus from the Library's
Web site, www.spc.edu/library, along with 1,200 links to academic and
government Internet resources.
The Yanitelli Recreational Life Center is a 125,000 square foot, multi-million
dollar facility offering five indoor tennis courts; three gymnasiums;
a racquetball court; indoor golf practice facility; a twenty-five yard
swimming pool with two diving boards; fitness center with strength and
cardiovascular training, a new weight room; and a game room.
The College is a wireless campus. It offers students access to more than
300 computers in 20 labs. In addition, each residential hall has a mini-lab
open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. All classrooms have Internet access.
Saint Peter's is accredited by the Commission on Higher Education of the
Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools, and by the Commission
on Collegiate Nursing Education for its Bachelor of Science and Master
of Science in Nursing. The College is approved by the New Jersey State
Department of Education for teacher-training.
History was made at Saint Peter's in May 2007 when Dr. Eugene J. Cornacchia
was appointed the first lay president in the College's 135-year history.
At a May 12 news conference, Dr. Cornacchia proclaimed that "he was
'a product of Jesuit education' and stressed his presidency will be 'always,
always committed' to the Jesuit mission at Saint Peter's, New Jersey's
only Jesuit College" (former Saint Peter's College Website: http://www.spc.edu).
In August 2011, Saint Aedan's Catholic Church at 800 Bergen Avenue was added to Saint Peter's expanding campus as the church prepared to celebrate its centennial in 2012. It is now known as Saint Aedan's: The Saint Peter's University Church and continues to serve its parish community. In 2013, the university opened the Mac Mahon Student Center from Montgomery Street to Glenwood Avenue. It features The Duncan Family Sky Room, an event facility on the sixth floor, offering uninterrupted views of Jersey City and Manhattan.
After 140 years, Saint Peter's announced that its application for university designation was approved by the New Jersey Commission on Higher Education in March 2012. Although its original charter from 1872 grants Saint Peter's all of the "powers, functions and prerogatives of a university," this recent approval marks the college's formal transition to a university. Saint Peter's will continue to add to the growing number of post-graduate opportunities, including doctoral, post-graduate certification, online and five-year programs, and will also continue to enhance existing partnerships with other educational institutions.
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Straus & Cudahy, 1981.
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City, NJ: Progress Printing Co., Inc. 1976.
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______.. The Young Estate. Jersey City, N.J.: St. Peter's College Communications
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F. Wrynn, S.J., D. Litt., Chair, History Department, Saint Peter's College;
and Alan Delozier, Director & University Archivist, Msgr. Noe Field
Archives & Special Collections Center, Seton Hall University.