In 1867, the Catholic Diocese of Fort Wayne purchased a farm south of Rensselaer on which there were already two frame dwellings. These were converted into an orphanage that existed until 1887. One year later, The Most Reverend Joseph Dwenger, Bishop of Fort Wayne, offered the vacant orphan home with part of the farm to Father Henry Drees, C.PP.S., then Provincial of the Missionaries of the Precious Blood, with the stipulation that a college be founded there. In 1889, Saint Joseph's College was incorporated under the laws of the State of Indiana with the right to grant scholastic degrees. The College opened its doors on August 23, 1891.
The educational program in the early years was on two distinct levels, the high school and the junior college. The aim was to prepare students for professional schools and seminaries, for teaching and for immediate entry into business. The new college passed its first major milestone June 16, 1896, when it presented diplomas to 12 students, its first class of graduates.
The original aims of Saint Joseph's changed little until 1925. At that time the College was converted into a minor seminary and for a period of seven years admitted only students preparing for the priesthood. The status of academy and junior college was reestablished in 1931, and plans for the expansion of the school were formulated. Saint Joseph's began to operate as a senior college in l936, and in June 1938, its first four-year class was graduated.
In the next three decades, Saint Joseph's grew from a school of a few buildings to a contemporary college. The expansion was carefully designed to utilize the 130-acre campus to serve the educational needs of Saint Joseph's students. In 1951, in response to the need for a Catholic college in the Calumet region of northwest Indiana, the College began an extension program in East Chicago. This program developed to the point that in 1963 it was granted the status of a campus, known as Saint Joseph's College Calumet Campus, and is now a separate institution known as Calumet College of Saint Joseph.
In 1968, the College ended its 79-year policy of admitting male students only on campus during the regular school year. The change to a coeducational institution was made to widen the range of students contributing to the College's intellectual atmosphere and to create an air of better social and academic involvement on campus. Saint Joseph's offers a wide spectrum of programs and courses for women students, who have responded by enrolling in all academic areas of the College.
The introduction of the Core Curriculum in the fall of 1969 shifted the direction of general education courses from that of a series of separate courses to an interdisciplinary approach. This combined the previous courses into a program examining issues of history, philosophy, theology, literature and other subjects with a historical framework. The interrelated nature of all subject material in the Core Curriculum allows the student to have an overview which permits deeper understanding and clearer insights. Improving and expanding the quality of academic offerings is a continuing process at Saint Joseph's.
In the summer of 1993, two years after Saint Joseph's College celebrated its centennial, the presidency was assumed for the first time by a lay person, Dr. Albert Shannon. Father Charles Banet, C.PP.S.'s term of 28 years represented the last and longest of the 14 priests who held that office over the school's 102 years. However, the association with the Missionaries of the Precious Blood, both in terms of the priests and brothers who are still serving Saint Joseph's College and the C.PP.S' involvement in the future of the College continues.
The decade of the nineties saw new building and growth at Saint Joseph's College. The Rev. Charles Banet, C.PP.S. Core Education Center was dedicated in 1995 and the new Residential Suites were opened to students in the Fall of 2000. The College also added a fitness center and an outdoor track and field facility in 2000. In 2007-2008 other facilities were renovated including Noll Hall, the Library, Theater, and the Richard Scharf Fieldhouse.
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