Gonzaga enters the 2019-20 season as the reigning Washington Catholic Athletic Conference (WCAC) Champions led by Coach Steve Turner, now in his 16th season (369-162). The Purple Eagles have a veteran team with 10 lettermen from last year’s team (28-9). Key for Gonzaga this year are senior forward Terrance Williams (6-7), 1st Team All-Conference and All-Met player, senior guard Chuck Harris (6-3), All-Conference Honorable Mention player committed to Butler and senior forward Myles Stute (6-7) committed to Vanderbilt. Seniors Carlos Hubb, Josiah Hardy, and Christian Ficca, a Georgetown baseball commit, will provide veteran leadership, pressing defense and power rebounding. Other players to watch are juniors Malcolm Dread and Will Scherer, sophomores Devin Dinkins, Judah Mintz, Quinn Clark, Jared Turner and freshman Thomas Batties. Gonzaga will play a very competitive WCAC schedule with Paul VI, DeMatha and Gonzaga all nationally ranked. Other nationally ranked opponents include Sunrise Christian (KS), La Lumiere (IN), Rancho Christian (CA) and 3 teams at the City of Palms Tournament in Fort Myers, Florida.
Gonzaga is the oldest educational institution in the old Federal City of Washington, opening its doors in 1821. The cornerstone of the original building on F Street, NW, was laid by Bishop Leonard Neale, auxiliary to Archbishop Carroll, the first American bishop of the Catholic Church, both Jesuits. The building was first opened only to Jesuit scholastics in 1820. After receiving numerous requests from Washington residents, the Washington Seminary, as Gonzaga was first known, began classes for lay students in 1821. Gonzaga flourished within sight of the Capitol and an easy carriage ride from the White House. On one famous occasion, President John Quincy Adams came to the Commencement at the school and examined the boys in Latin and Greek. The Jesuits had to depart the Seminary in 1827 due to conflicting rules about tuition but returned in 1848. The year was so successful that President Zachary Taylor presided at the Commencement. The school continued to operate under the charter of Georgetown College, but eventually succeeded in obtaining its own charter in 1858. On May 4, 1858, President James Buchanan signed into law the Act of Congress creating the “President and Directors of Gonzaga College.” Gonzaga was indeed a college and actually conferred a few bachelor’s degrees before phasing out the baccalaureate program by the turn of the century.
In 1859 the Jesuits built the great church of St. Aloysius on North Capitol Street which was quite rural at the time. In 1871, the school moved to be near the new Jesuit church and occupied Kohlmann Hall on Eye Street, NW. Kohlmann Hall had originally been built as an orphanage. This building housed the Jesuit community as well as the entire high school. In 1896 the school built Gonzaga College Hall, which houses one of the oldest theatres in the city. After more than 100 years, its stage still presents many theatrical performances. In 1912 Cardinal Gibbons presided over opening ceremonies of the new Main Building, now known as Dooley Hall. The facade, matching the theatre, provided a stately image in the busy neighborhood traffic of Eye Street.
Over the years Gonzaga’s neighborhood changed and inner city tensions escalated. The parochial grade school closed. The building was acquired by Gonzaga and is now Cantwell Hall. Violence and destruction erupted with the city wide riots of 1968. Although fires burned all around the campus, the church and school were spared. However, a bleak period followed in which enrollment dropped and the school began to fail. In the early ‘70s serious thought was given to closing Gonzaga or moving it to the suburbs. Neither happened. Instead the Maryland Province of Jesuits declared its total commitment to Gonzaga as a school serving the inner city. Positive steps to save the school soon followed. The residents of the dilapidated housing across Eye Street were rehoused in newly built Sursum Corda, largely due to the efforts of Father Horace McKenna. The vacated area was developed into Buchanan Field, giving the school its first site for home football games in 100 years. With major help from alumni the school built the Carmody Center, housing a new gymnasium and reception area. The 1980s saw the addition of Forte Hall to the campus and the expansion of the field. When the Academy of Notre Dame closed its doors in the late ‘80s, Gonzaga incorporated its building, now known as Arrupe Hall, into the campus. Father Bernard Dooley, Gonzaga’s president for 20 years, directed the school’s revival, and before his retirement in 1994, oversaw the magnificent renovation of the Great Church of St. Aloysius. Since the mid-1980s, Gonzaga has enjoyed a steady increase in qualified applicants making admission more and more competitive and assuring a student body capable of continuing Gonzaga’s excellent academic reputation.
Gonzaga celebrated its 175th anniversary in 1996. Under President Allen P. Novotny, S.J., Gonzaga has undergone substantial updating and renovation through a $20 Million capital funding campaign. Phase I (The Greater Glory) of the campus master plan entailed the complete renovation of Cantwell and Arrupe Hall (renamed Ruesch Hall in recognition of the generous donation of the late Otto Ruesch and his family).These two buildings comprise a 21st century state-of-the-art academic facility with new science, music, and technology centers. Virtually all that remains of the original 19th century school buildings are the decorative facades on North Capitol and K Streets. The main entrance to Ruesch and Cantwell is now the magnificent Collins Rotunda named after the Collins family, long-time Gonzaga alumni and supporters. Phase II (In Medias Res) brought the renovation and expansion of the cafeteria, bookstore, and dining area, handicapped accessibility for the Theatre, Dooley Hall and St. Aloysius Church, and development of the old inner parking lot to a beautiful outdoor quadrangle. The old quadrangle and catwalk are no more the area has been transformed into a Commons area, serving as a student activity center and meeting/reception space for parents and friends. Phase II also brought changes to the Carmody Center new motorized bleachers and a new hardwood floor, an artificial surface for Buchanan Field, and a much-needed renovation of the Jesuit residence. Phase III (Keeping the Promise), initiated by Father Novotny in 2010, encompasses renovations to the historic Theatre, Dooley Hall, and Kohlmann Hall, as well as additions to the Carmody Center and a parking garage under Buchanan Field, which is currently under construction. In July 2011 Rev. Stephen Planning SJ was appointed Gonzaga’s 36th President, and he continues the fine work of his predecessors.
Applications and enrollments to the school have increased steadily since the early ‘80s and Gonzaga now has its largest student population ever. With the aid of generous alumni and benefactors, Gonzaga has been able to substantially increase its endowment assuring sound financial health for the foreseeable future. The increase in funding not only allows the school to moderate tuition increases, it also provides a greater opportunity for minority and disadvantaged students to attend Gonzaga through scholarship opportunities. Over a third of current Gonzaga students receive some form of financial assistance.
In a move that reinforces Gonzaga’s commitment to the DC community, the Jesuit province started the Washington Jesuit Academy in September 2002, which is designed to prepare 6th to 8th graders from the inner city for high school. Gonzaga has a long history of triumphs and tragedies, but has come through them all stronger for the experience. Its mission remains one of educating “Men for Others”, following the Jesuit vision as inspired by the life and teachings of Jesus Christ.