By Jane Lawicki
Saint Ignatius College Prep, located at 1076 W. Roosevelt Rd., has risen twice from near closure, like a phoenix, to anchor its Near West Side neighborhood.
“We have not just survived, but thrived—because we’ve been bold,” said John Chandler, vice president of development, in presenting the school’s impact as it celebrates its 150-year history. While noting the school helped sustain the homeless and hungry after the 1871 Great Chicago Fire (Saint Ignatius’s four-story structure was one of only five public buildings to survive in the area), Chandler emphasized the more modern decision to remain open during urban flight.
“In the late 1960s and early 1970s, it was a difficult time, as there was a strong exodus from the city,” Chandler said. “Our alumni and the Archdiocese wanted us to leave, to re-locate. Instead, Saint Ignatius’s leadership chose to stay. The decision was counterintuitive and we ‘rose again’ through entrepreneurship and innovation.”
Throughout the 2019-2020 academic year, the school is remembering its history as it builds toward its future. Numerous activities are underway, including a float in various Chicago parades, concerts, galas, and tours as well as two special craft beers to mark the anniversary.
Saint Ignatius College Prep’s long-term mission has been to prepare young men—and, since 1979, women—for lives of faith, love, service, and leadership and to “use God’s gifts to promote social justice for the greater glory of God.” Since the school opened its doors in 1869, some 35,000 young people have received the Jesuits’ academic, athletic, and service-focused education there.
“Our ‘product’ is doing good in the world,” said the Rev. Lukas Laniauskas, SJ, vice president of mission.
The school’s commitment comes through in a recently announced anonymous $15 million endowment to offer comprehensive scholarships—covering tuition, social services, test preparation, transportation, lunches, activity fees, and tutoring—for five inner-city students each year. The gift is one of many small and large donations in response to Saint Ignatius’s Include, Inspire, Ignite 150th anniversary campaign.
Targeted to help marginalized students from the bottom two percent of economically disadvantaged families from Chicago’s West and South Sides, the scholarships aim to be transformational, helping students and the city shape a new future.
“Saint Ignatius is about the ability to perform, not about the ability to pay,” Chandler said, noting more than one-third of current students receive financial aid to the tune of more than $5 million per year.
Following graduation, students continue their post-secondary education at top-tier colleges and universities. Some 78% percent of recent graduates matriculated to 126 different institutions in 33 states and three foreign countries, receiving over $70 million in guaranteed scholarships and grants over a four-year period. Alumni are represented in every profession including law, health care, government, arts and entertainment.
“We are very proud of the diversity of schools that our graduates attend,” said the Rev. Michael Caruso SJ, president. “The investment families make here for high school pays a big dividend in college with generous scholarships and grants.”
Athletes at Saint Ignatius also have benefited from the school’s anniversary year. Last August, the school opened a first-class outdoor athletic center on 12 acres consisting of a multipurpose stadium, practice field, and baseball facility and bringing the campus grounds to 26 acres.
While the athletic center offers additional practice and competition space for Saint Ignatius, school officials are making it available secondarily for public and private schools lacking such a facility, a move that will generate income for Saint Ignatius and create an asset for the community.
“It took us 31 years to put together that field,” Chandler explained. School officials take a long view, focusing on strategic planning every five years as well as vision setting for every five to ten years for the last 25 years.
“Because we’re committed to the long term, we’re focused on the financial necessities for today while building an endowment for tomorrow,” Chandler said. “We want our successors to be free to face whatever comes their way.”
Saint Ignatius’s mission addresses outstanding teaching to create personal foundation, with the classroom setting enabling intellectual excellence, integrity, and life-long learning inspired by the gospel to use God’s gifts to promote social justice.
The school offers a campus visit program for prospective students, allowing up to 20 eighth grade students visit the campus to shadow a current freshman. Visitors follow a freshman schedule, eat lunch in the dining hall, and meet other students, teachers, club moderators, and coaches.
To contact Saint Ignatius College Prep, call (312) 421-5900 or log on to www.ignatius.org.