About Us

Saint Ignatius Timeline

Our History

Join us for the journey! A school with a rich history needs someone to keep tabs on the happenings over the decades. That person at Saint Ignatius College Prep is Angela Perine. She assembled the following timeline that shows our evolution.

Our Beginning

The Reverend Arnold J. Damen, S.J. (1815-1890) - perhaps you've seen the Chicago street named for him - founded Saint Ignatius College Prep in 1869. Due to the cost of borrowing money after the Civil War and the fact that Holy Family Church parishioners were newly-settled Irish immigrants, establishing a Jesuit college in Chicago during the late 19th century appeared to be an impossibility. But Father Damen accomplished the unthinkable without requesting financial assistance from his parishioners. Instead, he began a fundraising campaign for which he traveled across the country and to Europe to raise the money to build Saint Ignatius College Prep. Fr. Damen believed that because the school would have a significant impact on the world, it was crucial for individuals beyond Chicago to contribute to the college's construction. His tenacity and his belief in the mission resulted in construction commencing in 1866. The school officially opened its doors to 37 students and four faculty members in 1870.

First Within Our Walls

One of our first "rock star" science instructors was the Reverend Herman J. Meiners, S.J. (1854-1919). In 1893, Saint Ignatius College Prep bought the original Cookes tubes that were exhibited at the Columbian Exposition in Chicago. Father Meiners used the tubes to set up a machine that could take X-ray pictures. On February 25, 1896, Fr. Meiners conducted the first demonstration of X-rays in Chicago and possibly in the United States.

Focusing on the College Prep Part of the Mission

Once upon a time at Saint Ignatius College Prep, a student could earn a high school diploma and a Bachelor's degree. That would change in the early 20th century. On September 24, 1907, Loyola Academy was born in Rogers Park. The post-secondary departments of Saint Ignatius College Prep became associated with Loyola Academy in 1909, leading to the establishment of Loyola University. By 1922, Loyola University was largely a separate entity.


In 1965, the Commons became the first significant campus construction project since the 1895 completion of the "New Wing," now known as the Richard H. Driehaus building. Saint Ignatius College Prep was outgrowing available space, and additions were necessary. The Commons Construction Project made possible new administrative offices and locker rooms as well as a new cafeteria and gym. The groundbreaking ceremony took place on June 6, 1965 with Chicago Mayor Richared J. Daley (1902-1976) in attendance. The Commons opened in 1966.

Hope for the Future

In the 1970s, Saint Ignatius College Prep faced financial challenges because of widespread inflation. Then president, Reverend Joseph E. Bowen, S.J. (1945-1986), who was in charge from 1975 to 1981, implemented fundraising programs to keep up with costs. In the ongoing effort, he wrote to actor and comedian Bob Hope to see if he would lead a benefit for Saint Ignatius College Prep. Hope accepted the invitation for the December 1976 event at the Auditorium Theater. It raised a record-breaking $250,000. The picture you see shows the news conference Hope led with Fr. Bowen and Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley.

First Female Graduate

For 109 years, Saint Ignatius College Prep only educated young men. That changed in August of 1979, when the school welcomed young women for the first time. It was an important intersection. Girls wanted to attend, and Saint Ignatius College Prep was looking to expand its student body. In May 1980, the first 17 female transfer students graduated at Holy Name Cathedral. The very first young woman to receive her high school diploma from Saint Ignatius College Prep was Maura Maloney (nee': Allen). Today, you'll find Maloney '80 on our first floor. She  is the Assistant Prefect of Studies!

Transitioning to Today's Campus

The 1980s saw the beginning of a series of large renovation and construction projects that would continue throughout the 1990s. Reverend Donald F. Rowe, S.J. (1941-2021), who was president of Saint Ignatius College Prep from 1981 until 1998, oversaw the overhaul and expansion work. In 1992, a complete renovation of the "New Wing" began - necessary considering the building which housed arts and sciences programs, had not undergone any major change since it was built. Also in 1992, Jim '32 and Genevieve McLaughlin donated one million dollars at the annual Christmas concert. Their donation allowed for the addition of a 38,000-square-foot building to the "New Wing." This addition, which would be called the McLaughlin Center for Performing Arts and Sciences, was to include a theater, dressing rooms, workrooms, classrooms and science laboratories. There was also to be a music room, which would be called the McDonough Music Center, which was made possible by the generosity of Jim '51 and Jacque McDonough. The groundbreaking for the McLaughlin Center for Performing Arts and Sciences was held on June 14, 1994.

Coming Home

Actor and comedian Bob Newhart '47, who was born in Oak Park, attended Saint Ignatius College Prep where he was a part of the Harlequins, performing in myriad stage productions. Mr. Newhart went on to study business at Loyola University, but ultimately landed in the entertainment industry with his 1960 release of a comedy album called The Button-Down Mind of Bob Newhart. A long-running television career followed with successful series such as The Bob Newhart Show (1972-1978) and Newhart (1982-1990), and notable roles in films including Elf (2003). Through it all, Mr. Newhart never forgot about his alma mater. In 1992, he came back to Chicago to raise money for Saint Ignatius College Prep after a fire in 1991 damaged the school. The benefit at the Chicago Theater raised $160,000 for repairs. In October of 2011, Saint Ignatius College Prep named its theater stage in Mr. Newhart's honor. He came to campus to celebrate the naming and to participate in a homecoming rally with his wife, Ginny.

A Major Milestone

Saint Ignatius College Prep celebrated its 150th anniversary from March 2019 until January 2020. Dr. Eileen Junkins '91 planned the months-long celebration that began at Chicago's St. Patrick's Day Parade, where Fr. Michael P. Caruso, the school president, was the guest of honor. Other events followed, but the official kick-off for the 150th Anniversary was the Ignatian Celebration on August 24, 2019. It featured live entertainment, food and games for the Saint Ignatius College Prep family.  Final calendar events on what was supposed to be a year-long celebration were cancelled in 2020 due to the COVID-19 crisis. A resilient Wolfpack bounced back from the pandemic with full operations resuming in the 2021-2022 school year.

Saint Ignatius College Prep

Saint Ignatius College Prep, a Jesuit Catholic school in the heart of Chicago, is a diverse community dedicated to educating young men and women for lives of faith, love, service and leadership.