The Society of Jesus and Academia in Nova Cæsarea: Robert I. Gannon, S.J. & the Re-Birth of St. Peter’s College, 1930-1936

Alan Delozier


The rebirth of St. Peter’s College during the early years of the Great Depression gave rise to an uncommon renaissance that took shape mainly through the handiwork of Robert I. Gannon, S.J., who became the first dean in 1930, spearheading reorganization of a college that had been closed since 1918. In the process, Father Gannon developed an academic curriculum that would not only accommodate Catholic tradition, but keep pace with the era of practical educational offerings that could help the local youth population advance in economic and social status. This included individual students who were recruited regardless of religious, ethnic, and racial origin, but based solely on the promise of top level academic performance. St. Peter’s had to overcome different tests from religious superiors and civic officials alike in order to serve a focused constituency that arose amongst the ranks of the poor yet academically inclined of Northern New Jersey. This vision of providing an opportunity for local students who thought higher education might be out of their reach had an impact on the creation of St. Peter’s College from its re-opening in 1930, and still bears the pedagogical, commercial, and diplomatic imprint of Father Gannon.

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