HISTORY OF ST. JOHN'S COLLEGE
St. John’s College (Select School) was founded in 1887 by Father Cassian Gillett (Jesuit) populated by young men. SJC was first located at the Catholic Presbytery, Holy Redeemer Cathedral in Belize City.
In February 1896, it moved from the Catholic Presbytery and changed its name from the Select School to St. John’s College under the direction of Fr. William J. Wallace. Due to rapid expansion, the school relocated in the mangrove fields one mile south of the edge of Belize City town. On July 17, 1917, the faculty and students moved to the campus known as the Loyola Park. In the year 1929 there were 90 students enrolled at the College.
In 1931 on September 11, the country of Belize experienced a catastrophic Hurricane (Hattie) were 11 Jesuits died and the campus was deteriorated. The destruction of the campus required the school’s return to the cathedral in the centre of town for “temporary” quarters.
In 1952 St. John’s College finally moved to their new and current campus named after the Central American poet and renowned scholar, Rafael Landivar, S.J.
In 1947, St. John’s College pioneered an adult evening education with the inauguration of an adult education program, called the Extension School. The first class enrolled of 55 men and 27 women began a program aimed at providing leadership training for people desired a post-secondary education. The roster of students in those early days included the names of men who went on to lead Belize’s independence movement. Under the direction of Fr. John Stochl, it began offering high school equivalency courses in 1965 to young men and women who were unable to attend or complete a regular secondary school program.
In the year 2012 the school restructured, and The Extension Department was closed in September of that same year.
In early 1952, in response to the growing need in Belize for higher levels of academic training, St. John’s College expanded its traditional four-year high school program, offering a limited number of post-secondary school courses under the direction of Father Robert Raszkowski, S.J. Over time, these limited offerings expanded into what, in the British tradition, is called Sixth Form, a two-year program leading to Advanced Level Examinations, or simply, the “A-Levels.” These external examinations are set by Cambridge University.
In the mid-1960’s, SJC broadened the program of studies so that it met the requirements of the Associate Degree awarded by junior and community colleges in the United States. This provided graduates of St. John’s College Sixth Form a choice of further studies: they could enter Commonwealth Universities which require Cambridge “A Level” certificates or Unites States Universities as transfer students into the third year of an undergraduate degree program. In 1960, St. John’s College Sixth Form was granted membership in the American Association of Community and Junior Colleges.
Jesuit education is a call to human excellence, to the fullest possible development of all human qualities. It is a call to critical thinking and disciplined studies, a call to develop the whole person, head and heart, intellect and feelings.
Jesuit education systematically incorporates methods from a variety of sources which better contribute to the intellectual, social, moral, and religious formation of the whole person. In the underlying principle of Tantum Quantum, that which may work better is adopted and assessed while that which is proven ineffective is discarded.
Jesuit education presents academic subjects out of a human "centeredness", with stress on uncovering and exploring the patterns, relationships, facts, questions, insights, conclusions, problems, solutions, and implications which a particular discipline brings to light about what it means to be a human being.
The Jesuit of Belize has been pioneers of SJC since initiation. The Jesuit Community was was Father Cassian Gillett, one of the four brothers, all British Province Jesuits priests who arrived in Belize in the 1880’s. Father Gillett’s school opened its doors in 1887 with a grand total enrollment of twelve day-students and two boarders.
Established as St. John Berchmans College, a select school for boys, by Cassian Gillett, SJ
Moved into new building near Holy Redeemer Cathedral; 94 students enrolled, including 17 from neighboring countries
Built new school facilities at Loyola Park
Loyola Park destroyed by hurricane; St. John’s College reopened for classes on the Holy Redeemer compound, with 31 students enrolled
Hosted study groups for adults, using classrooms at Holy Redeemer
Built new facilities on reclaimed mangrove swamp at Landivar; high school enrolment at 300 inaugurated the Sixth Form, under the direction of Robert Raszkowski, SJ, with an enrolment of 3 students
Started the St. John’s Teachers College, on the Landivar campus, under the direction of Clement Andlauer, SJ, with an enrolment of 6 students
Fordyce Chapel built on Landivar campus
Established the Extension Department, directed by John Stochl, SJ, with an enrolment of about 60 students, housed in the Melhado Building at the foot of the Belize City Swing Bridge (in later years moved to corner New Road and Hyde’s Lane, then to the present Regent Street location)
Landivar Gymnasium, open to the public, built on Landivar campus
Yorke and Zinkle Halls at Landivar dedicated for Sixth Form use
Sixth Form started offering Associate Degrees
Jacoby Hall built on High School side of Landivar campus
Science building established on Landivar campus to house science labs and classrooms for High School and Sixth Form
Established the Evening Studies Program of the Junior College
Weber and Raszkowski Halls built on Landivar Campus to accommodate growing numbers of students at the Sixth Form
Sixth Form officially became a Junior College
Established the National Center for Art Education and Cultural Understanding on the Landivar campus
Established the Belizean Studies Resource Center and revived The Journal of Belizean Studies
Offered the Loyola Institute of Ministry Extension Program in Belize to an inaugural cohort of 26 men and women
Student enrolment of 1,139 students in the Junior College Day and Evening Programs, 510 in the High School, 618 in the Extension
Established the School of Professional Studies
Established the Centre for Business and Career Development
Amalgamated the counselling offices to form the SJC Counseling Center
Renovated Jacoby Hall to include science facilities, computer laboratories, drafting classroom, and other general use classrooms for High School division