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1919-1933: Off and On Broadway

In 1919, Seattle College moved into new quarters on Interlaken Blvd. A decade of low enrollment followed, leading Father John McHugh, SJ, to separate the college from its prep school in 1931. It would return to its old home on Broadway, where an enthusiastic group of professors would bring it new life and controversy.

In 1919, Thomas C. McHugh, who had become wealthy in the fish canning business, came up with an audacious idea to help the struggling Seattle College. He offered to buy and then donate the campus of bankrupt Adelphia College on Interlaken Blvd. President Joseph Tompkin, SJ, leapt at the idea.

The next decade saw Seattle College struggle with an identity crisis. Sharing space with a prep school, it found it difficult to attract students. In fact, from 1919-1925, it granted no bachelor’s degrees. Though the drought was eventually broken, the need to separate the two schools became increasingly clear.

In 1931, president John McHugh, SJ, sent Fr. Louis Egan, SJ, to clean up the derelict buildings and overgrown grounds on the old Broadway campus. Seattle College was going home.

In September, the college opened to 46 students. This “second founding” became complete with the arrival of four new professors, the so-called Four Horsemen of Loyola: Frs. Raymond Nichols, SJ; James McGoldrick, SJ; Daniel Reidy, SJ; and Howard Peronteau, SJ. They charged into the business of reviving the school, and soon found themselves—and not for the last time—embroiled in controversy.

The controversy stemmed from McGoldrick's “night classes,” which admitted women students, then a scandal in Jesuit circles. Subsequent efforts to shut down the program reached all the way to Rome, but McGoldrick would tactfully and cleverly ignore them all. Seattle University would be among the first coeducational Jesuit college in the United States.

Women on campus: the controversy.

Seattle University’s pioneering role as a coeducational institution is little known. The experiment began in the early years back on Broadway. Because of unexpectedly high enrollments, Father McGoldrick instituted a “night school” in 1931 that admitted women. It was a radical innovation at the time, especially since McGoldrick had a strange way of defining “night school.” In it, classes started at noon.

For a while, McGoldrick’s superiors tolerated the innovation, but Seattle’s new bishop Gerald Shaughnessy was less open-minded. He complained first to McGoldrick, who rebuffed him by saying, “Then I’ll dismiss the boys.”

Matters reached Rome in 1934, when a more serious inquiry came from Superior General Wlodimir Ledochowski. At that point, Father John Balfe, SJ, the new president, carefully explained that if the women were expelled, the student body would fall below the number needed for full accreditation, and the college would fail. Because that was a “calamity we must try earnestly to avoid,” Rome reluctantly left the issue as a stalemate.

Twenty years would pass before the Society of Jesus officially sanctioned coeducational institutions. During all that time, Seattle College was open to both men and women.

Father James McGoldrick, more than a half century of service

Born on August 15, 1895 in County Sligo, Ireland, Father James McGoldrick, SJ, resolved to enter the Society of Jesus at a young age. At first, he dreamed of joining the Jesuit pioneers in Alaska, and volunteered for the Rocky Mountain Mission. But in 1920, he was assigned to Gonzaga College, where he finished his bachelor’s and master’s degrees and became Dean of the School of Education.

His next stop was Seattle College. Slight, balding, and with an iron will hidden behind ready humor, he quickly became everyone’s favorite. Throughout his long service at Seattle University, he would rise to the occasion at many crucial moments. He early championed coeducation at college, firmly rejecting any criticism on the matter, whether it came from Seattle or Rome. He would recruit top faculty like Father Royce, and found the college’s first discrete academic unit, the School of Education.

In the turbulent early 70s, McGoldrick appears again, seizing a bullhorn and pacifying an angry crowd of 300 students and off campus activists. He also made the final determination on the suspensions of five students who had invaded the president’s office. One of his students, Emile Wilson, who was among them, would go on to be named Seattle University’s first Rhodes Scholar.

The seemingly immortal McGoldrick died on April 26, 1983. His name now graces several scholarships and fellowships at the university.

Baccalaureates return in 1925

After an “indefinite continuance” in college education during World War I, Father Geoffrey O’Shea, SJ, worked hard to reinstitute it. In 1922, he started a two-year college program, adding a third and fourth year soon after. Thanks to a handful of transfer students from Gonzaga, Seattle College was able to grant three baccalaureate degrees on June 10, 1925. The recipients, shown here, were Howard LeClair, Henry Ivers, and George Stuntz.

The Pigott family, three generations of service to SU.

Although its patriarch, William Pigott, apparently thought colleges were useless, the Pigott family has been a steadfast pillar of support for Seattle University. The tradition began with William, president of the Pacific Car and Foundry (now PACCAR), pledged to help expand the prep school campus.

He died before he could fulfill his promise, but his family carried on the tradition. His son, Paul Pigott, also president of Pacific Car and Foundry Company, served as an SU regent and made generous donations for buildings and educational programs.

The third generation of Pigott service to SU continued with Jim Pigott and his sister Ann Wykoff, both of whom served as university trustees.

The Pigott name now graces buildings and endowments at Seattle University, including William Pigott Hall and the Pigott-McCone Endowed Chair for Scholarship.

Academic rigor in 1925: Shakespeare assignment shocks students.

In Reminiscing, Archie J. Richardson recalls the workload of a class run by Father Timothy A. Driscoll:

“About two weeks into the course, he announced our written assignment for two semesters of in-depth Shakespeare—a 6,000 word paper consisting of personality analyses of 12 major and 12 minor characters from any plays of our choice. With that announcement came five drop-outs.”

Richardson goes on to say that his experiences writing the paper led him, quite naturally, to a lifelong dislike of Shakespeare.

Ruth and Gehrig visit Interlaken

In 1925, sluggers Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig entertained a crowd of boys at the Interlaken campus. Far from his later playing weight, here a lean and mean Babe strokes one towards the sun.

Student life

Indeed, the Interlaken campus resembled much more a bustling high school than a college in the ’20s. Students took part in a variety of athletics and pursued rigorous preparatory classes in hopes of one day being accepted to attend an established university.

Back on Broadway

The move back to Broadway in 1931 was no easy matter. Abandoned for 11 years, the Garrand Building had broken windows, cracked masonry, and upper floors that still bore the scars of a 1907 fire. Still, Father Louis Egan, SJ, and Father Francis Burke, SJ, dug in and with their helpers transformed the building throughout the summer. When they finished, they placed giant letters reading “Seattle College” on its parapet—after so much work, they wanted to make sure everyone noticed.