In January 1886, Bishop Gilmour requested the Jesuit superior in Buffalo for permission to begin work on establishing a high school on Cleveland’s west side. Fr. Henry Behren, S.J. hastened to Cleveland and promised the bishop that the Jesuits would open their school on West 30th Street in September of that year. Saint Ignatius High School was to be the 20th secondary school sponsored by the Jesuits in the United States.
When Saint Ignatius opened its doors, Grover Cleveland was President of the United States and George W. Gardner was the City of Cleveland’s Mayor. With a growing population of more than 250,000, the city was prosperous. Civic and industry leaders included John D. Rockefeller, Samuel Mather, John Hay and Mark Hanna. Steel mills and refineries dotted the landscape. The unskilled workforce toiling in these shops was comprised mostly of immigrants, many of whom were Catholic.
The first class of what was then St. Ignatius College (in the European educational tradition) included 76 students. By comparison, we recently welcomed 419 students in the freshman Class of 2021. Likewise, the campus has grown from the original 2-story building to 18 buildings and three athletic fields on 18.5 acres.
Today, Saint Ignatius offers a robust curriculum of nearly 20 AP courses, more than a dozen annual global education opportunities, 16 varsity sports, roughly 80 extracurricular clubs and a variety of outstanding fine arts programs. The student body of 1,500 young men benefits from a deeply formational retreat program that spans four years, as well as performs more than 15,000 hours of completely voluntary Christian service each year.
Rare among Catholic schools, let alone Jesuit institutions, Saint Ignatius boasts 10 priests and brothers on campus, most of whom work in the classroom, in administration or as chaplains. Even for lay faculty, a five-year formation program and adult spirituality offerings ensure that Jesuit spirituality remains infused throughout all facets of daily life on campus.
Throughout these 131 years and among all the changes and evolutions, one essential element has remained constant: Saint Ignatius High School continues to form men of faith for the Church and the world.