Success & Discontent (1950–1959)
The decade of the 1950s saw a period of stability at both SI and in the nation. Fr. William Finnegan, SJ, took over from Fr. Ralph Tichenor, SJ, as principal, and under his five-year tenure the school finally built its gymnasium. He was succeeded in 1955 by Fr. Robert Leonard, SJ, who had served the school as vice principal for four years.
Another institutional change occurred at SI when the high school and USF formally parted ways by the end of the decade, incorporating as separate institutions. Despite the new gymnasium, administrators felt pressure to move — pressure from USF, which wanted the Stanyan Street structure for its own plans to expand, and pressure from a growing student body eager for a modern campus.
The decade was marked by a string of athletic victories that made SI the athletic powerhouse of the city. The baseball team brought home league crowns in 1954, 1958 and 1959; the basketball team won the league in 1951 and then followed with league and Tournament of Champion wins in 1954 and 1955 (with another league victory in 1956); the swimmers won the AAA in 1953, 1958 and 1959; the golf team dominated the AAA with league victories in 1951, 1952 and 1957–59; and the football team triumphed in 1956, 1958 and 1959. Coaches such as Jim Keating, Rene Herrerias and Pat Malley were the heroes of the day.
SI strove to be an island of tranquility in this decade, as world events, such as the Korean War and the Communist witch-hunts, led by Senator Joseph McCarthy, swirled outside the school’s walls. However, many young people in this decade felt a growing unease with the established institutions, and that unease surfaced at SI from time to time.
The Separation of the Schools
Fr. Edward B. Rooney, SJ, the Jesuit Education Association director who inspected SI in 1938, made a return inspection in 1950. His report praised SI as “unquestionably one of the outstanding Jesuit high schools in the United States … for many years now, it has been building up a fine reputation in the local community and it continues to merit and to enjoy this reputation.”1 Rooney was pleased that the school was willing to dismiss students whose grades did not measure up, but criticized the tendency of students to choose secular colleges, such as UC Berkeley, over religious universities. He also found disturbing the shaky financial ground upon which the high school stood. He cited the “substantial deficits,” and pointed out that USF, which in past years had been supported by the high school, was not, in turn, SI’s benefactor. (USF in the 1950s was enjoying tremendous success thanks to the GI Bill and veterans returning to their studies.)
Rooney recommended that the school adopt and follow annual budgets and raise tuition. He warned that if USF and SI were ever to separate, the high school would be in financial straits. The following summer, SI Treasurer Edward Zeman, SJ, informed parents that the school would raise tuition to $135 per year.
The school also began taking seriously the notion of separation from USF, something that had been initially discussed at the turn of the century. As USF’s and SI’s missions became more specifically focused, this split seemed a natural thing. In fact, the two other province schools that had started as combination college-high schools — Loyola and Santa Clara — both had broken off their preparatory divisions years previous, Bellarmine in 1925 and Loyola High School in 1929. The reasons for those separations were (as Gerald McKevitt, SJ, wrote about the split between Bellarmine and SCU) “as numerous as they were obvious.” In his history of SCU, McKevitt noted that “as late as 1915 there were 350 colleges and universities in the United States that still retained ‘prep’ schools, but such arrangements were becoming increasingly anachronistic.” After Santa Clara adopted the title of “university,” the school’s faculty resented “the intolerable anomaly of a university frequented by boys in knickerbockers.” While that tension was lessened in San Francisco by the minor geographic separation between USF and SI, faculty and administrators at both schools saw the handwriting on the wall.2
As early as 1950, the SI and USF Jesuits were seriously looking at sites for the relocation of the high school. A memorandum dated November 13, 1950, noted two parcels: a 12-acre Laurel Hill site (now the Laurel Village Shopping Center), costing $450,000, and the 2-acre Masonic Avenue car-barn property, costing $75,000 on which the school considered building a gymnasium and playfield. This second site would allow the SI Jesuits to separate from the USF community “by the erection of a faculty building on the present High School site.”3
In 1955, the Jesuits of both schools, who were still living as one community in Welch Hall, took the first step toward canonical separation when they received a letter dated August 21, 1955, “to Jesuit superiors from Fr. Vincent McCormick, SJ, American Assistant to Fr. General John B. Janssens, in which he conveyed the latter’s decision that the two communities should eventually be so separated.”4
SI learned in 1957 of an 11-acre parcel in the Sunset District on which the San Francisco Unified School District had planned to build a high school. When the district abandoned its plans, the Jesuits at SI expressed interest in the rolling sand dunes between 37th and 38th Avenues and Pacheco and Riviera Streets. USF President John F.X. Connolly, SJ, approached Mayor George Christopher for help securing the property for SI. On August 11, 1958, Mayor Christopher wrote to Joseph A. Moore, president of the SFUSD Board of Education, encouraging the sale of the “surplus land” to SI and adding that “to this moment, no use has been found for this site.” He also warned that San Francisco was in danger of losing SI to another city “unless we are able to cooperate with the University of San Francisco in securing a new location for this time honored school.” If that were to happen, he added, “the burden of taking care of its student body may fall on the shoulders of San Francisco taxpayers.”5
While SI would not purchase that land until 1964 (at a price of $2 million), the stage had been set for the school’s move to its sixth site. In the meantime, USF and SI prepared for the eventual move by formally separating on July 1, 1959, as distinct corporations and Jesuit communities after receiving permission from the Father General, thus ending a 104-year relationship between high school and college. Fr. Patrick J. Carroll, SJ ’31, became president of St. Ignatius High School and rector of the 40-member SI Jesuit community. (The dual role of rector-president continued until 1985 when the duties were separated and Fr. Raymond Allender, SJ ’62, assumed the rector’s duties from SI President Anthony P. Sauer, SJ.) Fr. Carroll, who had taught at SI from 1938 to 1941, served as assistant to the provincial prior to this appointment.6
Not every Jesuit was happy to see the two schools part ways. Br. Daniel Peterson, SJ, librarian at SI between 1975 and 2000 and later province archivist, was a student at USF in 1959 during the separation. He recalls his teacher, Fr. Ray Feely, SJ, coming into the classroom, shaking his head and complaining. “They took our preparatory department away from us,” he told the class. “He was in a foul mood all day. He thought it was a terrible decision, but I suspect his was a minority opinion.”
The Preparatory Department of the University of San Francisco
For many years, SI published a Catalogue (also referred to as the Prospectus, though it bore no official name), offering a listing of the school’s philosophy, organizational structure for the following year and the awards given and student names from the previous year. In July 1951, the document still listed St. Ignatius High School as the “Preparatory Department of the University of San Francisco, Founded October 1855, Conducted by the Jesuit Fathers.”
As for its “Educational Aims,” the school offered this in the way of a mission statement:
“To mold manhood, to develop the entire man, mind and heart, body and soul; to form as well as to inform;
“To train the mind to analyze rather than memorize, so that it may distinguish truth from error; to strengthen the will that it may have the grit to practice virtue and reject vice; to cultivate the heart that it may love the worthwhile things;
“To instill culture; to stimulate ambition; to disdain mediocrity and develop leadership; to train citizens for times and eternity;
“To maintain high academic standards; to encourage research; to present the technical phases of various fields of knowledge, yet to integrate and make vital education; to present the current and complex problems of modern life, yet assisting youth to solve these problems with principles as eternal as the God that promulgated them — the eternally vital principles of truth and justice;
“To instill into youth the neglected doctrine that morality must govern economics and politics, and that modern ills cannot be cured merely by shifting economic systems and changing political structures: pointing out that every system must be administered by men over men, and that selfishness, greed, dishonesty and lust for power are moral evils which cannot be eliminated by civil legislation but only by moral restraint;
“To rivet to the minds of youth the truth that all hatreds, whether of class or race or creed or foreign nations, rot civilization, and that, irrespective of one’s belief, the sole and ultimate solution of economic, political and social ills was epitomized by Him Who said: ‘Thou shalt love thy Lord thy God with thy whole heart and thy whole soul and with thy whole mind; — thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.’”
That mission statement was at once an ideal and a reality — something evidenced by students and teachers, though certainly not at all times. To help guide the young men toward this goal, the Prospectus included sage advice in a section entitled “Methods of Study,” listing these six steps:
1. Have a fixed period of study each day….
2. Study in a quiet, well-lighted room…. You cannot concentrate in the face of distractions that come from the blare of a radio or the conversation and laughter of other people.
3. Plan your study according to your needs….
4. Aim at understanding what you study…. Knowledge must be digested and assimilated like food before it becomes a part of you….
5. Use pencil and paper….
6. Review what you have learned. Memory is an elusive thing and sometimes plays tricks on us….”
The Catalogue also listed the courses offered for the 1951–52 school year as follows:
First year: religion and public speaking, arithmetic and grammar review, Latin, English, algebra, ROTC.
Second year: religion and public speaking, Latin, English, geometry, world history, ROTC. (Students aiming for the “Honorary Classical” diploma would substitute Greek for ROTC.)
By junior year, in addition to taking the requisite religion, public speaking, Latin, English and ROTC classes (Greek for honors classes), students had the freedom to choose two of four options: physics, chemistry, algebra or U.S. history-civics.
Seniors likewise had choices to make. Everyone studied religion, public speaking, Latin and English. In addition, they could choose three from the following: U.S. history-civics, chemistry, physics, trigonometry-solid geometry, algebra, economics, ROTC, study hall and Greek for honors classes. Students could also sign up for a typing course.
These courses resembled those at Jesuit schools throughout the U.S. and still reflected the school’s roots in the Ratio Studiorum. For this education, students paid $140 in tuition and $60 in fees in addition to books. The school advertised its policy “not to exclude any Catholic boy because of his inability to meet tuition requirements.” To help meet that promise, the school offered many students financial aid including eight named scholarships established by generous patrons and organizations.
Students continued to compete for 13 academic honors and awards, much like in past decades. These included the General Excellence Award, the Sodality Award, the Sanctuary Award, the Shakespeare Award (for the “best portrayal of a piece from Shakespeare”), the Freshman Elocution Award, the Sophomore Oratorical Award, the Gentlemen’s Sodality Debating Award (given to the best debater in the public debate between representatives of the senior and junior classes), the Fathers’ Club Debating Award (given to the best debater in the public debate between representatives of the sophomore and freshman classes), the Senate Debating Plaque, the Martin Latin Award, the Washington Essay Award, the Science Award and the ROTC Awards.
Three Greats: Fr. Spohn, Warren White & Fr. Becker
Few teachers at SI have made an impression as indelible as the one that Fr. Richard Spohn, SJ ’31, made on the 5,000 students he taught between 1947 and 1979. An exacting teacher, he knew what he would be teaching on any given day during the year, and he had a cabinet filled with home-made demonstrations to make concrete the abstract notions of physics. He set off rockets, shot a miniature cannon and recreated famous experiments, inspiring many students to choose careers in science.
Bob Hunter ’48, who was a student for Spohn’s second year at SI, noted that “it was tough enough taking both Latin and Greek, so no one wanted to take physics. But he was a great, great teacher who not only knew his physics well, but could teach it well. After we found out how good he was, we filled each of his classes.” Hunter also marveled at how Spohn “managed to acquire enough thermodynamic, mechanical and electric equipment to make physics real for us.”
Bing Quock ’72, head of the Morrison Planetarium, noted that “as far as his demonstrations were concerned, he was the equivalent of Mr. Wizard. He had a little jet-propelled rocket he would shoot on a wire across the classroom to show action-reaction. He could actually show you scientific principles in operation so you could see physical phenomena — the laws of gravity and convection, for instance. You didn’t have to learn about them through a book only. You could see them right before your eyes.”
Quock remembered Fr. Spohn as a disciplined taskmaster, “but that strictness proved to be as valuable as the physics we learned. He even made sure we put our lab chairs back under the table a certain way. That helped me to be a critical thinker, to approach my work on a meticulous level almost to the point of fussiness. But that’s necessary in science.”
Laurence Yep ’66 wrote about Fr. Spohn in his memoir The Lost Garden. “I took physics from a priest who over the years had refined his science demonstrations down to the smallest detail; and they were presented with all the flair and precision of a Broadway show. His example of air pressure was especially memorable because he would place a marshmallow into a bell jar. Slowly he would pump out the air, and the marshmallow, with less and less air pressing at its sides to help it hold its shape, would slowly begin to swell and expand. By the time most of the air had been taken out from the bell jar, the marshmallow looked as large as a rat. Then he would let in some air; and even that slight amount of air pressure was enough to make the marshmallow collapse into a gooey mess…. However like the good showman he was, he always saved the best for the climax, ending the final class with a bang. During the last day of instruction, he would set off a miniature replica of the atom bomb. There would be a bang and a flash of light and then a pillar of white dust would shoot up toward the ceiling where it spread out into the familiar mushroom shape.”
Fr. Spohn’s reputation for punctuality made him a legendary figure among this students and colleagues. Fr. Raymond Allender, SJ ’62, recalled that “on the last day of school in the 1970s, for instance, the dean of men would call Dick’s classroom a few seconds before the final bell rang, just as he was finishing the last sentence of his last lecture. He’d ask, “Dick, have you completed your material?’ and Dick would answer, ‘Yes, Brother, you may now ring the bell.’” He would then shut his notebook and proclaim, “And gentlemen, that is physics.” In 1976, his venerable schedule was thrown off for the first time when Fr. McCurdy made a surprise announcement declaring that the last day of class would be a holiday.
Tom Kennedy ’63 recalled that Fr. Spohn “knew that he was going to be absent for a particular class, so he put that day’s lecture on a tape recorder so the class would not miss a thing. The class was intently listening and taking notes, and about 20 minutes into this taped lecture, Fr. Spohn’s voice boomed out, “Shut up, Brandi!” As you might have guessed, Tom Brandi was talking at this exact moment. Needless to say, both he and the class remained quiet for the rest of the period.”
“Dick gave such credibility to the science department and the profession of teaching because he was such a thorough professional,” added Fr. Allender. “No doubt about it. He was a dominating figure. He was Jesuit education.”
Fr. Spohn made school history by having his class go coed nearly 20 years before the rest of the school. When SI moved to its Sunset District campus, it offered morning physics classes to girls from the city’s Catholic high schools. “He loved teaching the girls,” said Fr. Allender. “They brought out his gentle side. To him, they were his girls.” Fr. Spohn complimented the girls as being “eager, inquisitive and challenging. The worst thing you could do would be to underestimate them.”
He retired in 1979 when his diabetes worsened, but he continued to live at SI and helped out in classes while he trained to become a spiritual director. “That was typical of him to start a whole new field once he retired,” said Fr. Allender. “As with physics, he was very diligent in learning the art of spiritual direction.”
Eventually, he moved to the Jesuit retirement center in Los Gatos, though he kept in touch with former students and sent newspaper clippings to teachers at SI offering ideas for their classes. He died in January 1989, and his memorial Mass was celebrated in Orradre Chapel on the SI campus, presided over by his nephew William Spohn ’62.
Warren R. White ’39
Fr. Spohn wasn’t the only great teacher at SI. Another favorite of many students was Warren White, who taught at the Stanyan Street campus between 1948 and 1955. He was also the originator and first moderator ofInside SI and the director of numerous plays. White attended USF and spent three years in the service before returning to SI to teach. “Suddenly, my former teachers were colleagues, including Mr. McNamara, Red Vaccaro, Barney Wehner, Sgt. Storti, Edward Dermot Doyle, Fr. Joe King, SJ, Fr. Alex Cody, SJ, Fr. William O’Neil, SJ, Fr. Ray Buckley, SJ, and President Dunne. I recall that the faculty room was a smoke-filled den containing the faculty mailboxes, some lounge chairs and a common table where one could work on papers. Other than the physics and chemistry rooms, there were no dedicated rooms and the faculty had no offices. The faculty room also served as a lunchroom if you brown-bagged it, but there was a provision of coffee. In the cafeteria, we sat in an area screened off from the students, but it was not very attractive. The Jesuits repaired to their rectory on the Hilltop, and we laymen made do.
“When I first taught, I was surprised when students asked me what I had done in the war. I wondered how they knew I was a veteran. Then I realized I was wearing a lapel pin of an eagle that all veterans received and which we called a ‘ruptured duck.’”
“Everyone in the English department used the same anthology — Literature and Life — published nationally with separate editions for public and parochial schools. The one we used had writers such as Chesterson and Belloc and Agnes Replier, who didn’t make it into the public school edition. One advantage to this was that almost every high school senior in the U.S. would be familiar with at least four plays by Shakespeare, some of the sonnets, Gray’s ‘Elegy in a Churchyard,’ Tennyson’s ‘Ulysses,’ and T.S. Eliot’s ‘The Hollow Men,’ for example. Student choice was honored in the assignment of book reports — at least one a semester. Students could select what they wished, subject to approval. Junior year was devoted to American literature, senior to British.”
With the sudden death of James Gill in 1949 (who had directed the school’s plays for 20 years), White took over the director’s job. He had acted in USF’s College Players under Gill’s direction. “Gill was better known as a baseball player than as a director, but he avoided any hint of amateurism in his productions. What I knew was what I had learned from him, and it worked for me by and large.
“The annual play was a fund-raiser for the gymnasium and had gone from using the Little Theatre at USF to performing at the Marines Memorial Theatre on Sutter Street. It was my responsibility to select the play and cast, organize a stage crew, build the sets, get the furnishings and props, schedule rehearsals and supervise the move to Marines and back to Stanyan Street. A stipend of $500 was added to my annual pay.
“Shortly after I had replaced Gill, Fr. Joe King came to SI with his enthusiasm for glee clubs and music of all kinds. He started organizing talent shows, and they evolved into musical productions in which I began to take a part. One was calledWin Winsocki. MGM had produced a “B” list musical set in a small Midwest college whose survival rested with the success of its football team. We ignored the book and the title of the film, but used the fight song, which went, ‘You can win Winsocki if you only try,’ and other stereotypical sentiments. It was a wonderful song, and it served as the basis for a pastiche of songs, dances, sketches, whatever Fr. King, the students or I could devise. The following year we topped it with a work we called Souther Pacific, which combined bits of Rogers and Hart with The Caine Mutiny, Mr. Roberts, and other ideas from Fr. King, the students or myself. These performances were at USF’s Little Theatre, and it didn’t occur to any of us that we should have paid royalties. I trust a statute of limitations applies.
“One year, Bing Crosby wanted to use the Marines Memorial for a broadcast, but we had the lease for the theatre. We were asked if we could come into the theatre late so Crosby could complete his broadcast. We did make up and costume by the swimming pool there and had our sets off to the side in the wings. Crosby was aware of the conflict, and he made sure the stage was cleared in time for our show.
“The Marines Memorial productions included Yellow Jack, a Pulitzer-winning play about the conquering of yellow fever in Cuba as a prelude to building the Panama Canal. We did comedies such as Three Men on a Horse, Here Comes Mr. Jordan,and The Gentleman from Athens. All had been successful on Broadway and had been made into motion pictures. All the female roles had to be changed into male roles. My last shows at Marines, and I think the last time SI used the hall, was forBilly Budd, a man-of-war saga, which had no female parts and needed no altering.
“A Jesuit seminary in the Midwest had established a cottage industry rewriting standard plays to change female roles to male ones. There were many boys’ schools and colleges, and thus a demand for scripts with all-male roles existed. The rationale, at least at SI, was that as a school activity, a school play should be open to as many students as possible. Using a girl in a part would exclude one Ignatian, and that didn’t seem right. Nor did the thought of female impersonation ever suggest itself. The policy, at least in my years at SI, was never a stratagem for separating the sexes. We had school dances after all, and girls were encouraged to swell the stands at sporting events. In the next few years, Mr. Dick McCurdy, SJ (later principal at SI), having succeeded me, chose to use the more convenient stage of the Presentation Theatre on Turk Street.”
Fr. John Becker
In 1958, a young Jesuit came to SI and stayed for 20 years. Fr. John Becker, SJ, was a remarkable English teacher and Inside SI moderator known for his propensity for punning, his highly structured curriculum that became the department standard and his manner of inspiring students. Over the years, a number of Ignatians who now write for a living point to Fr. Becker as the man who convinced them they had talent worth pursuing. Dragonwings author Laurence Yep ’66, Frasier creator Peter Casey ’68 and Chronicle political reporter John Wildermuth ’69 are just three who praise Becker for giving them their start.
Fr. Becker was born in Oak Park, Illinois, and attended St. Philip’s in Chicago and St. Monica's High School in Santa Monica before entering the Society on July 1, 1943. He earned a Master’s degree in English at Loyola University and has taught high school since 1950, at Bellarmine, SI (from 1958 to 1978) and Brophy. While at SI he moderated Inside SI (and taught students to print four-color magazines using a press in the basement of the school), taught English and religious studies and took students to Europe each summer, buying a Volkswagon van in Germany and touring for six weeks with 10 or so students who slept on the floors of Catholic school gymnasiums. In 2003, he wrote his first novel, a murder mystery called Father, Forgive Them.
A Curious Encounter with the Ladies’ Auxiliary of the VFW
By Brian Hassett ’59
In 1958, when Fr. John Becker came to teach English at St. Ignatius, I was a senior. The focus of Senior English was writing, a discipline with which I had mixed success. The teaching style of the new teacher would be crucial. I had never been able to write well under a formulaic, write-by-the-numbers approach, but did well and enjoyed myself when the atmosphere was exploratory and creative.
For the first few weeks, the way Fr. Becker operated in the classroom was of high interest to me. Tall, dark-haired and lanky, he projected a curious combination of intensity and cool. His posture was relaxed, but his mind was focused. The issue at hand was always how to communicate effectively in writing. He didn’t have all the answers, but he did have questions. How might this scene be rendered so the reader feels he is part of it? How can your position on an issue be presented so the reader looks at it in a new light? There wasn’t one right answer or a single approach. Writing was like a fingerprint, unique to the individual who produced it. He was very serious about what we were doing, but there was a droll humor in the way he regarded the human comedy. After those first few weeks I relaxed. This was going to work out fine.
As assignments for his writing workshop, Fr. Becker would have us respond to the prompts of writing contests, and then would actually enter our most promising efforts in the contests. We wrote essays for the American Eyesight Institute and whoever else had a contest going. Well into the school year I was pleased to learn that the five hundred words I’d written on “The Space Age Challenge to America” for the local Ladies’ Auxiliary of the Veterans of Foreign Wars had won the second prize of $15. Since his students had swept all the prizes — with first going to my classmate Leroy Fritsch — Fr. Becker accompanied us and our guests to the Friday evening awards ceremony at a meeting room in the San Francisco Opera House.
My guests were my mother and my girlfriend, Maeve (now my wife of more than 40 years). We didn’t know what to expect. My mother, straight from a long day in a downtown billing office, was in a Thank-God-It’s-Friday mood, wanting nothing more than to unwind and relax. Maeve and I were hoping things would be short but sweet. We joined Fr. Becker on the street and went in to see what awaited us.
We were met in the hallway by a phalanx of six ladies in military outfits of a cut somewhere between the Girl Scouts and a guerilla band of Daughters of the American Revolution. Two ladies took each prizewinner securely by the arms. Then, the ornate doors of the meeting room were thrown open and we were summarily marched into a gallery of 50 or 60 uniformed ladies, who were clapping loudly to a Souza march on the phonograph. After being marched twice around the room, we were led to a platform upon which an elderly woman of commanding figure motioned us to our positions.
Grinning to keep from bursting into laughter, I searched the room for Maeve and my mother, and found them in the visitor’s gallery with Father Becker. Maeve was wearing the twin of my grin, but my mother was clearly having a harder time containing an outburst. I looked from them to Fr. Becker, who, cool as always, gave me a nod that said, “We can get through this. Hang in there.”
Things unfolded quickly. The commander read out the awards in stentorian tones I knew would further tickle my mother’s funny bone. “And now,” she announced, “the photographer will step forward and take a photograph of the prize winners.” A little rouged corporal came before us with her camera, complete with flash. My mother was doing a little dance to contain herself.
The camera was aimed. The corporal pushed the button, but nothing happened. She tried a second and a third time but nothing happened. At this point in the proceedings, mother had broken into a jig, Maeve’s smile was about to burst, and even Fr. Becker’s crooked smile was stretched to the limit.
The corporal adjusted the camera and tried yet again to snap the shot. Nothing. Finally the commander descended from the platform, brusquely took the camera, fiddled with it a few seconds, handed it back and returned to her place on the platform. “That should do it,” she said confidently.
Smile everyone,” said the corporal. I was smiling as broadly as I’d ever smiled in my life. She pushed the button. The camera exploded with a puff of white smoke. Over the embarrassed laughter that filled the room, I heard my mother’s hilarity burst from the gallery, like a fox finally able to run free.
As we stood in the street, decompressing before heading home, Fr. Becker smiled his crooked smile and shook his head. As a teacher, whose job was to civilize but not suppress the sensibilities of teenagers, he no doubt had witnessed comic vignettes in the yards and halls of St. Ignatius on a daily basis that rivaled the evening’s proceedings with the ladies’ auxiliary. You could see him rolling them around in his mind like a piece of candy. His humor had no hard edge, no ridicule. I’ve tried to maintain that same perspective.
In his 20 years at St. Ignatius, Fr. Becker deeply influenced writers such as Lawrence Yep ’66, whose fiction includes the Newbery Honor Book Dragonwings,and Peter Casey ’68, creator and producer of NBC’s Frasier. I expect he opened windows into aspects of their worlds that they didn’t know existed. That’s what he did for me. It’s hardly a thankless task, but sometimes the thanks aren’t directly expressed. Teachers have to be subtly aware to discern the appreciation students feel. I’m confident, from what I know of Fr. John Becker, that such discernment sweetened his task.
By the way, since I'm crediting Fr. Becker as my first writing teacher, it is germane to note that I went on to earn a doctoral degree in creative writing and to work as a writer and teacher of writing.
Laurence Yep & Peter Casey on Fr. Becker
Laurence Yep ’66, the author of Dragonwings and dozens of other books, wrote about Fr. Becker in his autobiography, The Lost Garden. Here is an excerpt from his book:
“In my senior year, we had Father Becker who taught us English by having us imitate the various writers and various forms. We had to write poems in the complicated rhyme scheme of the sestina; and we had to write scenes imitating Shakespeare. Our writing would never make anyone forget William or the other greats of English literature; but we learned the nuts and bolts of a style. To this day, I have to be careful what I read because I tend to imitate that writing.
“Early in the semester, Father took some of us aside and said that if we wanted to get an ‘A’ in his course, we would have to get something accepted by a national magazine. All of us were intimidated by the prospect; but in those days you didn’t argue with a Jesuit priest — and you still don’t. All of us tried. None of us got anything accepted; and he later retracted the threat and graded us by the same standards he used for the rest of the class. However, I got bitten by the bug and kept on trying.”
Peter Casey ’68, a writer for Cheers and Wings and the creator of Frasier (the most honored sitcom in TV history), was also a student in Fr. Becker’s class. “He was tough,” Casey said in an interview that appeared in the Spring ’95 Genesis III.“He could nail you if you weren’t paying attention, but he never did it in a malicious way. I respected his opinion tremendously. When he told me that I could write, it made an impression on me. Heading into college, I wasn’t exactly sure what direction I wanted to go. That praise helped steer me to major in journalism at a junior college and in broadcasting when I transferred to San Francisco State University.”
On April 20, 1997, SI dedicated a courtyard next to the campus ministry center in honor of Fr. Becker. Casey donated funds for the project, which, with its fountain and benches, is a place that invites students to gather in small groups and discuss a novels and poetry.
Centennial Celebration & the New Alumni Association
To mark the 100th anniversary of the founding of St. Ignatius College, USF and St. Ignatius High School held a centennial week in October 1955. SI celebrated a solemn Mass on October 13 sung at St. Ignatius Church by Fr. William Tobin, SJ, with a sermon delivered by Fr. Charles Casassa, SJ ’28, then president of Loyola University in Los Angeles. SI students also took part in USF’s celebrations, which included an October 14 University Memorial Mass for deceased students and an October 16 Mass celebrated by Archbishop John J. Mitty, who was assisted by a former SI religion teacher, the Right Rev. Msgr. Harold Collins.
In the 1955 yearbook, SI Principal Robert Leonard, SJ, asked Ignatians to commemorate the centennial by referring to the key image of the 1950s — the Atom. “This is an Atomic Age: of fusion and fission; of unbounded energies harnessed and exploded; of contracting and scattering; of elements merged and particles ejected. An analogy may be drawn between the atomic process and your lives. Remember, however, it is a resemblance, not a parallel. During your days at St. Ignatius there was a building up of, a search for unity — a fusion — with God, with truth, with one another; in a word, the fusion of faith, hope and charity. Now is the zero hour of fission. You are divided and hurled forth, not to dissipate your substance nor to lose your character in the world, as atomic particles are hurled forth never to return. For you, the bond of these earlier years will never be broken. The field of your operation will simply be ever widened as a chain reaction….”7
The modern Alumni Association started in 1956 with the celebration of the school’s centenary, and the school gathered 58 graduates to put together a roster for a general alumni reunion to be held June 2, 1956. At that event, alumni gathered by year in classrooms. “These rooms became pretty lively places, and some men who had not seen their classmates for quite a few years were having a field day,” reported the Ignatian Bulletin, the precursor to the Genesis alumni magazine. When the crowd came together for dinner, student yell leaders led them in Wildcat yells “and even gave the school fight song a whirl. Then former yell leaders took over under the leadership of Danny Galvin ’42. Dan still [had] the touch, and the alumni responded long and loud.” Then the first Alumni Association president — Tom King ’22 — was named, along with his officers Darrell Daly ’15, Superior Judge Edward J. Molkenbuhr ’18, Charles Creighton ’30, Richard B. Doyle ’21 and Dan O’Hara ’35.8
Fr. Robert Leonard, SJ & Fr. Thomas Reed, SJ
In the June 6, 1957, Inside SI, editor Dan Flynn ’57 paid tribute to outgoing principal, Fr. Robert Leonard, SJ, who had come to SI in 1951 as its vice principal and dean of discipline and who had served as principal starting in 1954. Flynn wrote that students came to respect Fr. Leonard. “For one thing, Father was a star athlete himself — an All-Stater in Arizona in football, basketball and baseball.” When Leonard took over as principal, it was “a popular choice,” wrote Flynn. “In the semesters that followed, strange things began to happen. Students were trusted with more and more privileges. SI had a principal who was with and for the students every inch of the way. The main secret of Fr. Leonard’s success lay in the fact that he trusted the students. He knew the good, positive method of directing them. Seldom was he heard criticizing the student body on the PA system. Instead of criticism, he boomed out the strong encouraging words which gave the students the confidence they needed.”
His replacement would be Fr. Thomas Reed, SJ ’34, a native San Franciscan and an SI grad. Born in 1917, Fr. Reed entered the Society after graduating from high school and taught at SI between 1942 and 1944. He studied education at St. Louis University, Stanford and USF where he received a doctoral degree in education counseling and psychology in 1985. He served as principal of SI between 1957 and 1964 before leaving for USF to serve as acting dean of education. In one of his first acts as principal, he created a split lunch period, given the large enrollment of 1957, with seniors and sophomores eating before juniors and freshmen. He also added fluorescent lights to the first floor corridor.
Fr. Reed was known as a forthright man who always spoke his mind, but “his frankness and off-the-cuff manner could be controversial,” according to his obituary published in the National Jesuit News. He made an unsuccessful bid in 1972 for a seat on the San Francisco Board of Education, but was appointed to the board by Mayor Joseph Alioto to fill a vacancy and served until 1977.
Basketball in the New Gym
In November 1950, SI students finally enjoyed a gym after 25 years of fundraising. Construction began in March 1950, with money coming from all sources, including a “till that bulged with greenbacks from the play” and the generous donations of parents and local businesses. The money was not enough to pay the entire cost of construction, and the school still faced a $30,000 debt in 1951. By 1955, however, it cleared the books on that debt.9
When construction was completed, Rene Herrerias ’44 began coaching the Wildcat hoopsters. After graduating from SI, Herrerias played for USF, where, at 5-feet, 9-inches, “his flashy and sound playing thrilled the crowd at Madison Square Garden when his team won the NIT in 1948.” Herrerias returned to coach at SI, succeeding Phil Woolpert, who had left to coach at USF.10
In all, Herrerias led the Wildcats to four AAA championships (1951 and 1954–56) and two Tournament of Champions victories in 1954 and 1955). He began his auspicious career in the fall of 1950 by leading the 120s to an undefeated record. (The 110s and 120s played in the fall in those days.) The 120s were captained by Mic Kelly ’52 and featured two Prep Hall of Famers, Bernie Simpson ’54 and Ray Paxton ’54, as well as Steve Moriarty ’53 and Jim Stephens ’53. The 130s also won their division, captained by Bill Parker ’52 and featuring Dan Powers ’52, Nils Fernquist ’52, Bob Braghetta ’53 and Speed DeConti ’52.
The varsity made it a trifecta by also winning the AAA. Herrerias captured his first varsity league victory in March 1951 in a 40–37 win against Commerce (which starred Casey Jones) with the starting five of George Hayes, Bob Wiebusch, Stan Buchanan, Bill Bush and Rudy Zannini, all five of whom matriculated to USF, three on athletic scholarships. (Other stars of that era include Ray Healy and Bill Mallen.)
The shortest among those five was Zannini, who, at 5-feet, 6-inches, averaged 15 points each game, the third highest in the league. He was nicknamed “The Mouse” and “The Watch Guard” by his teammates, but continued to play at USF side-by-side with teammate Bill Russell and later earned entry into the San Francisco Prep Hall of Fame.
The star of the 1954 and 1955 Tournament of Champion teams was Fred LaCour ’56, one of the most gifted men to play basketball for SI. (He later played with the St. Louis Hawks from 1960–62 and the Warriors the following year.) In 1954, he tied an AAA scoring record in his junior year at SI against Galileo, scoring 29 points. He shot for 22 points against Salinas in the first round of the Tournament of Champions on March 10, 1955, and later shared honors with Team Captain Dan Casey ’55, both named as all-tournament players.
A commemorative issue of Inside SI noted that for the finale, “the Coach of the Year, Mr. Rene Herrerias, and the Team of the Year, the St. Ignatius Wildcats, [rode] high on the shoulders of the SI students as they triumphantly paraded and cheered through the scene of their glorious victory — champions all!”
In his senior year, LaCour earned All-American honors and led his team to a 7–1 league finish and the championship. His team won the first two games at the Tournament of Champions, but LaCour suffered a broken finger and did not play against El Cerrito, which won 26–20.
Fred LaCour'56: A gifted by flawed Bay Area legend
By John Horgan
Spiritus Magis gave three paragraphs to Fred LaCour ’56, but the book didn’t tell the whole story of this gifted athlete. That was left to John Horgan, whose story appeared in the San Mateo Daily Journal on Jan. 2 this year.
Fred LaCour. The name is all but forgotten today. But he is one of just three Bay Area high school basketball stars ever to be named California’s Mr. Basketball in two consecutive years. Archbishop Mitty of San Jose’s Aaron Gordon and St. Joseph’s of Alameda’s Jason Kidd are the others.
Younger followers of the sport are probably unaware of who LaCour was. But he was in a rarefied class with few others. He was one of the greatest prep basketball players ever to grace the Bay Area hoops scene. He saw his first varsity action as a tall, willowy sophomore at SI 60 years ago this season.
It was a different era. There was no cable-TV, no Internet, no Twitter, no McDonald’s All-Star Game. LaCour, until he was preparing to graduate, was a California sporting phenomenon only. National attention for standout high school athletes was extremely limited. But, for those who knew him, played with or against him or just watched him demonstrate his myriad gifts on the basketball court, LaCour was something special.
At about 6-5 in height and just under 200 pounds, the 1956 SI graduate was smooth, graceful, multi-talented and supremely gifted with a basketball in his hands. He was the ultimate on-court facilitator.
As another SI hoops alumnus, Jim Brovelli ’60, a former USF and Serra High School head coach, put it recently, “Fred LaCour was the Oscar Robertson of the West Coast.”
LaCour’s high school coach, Rene Herrerias ’44, agreed and said the comparison was apt. “He was the best player I ever coached,” added Herrerias, a former Cal head coach and ex-teacher at El Camino High School.
With his size, court vision, selflessness and array of ball-handling/passing and shooting skills, LaCour could play any position on the floor; his effortless, fluid style made the game look almost too easy. Maybe it was.
In the mid-1950s, LaCour was regarded as the Bay Area’s, and California’s, premier college recruit. After the 1954–55 and 1955–56 seasons, he was named the Golden State’s Mr. Basketball.
Writing in his blog, Tom Meschery, a friend of LaCour’s through much of their lives, stated that, “Aside from Jason Kidd, I can’t think of another prep in all of Northern California who was as skilled at that age.” Meschery is a former Lowell of San Francisco star who went on to further success at St. Mary’s College and in the NBA. A writer, Meschery dedicated a book of poetry in memory of LaCour.
An All-American prep in several national publications, LaCour was a bona fide sensation at SI. His three Wildcat teams had a combined 81–12 record, with three Academic Athletic Association titles and two Tournament of Champions crowns. The TOC, in effect, decided high school basketball supremacy in Northern California prior to the advent of sectional and state tournament competition.
In 1955–56, LaCour broke his own AAA season scoring record. Against Galileo, he had 39 points. Against the Stanford freshman team, he tossed in a shocking 41 in a signature performance that had the Indians’ head coach, Howie Dallmar, shaking his head in wonderment and singing the SI senior’s praises afterward.
Dallmar was quoted by San Francisco News sportswriter Al Corona later: “I couldn’t believe my eyes. Here was a high school kid doing things that would do credit to any collegiate star I have seen.”
When the season was completed, he was named the MVP of the prestigious North-South all-star game held in Kentucky. He was the first Californian to win that coveted award. He was also one of the first players of African-American heritage to participate in the contest. As such, he was something of an anomaly. Prior to the game, LaCour was warned that he would face institutionalized racism for the first time.
Of Louisiana French Creole mixed-race descent, LaCour could never quite come to grips with who he was, according to those who knew him well. He would struggle to fit in as his athletic profile rose. Privately, he was a tortured soul.
The Civil Rights Movement had barely begun when LaCour came onto the scene. His timing was poor. He was born too soon. Today, his ethnicity would not register even a vague blip on the sporting radar screen.
After his SI years, LaCour matriculated right across the street to USF. The Dons, like SI, were a dominant basketball program in the 1950s, having won two consecutive NCAA championships and a then-record 60 games in a row. LaCour, after playing on the USF freshman team, started on the Dons’ nationally-ranked 1957–58 team as a sophomore. USF went 25–2 that year. But LaCour had begun to slide, both in his personal life and on the basketball court.
Friends like Meschery recalled that LaCour continued to drink, smoke and gamble at cards. And he was missing a lot of classes. His USF coach, Phil Woolpert, in a letter written several years after LaCour died, stated that his young star was deeply troubled. His dual racial identity was the root of his problems, according to Woolpert.
“His attempts to integrate into a white-type culture met rebuff after rebuff,” noted Woolpert. And he would not, or could not, identify as a black person, Woolpert said. “The poor guy couldn’t win.” Woolpert referred to LaCour’s personal dilemma as “the most difficult and insoluble problem I ever confronted.”
In a private meeting with LaCour’s parents at the family home in the Richmond District of San Francisco to try to discuss the sensitive matter, Woolpert said he was told to leave. The subject was not brought up again.
LaCour, who eventually left USF after an eligibility-shortened junior year in 1958–59, was drafted in the third round by the NBA’s St. Louis Hawks in 1960. That turned out to be an unfortunate career move. St. Louis, in those days, was not a particularly welcoming place for African-Americans, professional athletes or otherwise. Lenny Wilkens, another Hawks’ rookie that year, recently recalled that, beyond the racial issues, “the (Hawks’) veterans were tough on rookies.”
LaCour lasted one full season and part of another with the Hawks. He left the team abruptly during the 1961–62 season. No official reason was given for his departure. Meschery, to this day, suspects prejudice was involved, at least in part. “In those days, St. Louis was not a good town,” he said. “And Fred was dating white girls.… Fred pissed off management. But he wouldn’t talk about it.” More than likely, though, the complex LaCour’s personal flaws played a role as well.
After leaving St. Louis, LaCour played briefly with the San Francisco Saints and Oakland Oaks of the soon-to-be-defunct American Basketball League. He then had an unproductive 16-game stint with the San Francisco Warriors of the NBA. Meschery was one of his Warrior teammates.
Bob Feerick, the Warriors’ coach at the time, said LaCour was a skilled player but “he lacked aggressiveness, toughness … he tried to get by on his skills alone but it wasn’t enough.” He finished his pro career with the Wilkes-Barre Barons of the Eastern Professional Basketball League.
After that, LaCour’s sad downward spiral accelerated. There were reports of drug use and bad checks. A short marriage failed. Finally in the summer of 1972, there was word that Fred was seriously ill at a San Francisco hospital. He had terminal cancer. Some of his old friends, including Meschery and Herrerias, visited during those last days.
The end came quickly. Fred LaCour died Aug. 5, 1972. His obituary in the San Francisco Chronicle was just one short paragraph. He was 34. He is buried in Holy Cross Cemetery in Colma.
John Horgan has been writing about Bay Area sports for 50 years. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. Reprinted with permission from the San Mateo Daily Journal.
After Frank McGloin retired from coaching, SI baseball teams were led by John Golden (who also coached football) and Grove Mohr, who, in 1950, led SI to a 7–2 season. In 1954, Mohr captured the AAA championship with stars such as Ken Dito ’54 (who later worked as a broadcaster for KNBR), Ray Paxton ’54, Roger Ferrari ’55 and Jack Scramaglia ’55. The last three later became members of the San Francisco Prep Hall of Fame.
Paxton also played basketball at SI, but his star was brightest on the diamond, and in his junior year he earned a pitching spot on the all-league second team for the AAA after pitching a no-hitter against Lincoln. At one point, he had 21 straight scoreless innings.
In his senior year, he helped SI take both the AAA basketball league crown and the Tournament of Champions. Paxton was named to the All-AAA, All-TOC, All-Metro and All-NorCal teams. Later, pitching for the Wildcats under coach Grove Mohr, Paxton took SI to its first AAA baseball title in 24 years and earned a spot on the all-league first team and on the Examiner All-Star team. Also, he was named MVP of the Chronicle/Lions Club East–West All-Star game after pitching all nine innings and collecting four hits while leading his team to a 15–4 victory. That victory won him a trip to the World Series in New York where he saw Willie Mays make his famous catch against Cleveland at the Polo Grounds.
Paxton was named both San Francisco and NorCal Athlete of the Year in 1954 before his freshman year at SCU. He later spent a year playing for a Red Sox farm team in Las Vegas but found that baseball had lost its allure.
Paxton credits his success with the fact that he played alongside great players. “Those were special times,” Paxton recalls. “The 1950s were so peaceful. Everyone seemed to get along so well, and I had many great friends.”
Roger Ferrari, who played his senior year for Jim Keating, was twice selected to play in the San Francisco East–West All-Star game and batted .425 in his senior year, earning All-City honors. He went on to earn MVP status for the East/West game where he hit three for five. As MVP, he represented San Francisco at the Hearst Sandlot Classic at the Polo Grounds in New York.
After graduating from SI, Ferrari attended City College where he made the All-Conference and All-Northern California teams for two seasons. “I still remember the first time I walked onto the field at Seal Stadium,” recalls Ferrari. “It was during the CYO championship game in 1951 in my eighth grade year at Sts. Peter and Paul. I thought I had made the big time. That was the year Mickey Rocco was the star first baseman, and I always watched him, trying to imitate his moves. He wore number 4, so that was always the number on my jersey and my lucky number.”
Jack Scramaglia played varsity baseball in each of his four years and made the all-city team in both his junior and seniors years. As a senior he hit .464 and led the league in hits. That year, the Examiner selected him to play on its all-star team that traveled to New York. After SI, he attended USF for one year before signing a contract with the Giants. He played three seasons in the minor leagues before leaving to become a teacher and coach at Roosevelt Junior High School in San Francisco. In 1997, the San Francisco Prep Hall of Fame inducted him into its ranks.
In 1955, Jim Keating took over as baseball coach. He won his first league championship in 1958 with stars such as Don Leonardini, Ron Cook, Ken Dekker and all-Northern Californian John Giovanola. He recaptured that crown the following year despite predictions in the city papers that SI would never beat SH. Thanks to Chuck Rapp’s pitching and Ron Calcagno’s hitting, SI won 4–3. (Read more on Jim Keating in the next chapter.)
Golf & Bob Callan ’57
The SI Golf team dominated the 1950s, winning league championships in 1951, 1952 and 1957–1959. Bob Callan ’57 helped SI in his senior year to take the league crown and also captured the San Francisco City Junior title. While a student at SCU, he led its golf team to three consecutive league titles. He went on to win several city and county titles during his college career and then received a bachelor's degree in business from SCU and a law degree from USF.
Currently a real estate investor, Callan has continued to excel in senior’s competition. Consistently ranked as one of the top players in the state, he has been selected to represent the Northern California Golf Association in team competition on 13 occasions. In 2003 he became the first player to win the San Francisco City Senior, Alameda Commuter, San Francisco County Senior and Oakland City Senior championships in the same year. He also won the prestigious Western Seniors title in Guadalajara, Mexico. Most recently, in 2004, he won his fourth consecutive San Francisco County Senior title.
Soccer & Cross Country
Soccer had its start at SI in 1952 when coach Bill Cox put together a team comprising 27 students. The following year, moderator James Straukamp (a Jesuit scholastic, who later became an Anglican priest) came to assist Cox. The 1953Ignatian reported that the all-city captain Bob Braghetta ’53 and Class of ’52 seniors Barney Vannucci, Steve Sullivan, Jack Murray, Terry Curran, Bob Del Moral and Don Kelleher led the team to a victory against Lowell and a tie with Washington. Aside from Braghetta, standout juniors included Jim Flanagan and Mike Balibrera. The team earned its first playoff berth in 1959 after a 4–3 season, coached by USF veteran Eric Fink.
The first mention of an SI cross country team occurs in the 1955 yearbook with a photograph of the first 21 runners. The following year, Inside SI praised the efforts of students Walt Van Zant, Steve Barrett, Jim Leary, Mike Deasy and George De Cat and praised the new cross country course in Golden Gate Park that started at Broom Point and went “through Lindley Meadow, around the police stables, around the middle lake, and then back down the south side of the Polo Fields, through another meadow and finally to the finish line just west of Lloyd Lake,” covering “1.9 miles of rough terrain.”11
One of the stars of the day was Gil Dowd ’57 who helped lead SI to the AAA football championship in 1956. Dowd played on the frosh and JV teams and watched as the varsity struggled against strong teams from the AAA. By the time Dowd was a senior, it had been 11 years since SI had captured the league crown.
Something happened in 1956 to change SI’s luck. Varsity Coach Sarge MacKenzie left to teach at USF and Pat Malley ’49, whose father had coached at SI, took his place. Malley, who had been a star athlete both at SI and SCU, suffered an injury in his senior year at Santa Clara and, after serving in the Army, returned to SI to teach and coach. He brought along Gene Lynch ’49, his teammate from SCU.
Early injuries contributed to losses against Poly and Washington, but the Wildcats went undefeated after that and took the city championship by beating Poly and then Balboa for the Turkey Bowl game before a crowd of 30,000. “Coach Malley’s squad scored an early touchdown and had to rely on the defense the rest of the way. With three minutes to go in the game, Balboa had the ball first and goal. With their backs to the wall, SI’s defense tightened up and the Bucs were unable to cross the goal line. SI had won its second championship, as the scoreboard read SI 7, Balboa 6.”12
Dowd, who entered the Prep Hall of Fame in 2003, credited the entire team with the success. “My classmates Ed Rothman and Bob Isola and I each took turns excelling in the backfield. We each did our share of running.” Dowd eventually earned All-City honors and was named Player of the Year by two of the city papers. He also earned All Northern California Second Team and All Metro Team honors and was named East Bay–West Bay All Star Game MVP.
Coach Pat Malley & his Amazing Bag of Tricks
By Brian Hasset ’58
Playing football for Coach Pat Malley ’49 was like being a warrior in fealty to a resourceful and determined Celtic chieftain. Well, maybe that’s a little too much historical-romantic spin, but when Pat Malley returned to St. Ignatius in 1956, where his father had coached and he had been team captain, he brought a code and style that probably did derive from such roots. It was a good fit.
He was tough but imaginative. Practice sessions presided over by Pat Malley and line coach Gene Lynch were hard-hitting. When you were called to jump into the tackling circle, runners came at you from every direction, helmets lowered and knees pounding. Your job was to tackle one, then spin around and get the next and the next. It was no picnic, but there was also an element of play in those practices that brought out the best in us. Gordie Lau, who would later argue in the Supreme Court about equal educational opportunity, would let out a shout with each tackle, which Coach Malley played up to add a note of levity. Wind sprints sometimes became a game where first the Italians lined up and ran shouting down the field, and then the Irish, and then an ethnic assortment known as “the rest of you guys.” Off the practice field, Mr. Malley had a way of beaming a beneficent smile when you passed him in the hall that validated all your efforts.
Our offense was nicely balanced. Mick Doherty and Ron Tocchini were a running tandem that pounded defenses until they broke, and Ron Calcagno at quarterback could air out 30- and 40-yard passes to a talented corps of receivers, including Pete Ackenheil, who doubled as kicker of field goals, PATs (points after touchdown) and booming kickoffs. It was a team deep in athletic talent on which every player had honed his skills to fill a need.
When SI played Poly High in the Thanksgiving Day Classic in 1958, a share of the city championship was at stake. Poly, coached by old-time Santa Clara Bronco Milt Axt, had dominated the city league for years, and we had lost to them in the regular season 9–6. Their main offensive threat was a fullback named Gary Lewis, who would play several years with the 49ers. Like us, they were hard-hitting and seasoned. Their offense wasn’t as multi-dimensional as ours, but they were tough on defense and Lewis, a speedster at 6-feet, 3-inches and 220, was a dimension unto himself when he arced off tackle and headed downfield.
Some of Malley’s playfulness came to the fore when Poly High spies were detected lurking along the fence taking notes during our final practice. He called a team huddle, concocted four or five off-the-wall plays, and had us run through them, surely flummoxing the spies and very possibly setting up the confusion that Poly experienced in the game two days later. Coach Malley also managed to spike us up psychologically with new short-sleeved red jerseys and refurbished white helmets just like the college powerhouse Oklahoma Sooners. When we ran onto the field before 22,000 fans at Kezar Stadium, we felt sharp and cohesive, especially when we saw the Poly players doing jumping jacks in inexpertly washed uniforms on which red from the numerals had bled pink across the white jerseys. Score a subtle advantage for the Wildcats.
At this late date I can’t do a play-by-play description of the game. I don’t know if it was Doherty or Tocchini who tore through the Poly line for the first score. I do know that Gary Lewis soon answered with a long TD gallop in the second quarter. In the third, Coach Malley sent in a newly-installed trick play called Helter Skelter in which the entire line pulled left and Ron Calcagno seemed to be following the flow on a roll out. But then Ron planted his feet and reeled off a long cross field pass to Ed Nevin, who had run left with everyone else, but then cut back into the open flat for a touchdown.
It was a hot Indian summer day. Malley substituted freely, which kept our legs fresh. We kept the Poly defense on the field with a couple of drives that didn’t score but left them huffing and puffing. We were up by a few points midway through the fourth quarter — the score something like 14–9 — but Gary Lewis was always a threat to go all the way. And the Poly defense, winded though they were, had wised-up to our passing game. They were yelling, “Watch for Helter Skelter!” when we broke from the huddle in passing situations. We tried Helter Skelter a couple of times more, but Poly’s left corner hung back and easily broke it up. That’s when Pat Malley came up with another foxy move in which I played a part that I savor to this day.
I was standing on the sidelines, hoping we could hold the line, when Pat Malley called my name. I ran to his side where Ron Calcagno was standing. Our defense had pushed Poly back around their own 30. Our offense was about to take the field. Coach Malley fixed us with his fierce blue eyes and quickly mapped out a variation on Helter Skelter in which I, at right end, continued across the field, rather than cutting back against the student body left flow.
I hadn’t caught a pass all season. The good thing about my sudden insertion into the lineup was that I didn’t have time to get too nervous. Calcagno leaned over center Dave Favro, who would go on to play at UC Berkeley, and called the count. The play unfolded in basic high anxiety slow motion. Never fleet of foot, I pounded across the field on a diagonal, head down. At the point when Nevin had earlier cut back, I fired off whatever afterburners I could muster and looked back to where Calcagno had pulled up from his roll out and let fly with a somewhat wobbly pass. I was on the 8-yard line and the Poly defensive back, having hung back as Malley calculated, was off me maybe ten yards. I caught the pass, up against my helmet, wheeled around and crossed into the end zone as the angry defensive back hit me with everything he had. I felt nothing but unadulterated bliss.
Time running out, the Poly Parrots, in their sweaty, vaguely pink jerseys, were starting to wear that dazed look teams get in the final minutes of a losing effort. The sequence of scoring is a little blurred in memory, but at some point Pete Ackenheil kicked a long field goal to put the score somewhere around 23–9. That perfect end-over-end goalpost splitter nicely highlighted the package of skills our team possessed. We won that game with a beautifully balanced team effort, but also high on the list of positive factors was the craftiness of Pat Malley, who spontaneously responded to the game as it unfolded before him with one brilliant surprise after another. I have had many splendid Thanksgivings in the intervening years, but never have I floated 10 feet off the ground as I, and the rest of our band of warriors, did that day.
Extracurriculars & Campus Ministry
The Senior Retreat
For the most part, the issues of the separation of the schools or of the Korean War did not impact the students, who continued to focus on the day-to-day routine of classes, their extracurricular activities, their spiritual growth and their social lives. The three-day senior retreat continued to be a highlight of their time at SI. In 1950, the yearbook reported on this hallmark of Jesuit education:
“Dear Lord, teach me to be generous. Teach me to serve Thee as Thou deservest, to give and not to count the cost, to labor and not to seek for rest; to toil and not to seek reward, save that of knowing that I do Thy will.
“Long will thoughtful Ignatians remember this short but powerful prayer, the traditional keynote of the annual three-day Senior Retreat at El Retiro.
“They will remember, too, the new but uplifting experience that was theirs during those few days, when far away from the turmoil and nervousness of city life, they turned their minds and hearts to God.
“Some among them, such as Moore, Sheehan, Fazzio and Enright, will remember special duties that helped keep the retreatants in that atmosphere so necessary for a good
retreat. All will remember the strict silence, the soul-searching meditations and the impressive Stations of the Cross.
“They will remember especially the spirit of the retreat, which perhaps remained with them after their departure from El Retiro; how it rendered them quiet and thoughtful, anxious to put their retreat resolutions into faithful practice, hopeful some day to return to El Retiro for another ‘spiritual checkup.’”13
The St. Ignatius Church Monthly Calendar ran a few student reflections on this retreat, written by members of the class of 1950. Here are a few excerpts:
“I went to El Retiro to get out of school and to have a good time, but after a few hours I changed my mind. I think the main reason for the change was the total lack of distraction. My thoughts there were more serious than at any other time of my life. I changed my mind, too, as to what made up the important things of life, for the things that seemed so important a few days before now seem to be trifles. I made resolutions; I pray to God that He will give me the strength to keep them.”
“I have made many retreats before, but none impressed me so greatly. I think the reason for this is the wonderful atmosphere of the place. I enjoyed the whole retreat, but I especially enjoyed making the out-door Stations of the Cross and saying the rosary while walking through the lovely gardens and visiting the outdoor shrines.”
“When I first came to El Retiro, I must admit I was prepared for a rather boring time. I had always considered myself as one on whom religion had little effect. I had never thought much about God, religion or life after death. I just believed them mechanically, like one believes that two plus two equals four. I never tried to reason any religious matters out, but took the word of the teacher. But as I look back on it now, I didn’t really believe my religion, and because I attended a public school for quite some time, I was even at times prone to disbelieve. However, at El Retiro, I had a chance that was never offered me before to thinkthese problems out, and today I am convinced that the Catholic Church is the right church, that God exists, and many other matters of Faith on which I was weak…. What at El Retiro helped me clear up my mind? I believe it was the atmosphere. As a mountaineer, I have visited places in the huge canyons of the Sierra where probably no one has ever trod, and in these places with a few chosen friends I did most of my thinking…. At El Retiro I believe the atmosphere of the mountains was provided; the guidance of the Church in important matters was added.”14
Both the Sanctuary Society (which provided the altar servers for the many Masses the priests said) and the Sodalities continued to provide avenues for the boys of SI to serve the Church and grow in faith during the school year. The Junior and Senior Sodalities were much like SI’s modern Service Club and CLCs. “Whether it was waiting on tables for the Fathers’ Club, washing dishes at the Old Folks Home, or enjoying the convention dances of the Bay Area Catholic High Schools, [members of] the Sodality worked together,” strove for “personal sanctification and sanctification of one’s neighbor,” and held daily noon rosaries during October and May.15
This faith life of students in the 1950s was the pre-Vatican II Catholicism of theBaltimore Catechism. Spiritual life for the boys would continue much this way until the late 1960s and early 1970s when the effects of Vatican II began to influence the way the Jesuits shared their own rich spiritual traditions with their students.
Fight Night & Rifle Club
SI used the new gym for more than just basketball. It provided Ignatians a place to launch a new event: Senior Fight Night. In March 1953 “the toughest sluggers in the class of ’53” took part in a boxing contest. The school borrowed a boxing ring from the Presidio through the help of Capt. Buckley, in charge of ROTC at the school. The evening featured nine bouts. “Some of the glove wars were antics, others full of clever punching and smooth footwork.”16
Fighting wasn’t the only unusual competition held at SI. Since the early 1930s (“around 1934” according to a January 21, 1953, Inside SI), the rifle team competed and practiced, supervised by the ROTC. The same edition of Inside SIreported on the annual Hearst Rifle match, with “five shots per person in each position,” for the 13-man team coached by Sgt. McAllister.
The Ignatian Comes of Age
To celebrate the centennial year of the school, Inside SI grew from a small 4-page publication into a slick 16-page magazine. Its moderator, Robert Piser, SJ, who later changed his name to Kaiser when he moved to Rome in 1962 — I got tired of everyone calling me Pee-Sair — instigated the change when Fr. Leonard assigned him as moderator of both the literary magazine and the school newspaper. He asked if he could combine budgets and produce one publication, and permission was granted.
Kaiser was a devotee of Time and had even written his Master’s thesis about the ethics of Time-style journalism. “Inside SI had a strong resemblance to Time,” he noted in a 2003 interview. “Writing Time-style taught the kids to write colorfully and concretely, and the format helped us organize what we thought was important about SI and its culture.”
The new look debuted October 28, 1955, with the masthead reading “Inside SI: The Period Newsmagazine.” Editor James O’Brien ’56 offered this by way of introduction: “This year we are trying to make our writing so interesting and persuasive that when the fellow who hates football reads our article about the sport, and through it feels the exhilarating excitement of the game, he won’t be able to see enough football.”
The following year, Kaiser and his editors changed the layout to emulate Sports Illustrated “because we realized Time wasn’t the right model. We were so much of a jock school then, and we featured Gil Dowd ’57, a star football player, on the cover in a full-page, full-bleed duotone photo. The kids just loved it. We delivered it during class time, and teachers suspended class so that students could read about themselves.”
Dan Flynn ’57 served as editor in his senior year, and the magazine won national renown in 1957 with an All-American Award from the University of Minnesota. Roy Camozzi also won a $100 scholarship at a Northern California Student Press Conference put on by UC Berkeley for a feature story he wrote. The magazine went on to win first place for its cover photo of Fr. Leonard from the Catholic High School Press Association, which also named the magazine a “Publication of Distinction” among high school and college publications on the Pacific Coast. Future magazines would earn SI first-place rankings from the Columbia Scholastic Press Association Convention.17
The big award in 1957 went to the school yearbook, The Ignatian, which took first place in the nation from the Columbia Scholastic Press Association. The yearbook featured the first place football and golf teams and a full-color cover, a first for that publication.
The Ignatians over the next few years continued to excel and, at times, offered new ways of showcasing the student body. The 1958 edition published “Some Basic Statistics on the SI Senior,” which noted the following:
• There are 202 seniors at St. Ignatius.
• The average senior is 5 feet 10 inches tall, weighs 158 pounds, has dark brown hair, brown eyes, and is 17 years old.
• 51.2 percent of the seniors participated in the SI sports program this past year.
• The percentage of seniors working after school has dwindled during the past 10 years; now it is 10.8 percent.
• The SI senior estimates that he spends on average of 1.5 hours studying each night; time spent in slumber, 7.6 hours.
• Though studies seemed to be more difficult this year, the senior class maintained an average of 84.3 percent in all subjects during the fall semester.
• Seniors seem to be more social now, with 16.3 percent going steady.
• 91.8 percent of SI seniors plan to attend college next year. More than half of these, 58.2 percent, will attend Catholic colleges.
Gordon Getty ’51
No one knew it at the time, but two brothers in the Class of 1951 belonged to one of the richest families in the country. Both Gordon Getty II and John Paul Getty, Jr., however, didn’t grow up wealthy. Their mother, Ann, had divorced J. Paul Getty, and, according to Gordon’s good friend and classmate Judge William Newsom ’51, “they knew they had a rich, even very rich father, but as he had almost no influence upon their lives, one didn’t hear much about him…. Neither Paul nor Gordon seemed particularly concerned about money or the lack of it — nor did they seem to dwell on expectations.” Music became a greater part of Gordon’s life, and he collected operatic records. The yearbook noted that Gordon came to SI from San Rafael Military Academy where he spent time as a debater. “However, he found time to take an active part in the Fathers’ Club Talent Show. As yet he is undecided as to college or profession.” His brother went from a wild childhood to a “serious conversion thanks to the Jesuits of St. Ignatius” though he never graduated from the school.18
On February 24, 1958, Time ran a cover story on J. Paul Getty, ranking him as one of the world’s richest men, and Gordon was thrust into the spotlight. He eventually became a noted composer, writing the opera PlumpJack based on the character of Falstaff, a 32-song cycle of Emily Dickinson’s poems entitled TheWhite Election and a play based on Poe’s “The Fall of the House of Usher. He has shown great generosity with his many gifts to SI and the art community over the years, and has served the school as a member of the Board of Regents since the 1980s.
Gordon’s brother, “Sir Paul,” as he was known in England, was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1986 for his charitable work. He was proud of that title because he loved the rich traditions of England, a love he noted that grew from his days as a student in America “where I was captured by the romance of English history and Shakespeare,” according to a 1998 interview with the Sunday Telegraph. He died at 70 in 2003.
Peter Raven ’53
When Time named Peter Raven ’53 a Hero of the Planet in April 1999, the editors there had good cause. Few other men have done as much as Raven to stop the destruction of rain forests and slow the loss of biodiversity, and hardly anyone is as articulate or as passionate as he is regarding our need to save our planet. Raven’s passion and professionalism have won him a litany of awards, honors and posts. Among them:
• Raven was Home Secretary of the National Academy of Sciences and a member of President Clinton’s Committee of Advisors on Science and Technology.
• He is one of 80 members of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences that advises the Pope on matters of science and technology.
• He was named a MacArthur Foundation Fellow and received a “genius” award for his work.
• The National Geographic Society recently named him chairman of the Committee for Research and Exploration.
• ABC named him a person of the week in 1988, and the New York Times ran a story on his achievements on the cover of its “Science Times” section.
• He has authored more than 400 articles and 16 books, including two leading college textbooks and the biology text used at SI.
• Since 1971, he has turned the Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis into one of the world’s leading centers for plant conservation.
• In 2000, he received the National Medal of Science from President Clinton, recognizing him an authority on plant systematics and evolution and as the originator of the concept of coevolution.
Raven started his remarkable career at age 8 when he enrolled as the youngest member of the student section of the California Academy of Sciences. In his sophomore year at SI, he discovered a species of beetle and a rare shrub in the Presidio — the Presidio Manzanita (Arctostaphylos hookeri ravenii). Since then, he has had dozens of newly discovered plants and animals named for him.
After two years at USF, he transferred to UC Berkeley. He has worked at Stanford, in New Zealand and all over South and Central America in his long and successful career.
Bishop Carlos A. Sevilla ’53
Bishop Carlos Sevilla, whose parents immigrated to San Francisco from Colima, Mexico, near Guadalajara, is the only SI grad to be named a bishop. (Msgr. Eugene Fahy ’29, who died in 1996, was granted many of the powers of a bishop in 1951 for his missionary work in China, though he was never granted the title of bishop given the Church structures there at the time.) He entered the Society of Jesus after graduating from SI and was ordained a priest in 1966. His appointment came Dec. 6, 1988 as auxiliary bishop of San Francisco, and on Dec. 31, 1996, Pope John Paul II named him Bishop of Yakima in Washington State.
Bishop Sevilla is one of 12 bishops who has signed “The Columbia River Watershed: Caring for Creation and the Common Good,” published February 2001. The half million residents of the Diocese of Yakima, including 4,000 members of the Yakima Tribe, have much at stake over the fate of the Columbia watershed, as their land fronts more of that river than any other diocese in Oregon or Washington.
Bishop Sevilla and the 11 other co-signatories hoped to offer an opportunity for reflection rather than a call to specific action, and he called for a future where “we hope to see the best of the watershed of the past: living waters of God’s creation flowing from meadows and mountains to the ocean while providing for the needs of God’s creatures along the way. We ask all people of good will to imagine what they would like the watershed to be like in ten, fifty or one hundred years, and to work conscientiously to make that image a reality.”
In his time as bishop in San Francisco and Washington State, Bishop Sevilla has played a prominent role on several committees of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (formerly called the National Conference of Catholic Bishops). He has served as consultant for the NCCB Committee on Hispanic Affairs, a member of the NCCB Committee on Marriage and Family Life, chairman of the NCCB Committee on Religious Life and Ministry, a member of the NCCB Committee on Social Development and world Peace Domestic Policy, a member of the USCC Catholic Campaign for Human Development, chairman of the Bishop’s Subcommittee for Translation of Liturgical Texts Into Spanish, co-chairman of the West Coast Dialogue of Catholics and Muslims and a member of the USCCB Committee for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs.
Bob Drucker ’58
Bob Drucker ’58 is best known as the Wizard of Westlake for leading SI basketball teams from 1966-1986, taking the ’Cats to the NorCal championship and to the state finals in 1984. Drucker got his start in basketball long before coming to SI when, in 1947, his mother took him to the San Francisco Examiner basketball camp at the Mission Armory. He won a shooting contest, received a trophy and had his picture in the paper. That first taste of glory got Drucker hooked on the game. Later, as a student at St. Anne’s, he found himself in a PE class taught by one of his heroes — Jim Kearney ’48 — who won the Brophy Award at SI (and later the Christ the King award) and played football for USF’s undefeated, untied and uninvited football team of 1950–51. (Kearney later became a distinguished principal in several San Francisco high schools.)
“He was a hero back then to all the seventh and eighth graders," recalled Drucker. "We would go to USF football games at Kezar and see him play on the same field the ’49ers used, and that was good enough for all of us.”
At SI, Drucker played on the 110s, 120s, 130s and varsity teams and trained with Rene Herrerias ’44 and Jim Keating. “These men, along with Phil Woolpert, who coached at USF, were the kind of men you admired and respected. They were young and enthusiastic and had a profound influence on me.”
Drucker, who served as sports editor for Inside SI, did not find scintillating teachers in his classrooms. “They just talked for the entire period. It wasn’t even the Socratic method.” In his junior year, Drucker found himself in J.B. Murphy’s math class. “That was like an island at SI. He would lecture for 5 or 10 minutes and then have us do student-centered work.”
Drucker found himself grateful for the help provided by scholastics. “Fr. Ed Malatesta, SJ, knew I was struggling; he took me aside and encouraged me to work harder. He recognized that I could do better, and we became fast friends until his untimely death.”
In the 1990s, both Drucker and the late Jim Kearney were inducted together into the Bay Area Prep Hall of Fame. Drucker later coached golf with Kearney’s son, Steve Kearney ’81. (For Bob Drucker’s fabled career as a basketball coach, read the next chapter.)
Jerry Brown ’55
The 1955 yearbook lists this for Edmund “Jerry” Brown, Jr.: “Jerry proved his oratorical abilities by winning the Freshman Elocution and Sophomore Oratorical contests, being chosen on the Silver and Gold Medal Debates, and gaining the Degree of Distinction in the National Forensic League. He was also a member of the CSF and the Activities Dance Committee.” In his senior year, he was a key member of the SI chapter of the NFL that took the Grand Sweepstakes Award, making it the best team in Northern California.
While Brown was a student at SI, his father served as Attorney General for California and, in 1959, voters elected him Governor. Jerry attended SCU and joined the Society of Jesus for a time. After he left, he earned his B.A. in classics from UC Berkeley in 1961 and then attended Yale Law School in 1964.
Brown received his start in politics in 1969 when voters elected him to the Los Angeles Community College Board of Trustees. In 1970, he was elected California’s Secretary of State, and four years later he followed in his father’s footsteps to become California governor, earning reelection in 1978.
He came to SI on October 6, 1978, to register students eligible to vote for the upcoming election. He met with Fr. McCurdy and was interviewed by three students for the school newspaper. At recess, he addressed the student body and spoke about the advantages of living in a democratic society.
During Brown’s tenure as governor, California produced a quarter of the country’s new jobs. Brown established the nation’s first agricultural labor relations law and instituted the California Conservation Corp. He helped to preserve the fragile coastline by creating the California Coastal Protection Act and worked to institute the country’s first building and appliance energy efficiency standards, making the state the leader in solar and alternative energy. Brown also takes pride in the number of women and minorities he appointed to government positions.
After leaving office, he traveled to Japan and India, where he worked with Mother Teresa. He practiced law in Los Angeles before becoming chairman of the state’s Democratic Party in 1989. Two years later, he resigned from that position, citing his “disgust with the growing influence of money in politics.”19
He ran for president in 1992, making a strong showing thanks, in part, to his refusal to accept contributions larger than $100, and was the only Democratic candidate to pose a serious threat to Bill Clinton. In 1998, Oakland residents elected him as their city’s mayor, and he won reelection in 2002 with the goal of revitalizing the city’s downtown “in a spirit of elegant diversity.”20
The Korean War (1950–1953) included a number of SI grads who fought and at least one who was killed in this police action: Lt. Roger Kelly ’43, who had graduated from West Point in 1949.
The war came home to Ignatians in other ways. Sgt. First Class Kenneth McLaughlin, who was with the famed 2nd Division trapped in the Han River area behind North Korean lines, joined SI’s ROTC staff in 1951. During the fighting, he was critically wounded and evacuated to the states, and after his recovery, the Army assigned him to SI.21
A number of teachers fought in Korea, including Michael Hemovich, the football coach, who was called up from Army Reserves to serve in the conflict. He was replaced by Robert (Sarge) MacKenzie ’31, a veteran coach at SI and Pacific Coast Scout for the Cleveland Browns.22
Dr. Barrett Weber ’42, who served in World War II along with many of his classmates, also served in Korea, assigned to an infantry clearing station with the 25th Infantry Division as a physician, caring for the sick and wounded and shipping them out to MASH units in the rear. “At first we were quartered in the City Hall at Masan. The floors were covered with litters of wounded men. In the battle for Masan, lasting several weeks, our platoon treated about 5,000 casualties, of whom 1,100 died. Working day and night in the heat of the summer, we were all inexperienced in the ways of war and learned the hard way. The Army was totally ill equipped. For the first few weeks there were no antibiotics, no anti-malaria pills, and we were naïve about food and water handling. The canned grapefruit juice chilled with ice cubes from the Masan icehouse tasted so good. Shortly everyone was violently ill with dysentery. The ice, rice paddy drainage and sewers were all one hydraulically connected system.”
Later, Weber drove behind enemy lines to help retrieve 80 American POWs who had been spotted by a reconnaissance patrol. Then, just as the war was about to end, the Chinese broke through in force and ended up in back of Weber’s unit, which began “a painful extraction from those frozen mountains…. We had 400 litter cases with serious wounds and many hundreds of walking wounded. There was one road west that was still safe. We told the walking wounded to take off and hike out of there. The remaining infantry were setting up a rear guard holding action. I was faced with a difficult decision. We didn’t have the transportation to evacuate the litter cases. Just as the moment came to decide — stay with them and be captured or take off with the platoon — miraculously 20 empty trucks arrived to evacuate the wounded. It was close.”
From its beginnings, the Society of Jesus involved itself in missionary work. St. Ignatius went to Jerusalem in hopes of converting Muslims to Christianity and later sent St. Francis Xavier to the Far East to share the Gospel of Christ. The Jesuits who came from Europe to establish schools and parishes throughout California and the Northwest in the 1800s were carrying on that missionary tradition.
Many priests who were SI alumni also served as missionaries starting in 1928 when Joseph Lo Pahong, a Shanghai businessman, persuaded Pope Pius XI and Jesuit General Wlodimir Ledochowski to send California Jesuits overseas to assist the French Jesuits in their efforts in the Shanghai Mission Territory. Their work in China continued through war and revolution, eventually extending from China to Japan, the Philippines and Taiwan.
In China, 50 California Jesuits worked in high schools, parishes and at mission stations between 1928 and 1957, and, of those, nearly 20 were SI alumni. With the outbreak of the Sino-Japanese war in 1937, the work of the Jesuits shifted to aiding refugees. Some Jesuits spent much of World War II in Japanese internment camps in Yangzhou and Shanghai, while others, including Fr. Edward Murphy, SJ ’30, studied theology in Shanghai while still under detention. (Fr. Murphy later became the first Jesuit ever to serve in Taiwan since the Jesuits left that island in the 1700s.) When the Communists took over in 1949, the Jesuits struggled to continue their work despite imprisonment, attempted brainwashing and expulsion.
One of the last two Jesuits to be imprisoned by the Red Chinese was Fr. Charles McCarthy, SJ ’29. He arrived in China in 1941 and spent more than two years in a Japanese internment camp during WWII. In 1953, while rector of the Bellarmine Theologate in Shanghai, he was jailed by the Chinese Communists, and served four years in five different prisons. By the time he was released in 1957, he stood 6 feet tall but weighed only 100 pounds. After regaining his health and strength in California, he served in the Philippines for more than 30 years, working for the assimilation and naturalization of Filipino-Chinese, writing three books on the Chinese in South East Asia, and heading various research and educational programs. Walter McCarthy ’33 established the Rev. Charles J. McCarthy, SJ, Scholarship in memory of his brother.
Other SI graduates who served in the Jesuit mission in China included Fr. Ralph Brown, SJ ’32, Fr. Daniel Clifford, SJ ’29, Fr. John W. Clifford, SJ ’35, Fr. Albert Corcoran, SJ ’21, Fr. Ralph Deward, SJ ’25, Fr. George Donohoe, SJ ’39, Fr. Joseph Donohoe, SJ ’33, Rev. Msgr. Eugene Fahy, SJ ’29 (who, with the title vicar apostolic, held the rank of a bishop), Fr. John J. Gordon, SJ ’30, Fr. John Lennon, SJ (SI 1905), Fr. John Magner, SJ ’20, Fr. John Moholy, SJ ’30, Fr. Paul O’Brien, SJ ’25 (appointed the first superior of California Jesuits in China in 1945, in charge of all non-Chinese Jesuits), and Fr. Gerald Pope, SJ ’27.
The most prominent of the above-mentioned, Rev. Msgr. Fahy, was appointed vicar apostolic to meet the needs of his fellow missionaries by confirming young Catholics and ordaining priests. He began his service in China in 1941, learning Chinese from the French Jesuits at the Maison Chabanel in Beijing. The Japanese interned him in 1942, though he was allowed to continue his theology studies and was ordained in 1945. He received the title Prefecture Apostolic in 1949 and Prefect Apostolic of Yangzhou in 1951, the year he was imprisoned by the Chinese Communist Party. After his expulsion in 1952, he served in Taiwan until 1962 when he left to attend sessions of Vatican II in Rome. He returned to Taiwan in 1963 and remained there until his death in 1996 in Taoyuan; he is buried at Hsinchu.
Of all the Jesuits who served in China, perhaps the most well known to students at SI was Fr. William Ryan, SJ. Though not an SI grad, he taught and counseled at SI between 1960 and 1989. While serving as prefect of discipline at Aurora Preparatory and as associate pastor at Sacred Heart Church, both in Yangzhou City, Fr. Ryan went on trial, charged with being a spy. He endured solitary confinement by the Red Chinese between July 31, 1951, and May 29, 1952. In a 1988 interview, published in the Winter edition of Genesis II, he spoke of his experiences in prison: “I lost track of time, forgot how long I’d been in my cell. They took away our calendars. I had nothing but that cell. Four walls, a floor and a ceiling with a 15-watt bulb way up on top. No books…. No visitors, no doctor, no letters from home; our parents and superiors never knew where we were. Just a big hole, that’s all. They wanted to break us down.” After a series of brutal interrogations, the authorities released Fr. Ryan in 1952 to Irish Province Jesuits stationed in Hong Kong.
Fr. John Clifford, SJ, also knew the reality of torture. After seven years working in Shanghai, he was arrested on June 15, 1953, in Shanghai and spent three years in prison enduring psychological torture meant to brainwash him. In his book, In the Presence of My Enemies (published in 1963 by W.W. Norton & Co.), he told of how he was tossed out of jail in 1956 by his captors who were enraged that he had not “submitted a confession nor given my captors a single fragmentary sentence of propaganda value. They freed me, even though at the last minute I refused to sign the papers they insisted were necessary. In other words, I behaved like a normal, stubborn American — and that is what saved me.”23
Another noteworthy SI missionary was Fr. John Gordon, SJ. He began his Chinese language studies in 1939 in Beijing and taught in Shanghai before being interned by the Japanese in 1942. He taught English for four years in Nanjing and then left for the Philippines in 1951 after the Communist takeover. While serving as treasurer of Xavier University in Cagayan de Oro City, he helped the impoverished communities living at the town’s garbage dump, who combed through the trash each day looking for something to use or sell. Fr. Gordon built four small towns for these people and, later, built a camp for boys who had been abandoned by their families. Assisting him in those efforts was Fr. Gregory Ahern, SJ ’44.
Also stationed in Taiwan was Fr. Philip Bourret, SJ ’29, now in residence in Los Gatos. He worked in radio and television there between 1950 and 1967, assisted from the states by his classmate Harold De Luca ’29 (who is also a generous benefactor to SI). He had 2 million listeners to his show at the peak of his success, and he later traveled for three decades offering help to churches in Third World countries to start their own religious broadcast programs.
Other prominent SI grads who served in the Far East include Fr. Edward Thylstrup, SJ ’52, who works as the English language editor for Kuangchi Program Service in Taipei, and the late Fr. Alden Stevenson, SJ ’32, an administrator in Hsinchu and editor of the Jesuit Missions magazine. After normalization of relations between China and the U.S. in the 1970s, Fr. Stevenson led the first university study group to China and made several subsequent visits over the next 25 years. He was influential in starting a number of academic exchange programs between Chinese universities and USF before his retirement in 1981. In addition, Br. Richard Devine, SJ ’52, has worked in Japan since 1959.
The job of raising funds to support these missionaries fell on the office of the California Jesuit Missionaries, headed by Fr. Ed Murphy, SJ, from 1964 until 1981, and by Fr. Theodore Taheny, SJ ’43, from 1981 until 2003. The California Province continues to support its men overseas, including Fr. David Robinson, SJ ’70, who works as a parish priest at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Benin City, Nigeria.
The SI-China connection is far from over, however. Br. Daniel Peterson, SJ, who served as a librarian at SI for 25 years and who is now the province archivist, spent several summers in the 1980s and 1990s in the She Shan Regional Seminary in Shanghai helping to catalogue and organize 30,000 books donated by schools and seminaries throughout the U.S. and Europe. Those donations were arranged by the late Fr. Ed Malatesta, SJ, who lived in community with the SI Jesuits while working at USF as the director of the Institute for Chinese-Western Cultural History (now called the Center for the Pacific Rim).24
Dissension in the 1950s
SI in the 1950s was a Shangri-La for most students and teachers, but not for all. Not everyone was happy with the conformity and old school ways imposed both by 1950s America and a pre-Vatican II Society of Jesus. Some students rebelled, such as Michael Corrigan ’60, who wrote about his displeasure with Jesuit strictness in the semi-fictional Confessions of a Shanty Irishman. (He also sang the praises of Fr. Becker in his book for showing him “the magic alchemy in words.”) For the young scholastic Robert Kaiser, SI was both an ideal school and a place that tried his patience.
Kaiser arrived at SI with 10 scholastics from his philosophy studies. “Talk about fresh-faced enthusiasm,” he said in a 2003 interview while a visiting scholar at USF. “After being cooped up for seven years, we walked with a spring in our step now that we were suddenly in ‘the active life’ (as opposed to ‘the contemplative life). I threw myself into the job 110 percent, as did the other scholastics. At 24, I looked about the same age as the 17 year olds I was teaching. I remember going to a senior class picnic and grabbing a beer. One of the dads said, ‘You can’t have a beer.’ Then he discovered that I was one of the scholastics.”
As a scholastic, Kaiser worked long hours, rising at 5 a.m. and often working until 2 a.m. In his first year, he ran the frosh Sodality and Inside SI, was a prefect at the cafeteria at lunch, coached JV football, taught three courses of freshman English, one Virgil course and two more honors classes in senior English.
“Teaching at SI made me feel special,” he said. “We had a faculty and student body striving for excellence. We were the best. My main job, as a coach or teacher, was to convince the kids they could do more than they thought they could. And they often did.”
Kaiser was closest to his JV football kids. Noontime, they huddled around him in the cafeteria, and they attended ’49ers games en masse thanks to free ’49er tickets provided to schools by Mayor Christopher’s Milk Fund. Coaches from UC Berkeley and Stanford made sure Kaiser got 44 tickets for their games. “The quarterbacks would sit with me, and we’d call the game together. We were like comrades in arms, and I made sure everyone played every game.”
The scene was very different at Welch Hall, where Kaiser lived with “some very old and crotchety priests” assigned to USF. “They didn’t talk to us very much.” He praised some of the priests at SI for their vitality, but they still made the scholastics do most of the grunt work. Their only time off was Friday night when the minister gave the scholastics a case of port or black Muscat from the Novitiate. “There were more than two dozen scholastics then. We could go through a case of port while we played Monopoly or hearts,” said Kaiser. “Audie Morris would always try to shoot the moon and, at a penny a point, he’d end up owing us huge amounts of money.”
Scholastics then received a $2 weekly allowance to cover “bus fare.” Kaiser and Morris didn’t use the two bucks for bus fare; they spent their money on movies, borrowing the school’s pick-up truck — “the keys were under the mat” — and “tootling down to Market Street Saturday nights in mufti. The movie cost 50 cents and popcorn was a dime. We would have been in trouble if anyone found out we were borrowing the truck, but it was our way of cutting loose at cut rates.”
Kaiser soon found life in the order far too rigid. “We followed the rules woodenly. If I wasn’t awake at 5 a.m., I wasn’t a good Jesuit. If the minister found I wasn’t at Mass at 5:30, I’d be in trouble. Sometimes I was assigned a 6:30 a.m. Mass to serve, and I’d sleep in to 6 a.m, lazy lout that I was. We were then supposed to meditate for one hour before a 7:15 breakfast. But if I slept until 7, after working on Inside SI until 2 a.m., I was in trouble. It was all a part of the formalism that prevailed at the time.”
The students, for the most part, didn’t sense this tension. “The kids were happy kids,” said Kaiser. “What was not to be happy about? They were in the best school in the city, getting the best education, envied by all the other kids, and they had an identity. They were from SI and were proud of it.”
In his third year, Kaiser decided to leave the order and SI. “The sacrifices of the three vows were ones I was willing to make as long as I felt I was doing something for the Kingdom. When I found out that my superiors were more interested in reveille and taps, than in the work I did running the school magazine, I realized the sacrifices weren’t worth it.”
Looking back on it now, Kaiser says “there wasn’t a lot wrong with SI. It wouldn’t have been fair to ask the Jesuits in the 1950s to do what they are doing today. That would be rewriting history. Luckily, the Jesuits have learned new ways of getting spirituality across.”
After Kaiser left SI and the Society of Jesus, he went on to a successful career in journalism. He covered Vatican II for Time and is now an editor for Newsweek. He is the author of 10 books, including Clerical Error, which recounts, in part, his years at SI. Kaiser is also the editor of the online magazine www.justgoodcompany.com, published by Westcoast Companeros Inc., a club of more than 200 men who have left the Jesuits. “It comes out spasmodically,” he says. “I still feel I’m a Jesuit at heart,” he adds. “And I still have a strong identity with SI. In 2002, I met a guy in a restaurant in Venice who turned out to be a student at SI when I served there as a scholastic. We had a tremendous sense of belonging.”
Three Candid Critiques
Dan Flynn ’57, who served as editor of Inside SI in his senior year, now teaches ESL in Belgium. Looking back on his days at SI, he sees several problems with the way he was taught and with what he was taught. Michael Corrigan ’60, the author of Confessions of a Shanty Irishman and The Irish Connection and Other Stories, also found SI at times to be an oppressive place.
The third critique, by C. T. (Terry) Gillin ’62, reflects on the value of Jesuit education in the 1950s; he praises the Jesuits for teaching him to read critically, for encouraging him to evaluate what he was learning and for inspiring him to model his own life after theirs.
SI changed drastically in the 1960s and 1970s to fix the problems discussed by Flynn and Corrigan while keeping alive the core values — the ones Gillin and many others found valuable. Spurring these changes were Vatican II, the needs of a new generation of students, and the desire of Principal Edward McFadden, SJ, and the faculty to turn SI into a modern school.
By Daniel C. Flynn, ’57
All in all, I am totally grateful for my years at SI. I just wish the Church at that time hadn’t been so uptight about sex. Women were portrayed as “occasions of sin.” Good grief. Nevertheless, life has “turned out well” for me and I am completely grateful for the life I have today.
Actually, people of my age were lucky. We were born in the United States of America too late for the Korean War and too early for the Vietnam War. We benefited from America having won World War II and having helped Japan and Germany recover from their defeat. We did suffer from the ailing President Roosevelt’s concessions to Stalin, the most malicious dictator of our century, to bring a more rapid end to World War II, but we survived the subsequent Cold War that resulted from those concessions.
First impressions of SI: Fifty years ago, I entered St. Ignatius High School at Turk and Stanyan Streets. My first impression was “gray.” (I have a picture of our senior retreat at El Retiro taken February 1957. It’s a grim gray picture with little evidence of joy.) After I spent eight years in the colorful classrooms of Notre Dame des Victoires and then St. Monica’s, the gray, dank rooms of SI stood ominously in stark contrast. (My Belgian friend and former SI classmate George De Cat ’57 will tell you that the SI classrooms were fantastic compared to his post-war primary school classrooms in Belgium. It all depends on your life experience and point of view.) Maybe it was the fact that we were no longer in class with beautiful young women — just guys. What were they trying to protect us from? Maybe it was because we had stepped back in time to the Middle Ages or even the Dark Ages when we entered SI. I learned years later that our Jesuit teachers had actually whipped themselves in the seminary for holiness!
Teachers: Mr. Piser, SJ, English, now Robert Blair Kaiser, journalist and author; Mr. Eugene Bianchi, SJ, Sociology and 4-A homeroom teacher, now a layman and professor emeritus at Emory University in Atlanta; Mr. Andrew Dachauer, SJ, chemistry; Mr. Leo Rock, SJ, Latin; Mr. Corwin, history; and Fr. Spohn, physics. Dachauer was a nice guy for me. I wonder where he is today. [Editor’s note: Fr. Dachauer is pastor of St. Joseph’s Church in Mammoth Lakes, California.]
Moments: Being Editor-in-Chief of Inside SI and producing an innovative Sports Illustrated-style monthly magazine after Bob (Piser) Kaiser had replaced the typical high school style newsletter with a Time magazine-style publication the year before. Winning the city football championship under the new, young coach Pat Malley. Being one of five cheerleaders that season. Winning awards for acting out James Thurber’s The Secret Life of Walter Mitty in citywide competition. Watching Fred LaCour lead SI to a city championship in basketball. Acquiring a lifelong skill by taking a pre-school morning typing class from Rene Herrerias, the basketball coach. Playing on the SI soccer and tennis teams and winning a block letter.
Classes: Mr. Rock giving up on our 4-A “Honors Program” class in Latin and having us read the rest of Caesar’s Gallic Wars in English. The walls of the classroom bending in an earthquake one year.
Antics: The Jesuits trying to teach us that kissing above the neck is a venial sin and below a mortal sin. They couldn’t have been serious, but they were, and some of us were so naïve as to have believed them. A Jesuit spiritual director preaching to us that we should pin a scapular to our pajama pants at night to protect us from temptation.
Tragedies: A symbol of the sexual revolution to come — a talented young student who played the guitar was thoroughly punished by the priests and scholastics for a mild imitation of Elvis Presley at a pre-game coed rally one afternoon.
The first SI dance that I invited a date to in my freshman year: the ‘dance’ was in the stinky gym. There were no decorations, no band, no nothing. My date was not impressed, and I did not see her again until a primary school reunion 50 years later. Having to take Latin and ancient Greek because I was selected for the honors program. How about useful modern languages such as Spanish (third in number of native speakers in the world) or Chinese (first in number of native speakers)? They are just as useful for “training the mind” — the excuse we were given as to why we were being trained in Latin and ancient Greek.
The sex advice I got from Fr. Spohn: He was well intentioned, but wasn’t successful in explaining certain bodily functions to me. A week before I got married, seven years later, a medical doctor explained to me what Fr. Spohn had not. (My dad had died when I was 10, and there was no one in the family to counsel me to take the Church’s teaching with a grain of salt.) We had a perfectly awful textbook called “Modern Youth and Chastity” to guide us in sexual matters.
Philosophic reflections: It seems our class was near the end of the medieval-style education that the highly educated, but insulated, Jesuits tried to pass on to us. Some Jesuits had worldly experience, but most lived in the luxurious men’s club that was known as the Society of Jesus so long as you played by their rules. The world was a shock after I left the Catholic cocoon of the 1950s and entered the Army for two years as an officer. Did I have more talented teachers at SI, especially among the scholastics and lay teachers like Mr. Corwin, than I would have had had I gone to public high school? I sometimes wonder if I wouldn’t have gotten a more realistic education at a place like Lowell High School and at San Francisco State rather than Santa Clara University where I went after SI. It no longer matters. I’m grateful for this free gift of life that I do have. Today, SI appears to be a colorful, lively place. But it also appears to be a school primarily for rich people’s children. (Editor’s note: SI may appear this way, but the reality is quite different. SI awards more than $1 million in tuition assistance to about 20 percent of the student body, ensuring that no one is denied an SI education for lack of funding.)
I wound up winning the General Excellence Award at graduation, but it turned out to be a hollow award for me. I was extremely touched by the award, but I did not feel good about it. Many of my classmates were much more talented than I. I felt alone, apart and alienated from them by the award, while my self-esteem glowed in the false, ephemeral sustenance it gave me. Today, I feel my classmates are loveable guys, and my only regret is that I wasn’t capable at the time of getting to know them better. I had won the General Excellence Award by following rules that didn’t function well beyond my Catholic cocoon. So, despite the award, I was ill-equipped for the greater world at large. I survived, though, and I have a beautiful life in Europe today with a wonderful wife, and for that I’m grateful.
So, what is the residual value to me of that Jesuit high school education at SI 50 years ago? I still have quite positive memories and souvenirs of my years at SI. I have my big SI block letter that I won in sports and wore on my white cheerleader sweater. I still have copies of all the Inside SIs I edited. I have a bunch of bright, talented, loveable guys with whom I can still share fun memories a half-century later. Nonetheless, my two primary school reunions are even more fun. I can share memories with bright, talented, loveable women as well.
By Michael Corrigan ’60
I thought the curriculum at SI was broad and scholastically viable, though I didn’t want four more years of religion after eight years with the nuns of Notre Dame. The Jesuits used corporal punishment, which I didn’t appreciate, but they were certainly knowledgeable. The Modern Youth and Chastity course was ridiculous in retrospect, and the absence of girls and/or sex education was a flaw. I was amused at the quaint term, “self abuse” or “solitary use of the genitive faculty” for masturbation. I wanted to attend a public school but my father wouldn’t allow it.
I did like some aspects of SI. The drama teacher was also a singer, and I acted inPaint Your Wagon, which only confirmed my lifelong love of professional theatre. Fr. Becker brought literature to life. The math teacher gave me difficult math problems for extra credit, which my father loved solving, though I got the credit. Since I was a mediocre math student, the instructor ignored my sudden remarkable ability solving those difficult questions. Certainly, I did learn the value of discipline that helped me when I decided to take graduate school seriously.
I don’t remember much student camaraderie. Two friends left SI in their second year. I did feel somewhat alienated not being a superior athlete, and I was disconnected from SI by my final year, as most of my friends were outside the school.
The school was simply too strict, too much like a military camp for my tastes, though, when I visited SI in March 2004, I found it to be quite remarkable. In an odd way, SI did prompt me to better understand Joyce’s Portrait of the Artist as A Young Man and Camus’ work, which could be used as an argument against the Jesuit style of education in those days.
The Ignatian Spirit . . . Half a Century Later
By C.T. (Terry) Gillin ’62
In the late 1950s and early ’60s, we wrote “AMDG” at the top of our homework, essays and tests. Ad majorem Dei gloriam (“for the greater glory of God”) may be virtually all that remains of my four years of Latin, but it embodies the Ignatian spirit that lingers in my life almost half a century later. “AMDG” was a reminder that the work, however routine, bore the meaning we brought to it with our own intentions. It was a sign that our work was done with respect for ourselves as well as for the assignment.
In 1958, St Ignatius High School took a child and, over four years, turned him into an adult — as Jesuits have been doing for hundreds of years. The lessons of intentionality and responsibility expressed in their motto resonate throughout my life. They can be summarized in three points. First, the Jesuits taught me “to read.” Reading is not as simple as it seems; it requires interpreting, making sense out of the story or essay by understanding its assumptions and implications. It implies thinking analytically, applying the meaning of the text to one’s own life and contemporary world. Reading is an invitation to think about the kind of person one wants to be and the kind of society one wants to help build.
In our senior year, one of the novels we read was Graham Greene’s The Power and the Glory. As I recall it, the story concerns a “whiskey priest” caught in the turmoil of Mexico’s revolution that has outlawed the Church. The central figure has given up his priestly vows to save his life; he is living with a woman and struggling with his conscience. He hears that an escaped convict is in the mountains and wants to confess before he dies. The priest wonders if he should seek the convict, or if what he’s been told is just a trap set by the government to catch him. In the end, the priest chooses to search for the convict and is caught by the government. I remember the way Fr. Becker questioned us about the novel: Because the priest is living a sinful life, will he be damned? Or, because he lays down his life for another, will he be saved? Through the discussion that followed, we were invited to recognize something of the complexity of life, to move beyond the child’s world of black-and-white morality, and to think and evaluate for ourselves.
This remembrance leads me to a second point. The Jesuits taught us not only to think but also to evaluate: to recognize that our everyday actions, the ordinary things we think about and do, are important. Each thing we do matters: how I respond to family, friends, colleagues and strangers such as other drivers, people on the street and panhandlers. The Jesuits taught that we are all a little like the whiskey priest. Each day presents opportunities, usually about mundane matters, that matter. It seems to me, the Ignatian question is, How am I to respond? And the assumption is that we each have deep within ourselves the ability to know how to respond.
Thirdly, I remember being impressed by the Jesuits themselves, their commitment to teaching and their dedication to us, their students. At SI, the Jesuits gave us a place to define ourselves, to be grateful for our accomplishments and to be tolerant of the inevitable mistakes, our own as well as others’. I saw them as role models for a way to live that makes a difference — loving my family, dedicated to my work, contributing to the community, working toward the development of a just world. Inherent in the reading and discernment that they taught are the seeds of the kind of civic community we want to build. It was the experience of my Jesuit teachers that led me to become a teacher and inspired me to understand teaching as more than the transmission of ideas; rather, teaching helps students connect their understanding to their own actions. For me, the “more” (the “majorem”) in the Jesuit motto is the belief that I can come to a better understanding of my self and the world and that we each can make a difference.
Terry Gillin lives with his wife and son and is a professor of sociology at Ryerson University in Toronto, Canada.
Chalk-Dust Memories: The 1950s
In those days, everyone was unified. Everyone had friends from SH and Riordan, which had just started, and we used to all meet at the dances Friday night at one of the three schools. We were all interested in girls at that time.
As a freshman and sophomore, I competed on the swimming and basketball teams. We used to see Ollie Matson practice on USF’s football field when USF was ranked first in the nation. Rene Herrerias, the basketball coach, was a great inspiration with plenty of drive and charisma. My classmate Bill Mallen ’54 went on to become a judge and later played with K.C. Jones for USF’s basketball team.
Warren White was an outgoing and inspiring English teacher who took a great interest in the students and ran the playhouse. Mr. Dennis, later Fr. Dennis, ran the paper where I worked drawing cartoons, poking a little editorial fun at the students and staff.
— Edward Boblits (Jahn) ’54
• • •
We had great young Jesuit scholastics and priests, including Mr. Ed McFadden, Mr. John LoSchiavo and Mr. George Dennis. Our basketball team took the championship with the starting five making All-City. We had a nice contingent of guys who commuted to school from Oakland. Think of the time those guys had to get up in the morning to catch the ferry!
— Denis Ragan ’51
• • •
Our class started in 1953. The school asked us to us sell tickets to raise funds to build a field house with a swimming pool, with the first prize being a trip to Hawaii. The student who sold the most tickets for his class was given a day off from school. (Jim Gallagher ’57, who later served as Sonoma County Assessor for many years, earned that distinction.) We sold tickets for four years and raised thousands and thousands of dollars, but SI never built that field house.
When Pat Malley started coaching, he told us we were going to beat Poly. When we played them the first time, they kicked our behinds. We then played Poly in the semifinals and beat them. That was the happiest day of Pat Malley’s life. He had convinced us that we could beat Poly and we believed him. The newspapers used to write about us as the stumbling, bumbling and fumbling team. But under Malley, we had a tremendous defense. Nobody scored much on us. SH had a famous fullback, Walt Arnold, who went on to play at UC Berkeley, and we held him to 6 yards rushing one game. Our fullback, Gil Dowd ’57, had a banner day and went on to star at Stanford.
After the earthquake of 1957 our class (4-D) was in the chemistry lab on the fourth floor of the old building on Stanyan Street. After all the beakers and vials stopped shaking, our teacher, a young Jesuit scholastic named Mr. Lentz told us all to sit down and be calm, and he would check out the situation. He proceeded to leave us in the lab, went down the hall, and was not seen again that day.
— John Strain ’57
• • •
In 1945 when I was 10, I lived close to Kezar, and my uncle, who had graduated from Poly, took me to see what he thought would be a Poly massacre of SI. SI won 13–7 for the city championship. My uncle had a temper, so I had to hold all my joy within, smiling on the way home.
SI was a big ROTC school. After freshman year, you either took Greek or ROTC. Either in my sophomore or junior year, Life magazine was going to do a big spread on SI’s ROTC program, as it was one of the largest in the country. The photographer stood on top of scaffolding to take a picture out on what is now USF’s soccer field. All the ROTC officers assembled us and had us stand at attention looking at the camera. To be funny, one row of 10 or 20 kids faced the opposite direction, away from the camera. The photographer didn’t discover this until he developed the prints. The magazine never ran the picture because of that one row. Some students were upset even though no one could have identified himself as the faces would have been so small. But we could have had national exposure.
J.B. Murphy taught me algebra in my freshman year. He was down-to-earth and sincere; he wanted you to succeed. I always respected him. I remember many teachers had to have summer jobs, and I worked side by side with Bernie at Hamms and Burgermeister. It was strange working with him as a colleague.
Frank Corwin was such a great storyteller that students would much rather listen to his stories than pay attention to the course. He told us about the Egyptian red ants that would eat a tire as it moved and about swords that would fly through the air and decapitate someone who spat by mistake in the high holy places in Egypt.
My companions made my time at SI so enjoyable. At my 50-year reunion, I realized just how proud I am to have associated with these people for so long. We now get together four times a year, and we can just be ourselves. If you happen to be well-to-do, great; if not, no big deal.
— Charlie Leach ’53
• • •
SI’s old high school gym was built before USF had its own gym. Fr. Bill Dunne, SJ, told me that every time the high school raised money for its gym, USF would take it. To keep that from happening, the SI Jesuits began putting their money in coffee cans in the principal’s office. They did that for 15 years, never showing it to the college president. When they had enough for a down payment on the gym, they brought those coffee cans filled with money to the treasurer’s office.
— Pete Devine ’66
• • •
When disputes arose among boys at SI, they settled them in a place we called The Pits. There had been a large building in Golden Gate Park across from St. Mary’s Hospital, but only the foundations remained. It was a big deal in the 1950s and 1960s for kids to go there to fight after school, and sometimes those fights would draw hundreds of students.
— Chuck Murphy ’61
• • •
My first year at SI was marked by austerity, symbolized by Bellarmine beating us 55–7. We had a small playground but great camaraderie with 1,000 guys from all over the city thrown together. In those days, you stayed together with same 30 people all day and all year, and after four years, the friendships were strong. Pat Malley was one of three lay teachers in the whole school. Even though he taught freshman math and coached football, he also taught religion between the lines, and it was more than I learned in religion class. One day he told about some kids who knocked an old lady down in a bus, and he made an impression about how rotten a thing that was. He explained that war isn’t against bad people but against evil.
Because of the lack of facilities, we had to take physics during the upperclass lunch period and had lunch with the lowerclassmen. We never ate anything. About 15 of us would make a mad dash to the basketball courts outside the chapel, to the one good basketball court. The first 10 guys that made a basket got to play, and we’d play the entire lunch period. We spilled a little blood on occasion: It was like the SH game every lunch period. With all I was doing, I felt life was flying by and just wanted to savor every minute. It was also a great way to relieve stress.
— Fr. Fran Stiegeler, SJ ’61
• • •
I entered SI late in November 1949 after my family moved to San Francisco from Berkeley. I had Frank Corwin for history, and when he found out I had roots in Utah, he told me he had worked there the year before but had been almost fired for “moral turpitude” for smoking. I couldn’t believe that anyone would kick out a teacher straight from service in Africa. When I met Fr. Andy Gilligan, SJ, he looked at my name and said, “Oh no, not another Dago!” and he proceeded to tell Leo LaRocca and Frank Ravetti to come up and take care of me. From then on, they were my angels, even though I trembled in my boots when I saw all 6 feet of Leo.
Mr. Ed McFadden, SJ ’41, taught Latin by walking along the railing of the window with a yardstick acting out the role of Caesar. Geometry was taught by Fr. Ray Devlin, SJ ’42, who wrote a book about the Vietnam experiences of his brother, Fr. Joe Devlin, SJ. Br. Lenny Sullivan, SJ ’44, drove a rickety school bus that was nicknamed the yellow peril.
The classroom was like the movie The Blackboard Jungle. It was students against teachers. We had some crazy priests, including Fr. Charlie McKee, SJ, who claimed to be an ex-boxer. This man, who taught a course using Modern Youth & Chastity, shoved me down the center stairs and against a locker for something I did that angered him. At one point, he made derogatory remarks about Leo LaRocca’s date. Leo reached a point where he had all he could take. He grabbed the priest by the throat and said, “If you weren’t wearing this cassock, I’d clobber you,” or words to that effect.
The teachers running detention would come up with neat little tricks to punish us. We would kneel on the floor on pencils for 45 minutes, and if you squirmed, you stayed longer. If you got in the way of Fr. Ray Pallas, SJ ’32, he’d whack you with his cane.
I had some excellent teachers, such as Fr. Pierre Jacobs, SJ ’31, who taught chemistry. I was amazed to earn a “B” in that course, as he was a tough teacher. On the first day of class, he impressed upon us how dangerous the course could be by holding up a pair of pants minus the crotch that had been burned away from an acid spill. Warren White was a fantastic English teacher, and he inspired me to study English at USF. I worked stage crew for him for Billy Budd and Look Homeward Angel at the Marines Memorial Theatre.
— Fr. Paul Capitolo, SJ ’53