Jesuit High School: A Sacramento tradition since 1963

By LANCE ARMSTRONG

For nearly a half-century, Jesuit High School has been building a strong tradition that began very modestly with 93 freshman students under the direction of the California Province of the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits) and the Rev. Joseph Keane, as superior.

Jesuit High School has built a nearly half-century-long tradition in the Carmichael/Sacramento area. The school was established on property that was formerly occupied by the Horst Hop Ranch. (Photo by Lance Armstrong)
Jesuit High School has built a nearly half-century-long tradition in the Carmichael/Sacramento area. The school was established on property that was formerly occupied by the Horst Hop Ranch. (Photo by Lance Armstrong)
The idea for the creation of this private, Catholic faith-based, all-boys school, which is located on the border of Carmichael and Sacramento at 1200 Jacob Lane, was conceived in about the late 1950s through the leadership of Bishop Robert Armstrong.

And through Armstrong’s successor, the Rev. Joseph McGucken, efforts to further this dream continued with various fundraising efforts.

During the early 1960s, Keane was sent by the Rev. John Connolly, provincial of the California Province, to initiate the preliminary groundwork for the establishment of the school.

 

“The miracle of Sacramento”

A major step in the process to create a Jesuit high school in the Sacramento area was taken in January 1961, as 27 acres of the old Horst Hop Ranch were purchased by the California Province for the construction of the school.

The process of building Jesuit High School was referred to by associates of the school at the time as “the miracle of Sacramento” due to the fact that the majority of the school was built in only about four months.

The first issue of Jesuit High’s newspaper, The Plank (currently known as Ye Olde Plank), provided the following commentary on this fast-paced construction, which began in May 1963: “The transformation, wrought by the firm of Harbison and Mahony, definitely borders on the miraculous.”

A sign announces the 1963 construction of Jesuit High School. (Photo courtesy of Jesuit High School)
A sign announces the 1963 construction of Jesuit High School. (Photo courtesy of Jesuit High School)
Finally, the long-awaited day arrived on Sept. 17, 1963, as Jesuit High, with its six major buildings, became the first new high school opened by the California Province in 42 years.

Hired as the school’s first principal and a history teacher was the Rev. John Geiszel, who had previously served as the vice principal of Loyola High School in Los Angeles.

Other instructors at this time included: the student’s chaplain, the Rev. John Ferguson, theology; the Rev. Joseph Barry, mathematics; the Rev. Raymond Brannon, Latin and speech; the Rev. Carlton Whitten, English; and the school’s only lay teacher, John Maher, history and physical education.

Keane, who served as a chaplain in the U.S. Navy during the Korean War, the dean of men at Loyola University in Los Angeles and athletic director at the University of San Francisco, was appointed first superior of Jesuit High on Sept. 26, 1963.

Another early faculty member was added to Jesuit’s staff in February 1964, with the hiring of Brother Edward Johnson, who performed a variety of jobs, including working in the study hall, sorting and filing mail, cleaning the chapel, running errands and watering the lawn.

 

In October 1964, five priests, one brother and two laymen were added to the faculty.

 

No ordinary school

An editorial in The Plank’s first issue reveals the fact that Jesuit’s first students understood that their school was no ordinary school.

Jesuit High’s Chris Lorenc shakes hands with Sacramento High’s Chris McMurray at the 1969 basketball Tournament of Champions, which was won by Jesuit High. (Photo courtesy of Jesuit High School)
Jesuit High’s Chris Lorenc shakes hands with Sacramento High’s Chris McMurray at the 1969 basketball Tournament of Champions, which was won by Jesuit High. (Photo courtesy of Jesuit High School)
The editorial, which was written by student James Mark, included the following words: “When people look at us, they are looking at Jesuit High, for we are Jesuit High. The reputation of the Jesuit fathers rides with each one of us (students), here, at home and away. We are students of Jesuit High 24 hours a day (for) the rest of our lives.”

A major event in the school’s history occurred on Nov. 6, 1963, when Jesuit’s faculty and student body selected the name, Marauders, and the colors crimson and gold.

The mascot name was selected due to the classic marauders or seafaring pirates’ reputation for having such a great level of intelligence, skill and knowledge of navigation that they were considered almost invincible and the envy of all men.

The colors were chosen because crimson is the color of blood, which symbolizes courage, and gold is the most precious and valuable metal and is so deeply connected to the history of Sacramento.

The beauty of the initial landscaping on the Jesuit campus, which was increased to a total of 42 acres when additional acreage was purchased by the California Province in February 1963, was attributed to the care of Barry and Brannon.

Ferguson was also very active in Jesuit’s early landscaping, as he was instrumental in the acquisition and positioning of the campus’ first trees and bushes.

In addition to its landscaping and initial structures, the school also included its then-campus-famous asphalt field that was used for physical education classes and intramural sports, including football.

Jesuit’s first sports team to compete against another school was its basketball team, which debuted in the fall of 1963.

By the spring of 1964, Jesuit fielded its first baseball team, followed by its first cross country team in the fall of 1964 and its first football team in the fall of 1965.

Today, the school features 14 sports teams and has a rich history of championship teams at the league, section, state and national level.

Most recently, rugby, soccer, cross country and baseball have been the most dominant of these sports.

 

A new voice

Another noteworthy activity of the school during its earlier years was its Law Contest, which debuted under the direction of Brannon on Nov. 25, 1963.

A large cross and bell hover high above the Jesuit High School campus. (Photo by Lance Armstrong)
A large cross and bell hover high above the Jesuit High School campus. (Photo by Lance Armstrong)
With about 600 people in attendance at the Encina High School Auditorium, two mock trials were presented, including the famous Lindbergh trial.

Stephen Clavere won top honors, as he was named the best speaker of the event, which was the first law contest ever held in a California high school.

Honor student and then-future student body president Steve Ruggiero captured the best speaker award during the next Law Contest, which was held at the Loretto High School gymnasium on November 19, 1964.

Although the Law Contest was only held for a few years, clubs were a rich part of Jesuit’s early history and among the first clubs to be formed at the school were the Glee Club, the Radio Club and the Sodality service organization.

Since this time, student activities at the school have expanded to include about 45 student-led clubs, ranging from service programs to international clubs to leadership organizations.

Jesuit also has a long history of visual and performing arts programs, which has evolved from the Glee Club to a full fine arts curriculum, including studio art, music and drama productions.

Another early element of the school since its beginnings was its yearbook, The Cutlass.

The original staff of The Cutlass met for the first time on Feb. 2, 1964 to plan for the creation of the 1965 annual.

When the staff, which was led by its editor and chief Mark Warren, completed the yearbook, it consisted of 36 pages with black and white photographs.

As the student body has grown throughout the years, thus has The Cutlass, as well. The 2009 edition of the annual, for instance, included 192 pages with color photographs.

 

Jesuit High today

Mark Warren’s brother, Tim Warren, who serves as Jesuit’s assistant principal and dean of students, has seen the positive development of the school from its construction days to the present.

“When they were building the school in 1963, my father (Harry Warren) would drive us down there as kids,” Tim Warren said. “My brother (Mark) was in the first class, my brother Phil was in the third class and I graduated in 1970 (in the fourth class) and two years after I graduated, I started coaching football (at Jesuit). There’s never been a time that I haven’t been associated with the place in my adult life. The school has really grown. I remember when the school opened. The (campus) was not always like this. There were 10 or 15 cars total in the parking lot in the early days.”

Jesuit High School faculty members attend the school’s first graduation ceremony in 1967. (Photo courtesy of Jesuit High School)
Jesuit High School faculty members attend the school’s first graduation ceremony in 1967. (Photo courtesy of Jesuit High School)
Norma Nicol Hamilton, Jesuit’s assistant librarian and the mother of Jesuit alumni Garrett Hamilton of the Class of 1986 and Ryan Hamilton of the Class of 1989, said that many Jesuit graduates have moved on to contribute considerably to the local and greater society.

“It’s been truly a privilege to be a part of the Jesuit Ignatian tradition of education,” Hamilton said. “I think our school as it nears its 50th year in the Sacramento area is a tremendous asset to the citizens of Sacramento to their young men who are and who have been students (at Jesuit). I’m not sure of the number of graduates. I think its somewhere in the 6000s range, but they’ve gone on to do all kinds of wonderful things in California, the United States and the world in humanitarian occupations, government occupations, health and wellness occupations and legal occupations.”

A few of the notable alumni include: Maj. Gen. Leo A. Brooks and Brother Brig. Gen. Vincent K. Brooks of the U.S. Army, National Football League quarterback Ken O’Brien, Major League Baseball player Lars Anderson, Olympic class runner Michael Stember and professional actor Chris Sullivan.

Another facet of the history of Jesuit is that many of the school’s former students have returned to work as members of the faculty.

Allan Darte of the Class of 1996 is one such graduate, who has returned to serve the school.

Working as the assistant admissions director and diversity director, Darte is passionate about his Jesuit roots.

“As the first person from my family to go to Jesuit, I found the experience extremely rewarding,” Darte said. “I received a well-rounded, morally-based education that has inspired me to be a lifelong learner. Furthermore, I have become a part of an international network, which has given me access to invaluable experiences, resources and opportunities.”

Today, Jesuit with its student body of about 1,000 and about 120 faculty and staff, continues its rich tradition of building “Men for Others” and adhering to the Latin motto, Ad majorem Dei gloriam, which is translated as “For the greater glory of God.”

 

E-mail Lance Armstrong at lance@valcomnews.com.

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One comment

  1. Terry Battenberg
    #1

    The article on Jesuit High School was nicely done. One correction for you though, the picture of Chris McMurray and Chris Lorenc was actually taken in Dec. 1968 at the Metro Christmas Tournament and not at the 1969 TOC. McMurray and Sac High were not in the TOC that year, as their league champion was Hiram Johnson. (Jesuit played and beat Hiram Johnson in the game) Sac High played Jesuit in the finals of the Metro Christmas Tournament that same season, which is when the picture was taken.
    Having been the Head Coach at Jesuit that year, I guess I should know. :o )
    TB

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