WJU Commemorates 60 Years At Founder’s Day Celebration

A lot can happen in 60 years.

Wheeling Jesuit University will celebrate its 60th anniversary Feb. 11. Founder’s Day 2014 events include a Mass honoring the late Bishop John J. Swint and a free public lecture titled “The Jesuits Are Still at It: 200 Years of Restoration and Renewal, 1814-2014.”

It is a day to remember Swint’s role in founding Wheeling College and marks the date in 1957 when he handed over the property deed to Rev. Lawrence R. McHugh, the school’s first president. Wheeling College was incorporated on Sept. 25, 1954 by Swint and the Maryland Province of the Society of Jesus.

Rev. John Brian O’Donnell, Jesuit superior at WJU, will preside over the Founder’s Day Mass with WJU President Rev. James Fleming. Mass begins at 4:15 p.m. in the Chapel of Mary & Joseph.

The university had a unique start in that, unlike most founders of Jesuit schools, Swint was not a Jesuit. Also, WJU is the only Jesuit school that was co-ed and integrated from its founding. Fleming believes these elements all contribute to a rich history.

“The 60th anniversary allows us to stop to remember where we came from. … It’s true that human beings and institutions get their identity based on where they come from,” said Fleming. “But the thing is, we can’t get stuck (there) … Universities by their very nature aren’t meant to settle down.”

Recently, WJU has been working more closely with the city of Wheeling to make choices that will benefit the university and community alike. Placing the doctor of physical therapy program and a free physical therapy clinic in downtown Wheeling, building graduate student housing on Washington Ave., developing a turf field for Wheeling Central Catholic High School’s use and opening the Mount de Chantal Conservatory of Music at WJU recital hall for the public to enjoy performances are some of the ways the university has implemented this philosophy.

Also on Founder’s Day at 7 p.m. in the Robert C. Byrd National Technology Transfer Center auditorium, the Rev. John Padberg, director and general editor of the Institute of Jesuit Sources, will present a lecture about the Jesuits.

The lecture marks the 200-year anniversary of the restoration of the Society of Jesus.

“Many people are unaware that, in 1773, Pope Clement XIV put the Jesuits ‘out of existence’ … and then in 1814, after 43 years, the Jesuits were restored as a religious order in the Catholic Church,” said Jamey Brogan, WJU director of campus ministry, mission & identity.

The restoration anniversary and lecture tie into WJU’s 60th anniversary and Founder’s Day as part of the Jesuit family story. Inviting the community to attend the lecture further reinforces the idea that the institution’s identity is connected to that of Wheeling as a city.

The public will have another opportunity to connect with the school on March 29 during Wheeling Jesuit University Day.

The day’s events, including micro lectures from university faculty, student research presentations and the annual Culture Fest are open for anyone to attend.