This half-century tradition began 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.
The idea for the creation of this private, Catholic faith-based, all-boys school, which is located at 1200 Jacob Lane, was conceived by Bishop Robert J. Armstrong (1884-1957) during the 1950s.
Armstrong’s successor, the Rev. Joseph McGucken (1902-1983) furthered this dream through his involvement with various fundraising efforts.
Also instrumental in fundraising efforts for the school were Elwood and Jack Maleville and other Catholic lay people.
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 efforts to establish the school took a major step forward in January 1961, when the California Province purchased a more than 20-acre portion of the old Horst hop ranch to be used as the site of this institution.
The majority of the school, which has a much larger campus today, was built in only about four months, a feat that resulted in associates of the school referring to the project as “the miracle of Sacramento.”
The first issue of Jesuit High’s newspaper, which was then known as The Plank, referred to the fast pace of the school’s construction, as follows: “The transformation, wrought by the firm of Harbison and Mahony, definitely borders on the miraculous.”
The architect for the project was Harry J. Devine and Keane served as the project’s executive director.
Following the completion of its six major buildings, Jesuit High was opened on Sept. 17, 1963. And with that opening, Jesuit High became the first new high school established by the California Province in 42 years.
The Rev. John Geiszel, who had previously served as the vice principal of Loyola High School in Los Angeles, was hired to serve as both the school’s first principal and a history teacher.
Other members of the original faculty were 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.
On Sept. 26, 1963, Keane was appointed first superior of Jesuit High. His resume, at that time, included serving as a chaplain in the U.S. Navy during the Korean War, dean of men at Loyola University in Los Angeles and athletic director at the University of San Francisco.
On Nov. 6, 1963, Jesuit’s faculty and student body selected the name, Marauders, and the colors crimson and gold.
Joining Jesuit’s faculty in February 1964 was 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.
Eight months later, five priests, one brother and two laymen were added to the faculty.
The first Jesuit High 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.
Clubs were a rich part of Jesuit’s early history and among the first clubs to be formed at the school were the Radio Club, the Glee Club and the Sodality service organization.
Student activities at the school have since expanded to include about 45 student-led clubs, ranging from service programs to international clubs to leadership organizations.
The school also has a long history of providing its students with opportunities to participate in visual and performing arts programs.
Another early element of the school since its beginnings was its yearbook, The Cutlass.
This annual’s original staff, which included its editor and chief Mark Warren, began meeting in February 1964.
The 1965 annual was the first edition of The Cutlass, and the book consisted of 36 pages with black and white photographs.
When the school was only about a decade old, it survived a threat of closure due to financial and manpower challenges.
A newly established board of trustees, led by James Carr, who headed the “Ad Hoc Committee to Save Jesuit High School,” took charge of the school’s finances and policy-making duties, while the Jesuit order kept its role as the school’s administrators.
The school’s growth throughout the years has included new structures, as well as increases in the size of its faculty and student body.
Today, Jesuit has a student body of about 1,000 and about 120 faculty and staff.
Many former Jesuit High students have fond memories of their time at the school.
One such person is Michael DeFazio, who was one of many members of his family to attend Jesuit.
In sharing that history, Michael said, “(His brother) Bill graduated in 1967, the first class of Jesuit, (his brother) Jim graduated in 1969, I graduated in 1970, (his brother) Tom was 1972, (his brother) Peter was 1979. I have cousins – George, Matt and Bill – that graduated from Jesuit. I have two sons, Michael and Andrew, that graduated from Jesuit in 2004 and 2007, respectively. My nephew, Robert, graduated in 2002 and his brother, Tom, graduated in 2005. His brother, Jeffrey, graduated in 2007. My brother, Tom, has a son, James, who graduated in 2003.”
Michael, who owns a medical records business, added that he has enjoyed being involved with Jesuit High throughout the years.
“It was fun (attending Jesuit),” said Michael, who had previously attended St. Ignatius School at 3245 Arden Way. “There was a lot of camaraderie. I spent so much time close to there with other siblings and then children, and all the sports with the kids. It feels like I never left.”
Bill, who owns a commercial real estate company, recalled an earlier plan for the site of Jesuit High.
“I went to St. Ignatius grammar school on Arden Way, and the Jesuit (High) School – I don’t know if they were going to call it Jesuit – it was supposed to (be constructed behind St. Ignatius). The school owned a bunch of property behind there that they designated to put the high school on. I don’t know if they determined if it probably wasn’t big enough. But going back, it was supposed to be built over behind St. Ignatius on Arden Way, and I believe the school – the Jesuits – owned the property all the way over to Morse Avenue.”
In sharing one of his earliest Jesuit High memories, Bill described a school activity that was unique to Jesuit’s original class.
“I do recall that the first class had to go out and plant the lawns in the fall of our first year,” Bill said. “Instead of P.E., probably for a week or two, the priests all got us together and we planted the lawn out in front and we planted the lawn out in between the administration building and the first classroom building.” Bill also said that because of his love for playing sports, he assisted with the creation of the school’s first baseball field.
“I went out there with the principal at the time, Father Guisel, to help (with) the baseball (field) or what was supposed to be the baseball field. I guess there was a backstop out there. We got ahold of a tractor somehow and cleared off the infield and made it look like some kind of a place you could practice on. We didn’t have any games there, I don’t believe.”
Bill, who played on Jesuit’s first baseball, basketball and football teams, was a member of the school’s first championship baseball team in 1967.
Evan Elsberry, the award-winning chef who operates Evan’s Kitchen and Catering at 855 57th St., described a regret he has when it comes to his connection to Jesuit High.
“My regret is I didn’t stay at Jesuit,” Elsberry said. “I went to Jesuit in 1978 and 1979 (before transferring to a public high school) and there was a great sense of belonging (at Jesuit) and it was great to be there, a lot of camaraderie. There was a lot of tradition for a relatively young school.”
Elsberry said that to this day, when someone asks him where he went to high school, he will proudly tell them that he attended Jesuit High.
Greg Kaeser, who graduated from Jesuit in 1980 and now operates an accounting-related computer programming service for businesses, added, “(Jesuit) has been a big deal in a lot of people’s lives and it continues to be a great school. Certainly at a time when young kids have a lot of different challenges and things, it’s a nice constant and it’s a good touchstone for everybody. It certainly gave me a great foundation in life, and I met a lot of good people and it prepared me for college and everything else beyond that. It’s something I’ll never forget.”
And as the memories of Jesuit High continue to be special for its many former students, current Jesuit students are also creating memories that will last a lifetime, as the school heads forward into its next 50 years.