The 1907 challenge that led to the founding of Loyola
Loyola University owes its existence to a challenge from Archbishop James Blenk. In 1907, the leader of New Orleans’ Catholics said the city, which was about 40 percent Catholic, needed a Catholic university. Moreover, he said, the men of the Society of Jesus — the religious order better known as the Jesuits — were just the people to do the job, challenging them to do so. On April 15, 1912, the Jesuits got the charter for Loyola University, which occupies a tract across St. Charles Avenue from Audubon Park.
In the fall 2017 semester, Loyola enrolled 3,858 students, and it employs 400 full- and part-time faculty members, according to university figures. In addition to its original site, Loyola occupies what had been the campus of St. Mary’s Dominican College, at St. Charles Avenue and Broadway, which closed in 1984.
- The school is named after Saint Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuit order and a patron saint of soldiers.
- The school that became Loyola University started in 1849 as the College of the Immaculate Conception, a liberal-arts school at Baronne and Common streets, where the Pere Marquette Hotel stands.
- In 1907, it moved Uptown and acquired a new name: Loyola College, a high school and liberal-arts college. In response to Blenk’s challenge, the Jesuits transformed the school into a multidisciplinary institution — Loyola University — that opened in 1912.
- Loyola University was built on land that had been part of the Foucher Plantation, which the Jesuits bought in 1889 for $22,500, the equivalent of $608,750 today. (Tulane University bought the rest of the tract for $37,000, which is slightly more than $1 million in 2017 dollars.)
- WWL-AM, which the university owned for 67 years, went on the air in 1922 with a transmission from Marquette Hall. Before operating the station, Loyola had to receive permission from the Vatican.
- WWL-TV, New Orleans’ Loyola-owned CBS affiliate, went on the air on Sept. 7, 1957.
- Loyola sold its broadcast properties in 1989. WWL-AM and its sister station, WLMG-FM, were purchased by Keymarket Communications. The TV station’s employees formed a group called Rampart Broadcasting — the studio is at 1024 N. Rampart St. — that bought the station in what it believed to be the first employee-led purchase of a station. The channel’s current owner is Tegna Inc.
- Loyola added a pharmacy school in 1913, followed a year later by dentistry and law schools. The law school is still there, but the School of Pharmacy was shut down in 1965, and the School of Dentistry was closed in 1971.
- Loyola opened its first dormitory for out-of-town students in 1921. Room and board cost $35 per month, payable in advance. That is the equivalent of $477 today.
- When Loyola started, it had only 11 students, all of whom were white, male and local. The first women came in 1913, when Loyola took over the New Orleans School of Pharmacy and enrolled all of its students, including two women. Lucrecia Landa and Lillian Maloney became Loyola’s first female graduates when they received their pharmacy degrees that year.
- There was no opposition to admitting women because university officials said they wanted to provide teachers for Catholic schools who had been trained at a Catholic university.
- Racial desegregation at Loyola began in the 1920s, when some African-American nuns — members of the Sisters of the Holy Family — and some black laymen took courses during the summer and at night.
- A push for total integration began after World War II. Desegregation began in 1952 with the law school — Norman Francis, who would become Xavier University’s president, was one of the first two African Americans admitted — and integration of the other daytime programs came a decade later.
Throughout its existence, Loyola has had a dual purpose: offering a broad-based education while maintaining the Jesuit ideal of social justice. Boasting graduates that include such local power players as Mayor Mitch Landrieu, former Mayor Moon Landrieu, former Xavier University President Norman Francis and former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Pascal Calogero, to name a few, its impact on the community — which started more than a century ago — continues to be a significant one.