St. John's College, Belize

Enlarge Roman Catholic History of Roman Catholicism in Belize
St. John's College
SJC(Belize) Logo.jpg
Quality Matters
Former names
Select School (1887-1896)
MottoMen and Women for Others
TypePrivate Roman Catholic Coeducational Secondary and Higher education institution
Established1887; 133 years ago (1887)
FounderFr. Cassian Gillett, S.J.
Religious affiliation
Roman Catholic (Jesuit)
PresidentMrs. Mirtha Peralta
Princess Margaret Drive Belize City
Patron saintSt. John Berchmans
ColorsNavy Blue      and      White
NicknameSJC, St. John's, John's
SportsVarsity sports teams:
Basketball, Football, Softball, Volleyball,
Track & Field
SJC(Belize) Logo.gif

St. John's College has three divisions and a number of central academic centres and activities. Through its divisions, it offers a wide variety of liberal arts and science courses at the secondary, British A-level, and United States junior college levels. St. John's College is a Roman Catholic institution in the Jesuit tradition, one of the oldest, largest, and most diverse educational institutions in Belize, founded by the Jesuits in 1887.[1]

The three divisions are:

Key centres and institutes:


St. John's College was founded in 1887 with the establishment of the “Select School” for young men at the Catholic presbytery, Holy Redeemer Cathedral in Belize City. The founder of St. John's College was Fr. Cassian Gillett, S.J., one of four British Jesuit priests, who arrived in Belize in the 1880s. The school opened with 12 day-students and two boarders. According to the 1897 prospectus, the school's mission was “to afford the youth of the Colony, and the neighboring Republics, the means of obtaining a solid mental and moral training.” It added that Belize needed “a school of Higher Studies so that our youth would not have to go abroad for preparation for university work.”

The school grew quickly. In February 1896, it moved into a newly constructed building on the cathedral grounds. Its name changed from the Select School to St. John's College, under Fr. William J. Wallace. The enrollment continued to expand and included boarding students from neighboring Central American republics such as Guatemala and Honduras. This steady expansion forced a second move, to seafront land supplied by the government to the south of town. On July 17, 1917, the faculty and students moved into spacious wooden buildings with wide verandahs and windows open to the sea breeze. The campus was called Loyola Park.

More construction followed including a gymnasium and chapel. By 1929 there were 90 students at the college.

SJC at Loyola Park

August 1921 saw an outbreak of yellow fever at Loyola Park. Day students returned to their homes for hospitalization. Boarding students were first taken to a small island just off the coast, Moho Caye. From there boarders from the rural areas of Belize, Yucatán, and Guatemala returned home but those from Honduras were refused admittance in their country. They were quarantined at Sargent's Caye. Two students and two faculty members died before the fever passed.

On September 11, 1931 one of the worst hurricanes to hit Belize took 2,500 lives including 11 Jesuits at Loyola Park, where the buildings were leveled and splintered. SJC returned to the cathedral grounds where it remained until 1952, when it moved to its spacious new Landivar campus northwest of town.[4]


The new campus is named after the Central American poet and renowned scholar Rafael Landivar, S.J. Its 21 buildings include Fordyce Chapel, a large fieldhouse and auditorium that accommodates many diocesan events, and 17 classroom buildings—including two designed and built by the American Schools and Hospitals Abroad program. The spacious campus includes two football fields and is adjacent to National Stadium, built in the 1960s, which hosts international events and has grown into the Marion Jones Sports Complex.

St. John's College pioneered adult evening education with the inauguration of its Extension School, in September 1947. The press release for its opening described its purpose: "One of the most valuable educational techniques of our day, co-operative search for truth, gives adult learners an opportunity to meet together, face a problem in common, think it through as a group, and solve it if possible." Initial courses were “The Art of Thinking”, “Effective Speaking and Parliamentary Practice”, “Capital and Labor”, and “Business Ethics”. The first class of 55 men and 27 women began a program aimed at providing leadership training for people who had finished high school and wanted post-secondary education that was unavailable in Belize at the time. The roster of students in those early days included the names of men who went on to lead Belize's independence movement.

Pioneer aviator Charles Lindbergh at Loyola Park, 1928

In 1957 economics, bookkeeping, and arithmetic were part of the syllabus. In 1965 under Fr. Jack Stochl, S.J., it began offering high school equivalency courses for young men and women. The Extension Department is now in its fourth location, still in the center of the city, accessible to the students who work during the day and study at night. It features a computer lab to facilitate courses in business and accounting. Around 700 students, 70% women, take Extension courses, which requires only a grade school background of applicants. Classes are also provided for refugees from the neighbouring countries.

Early in 1952, in response to the growing need in Belize for higher levels of academic training, St. John's College expanded its traditional four-year high school program, offering a limited number of post-secondary school courses under the direction of Fr. Robert Raszkowski, S.J. This expanded into what in the British tradition is called Sixth Form, a two-year program leading to Advanced Level Examinations ("A-Levels") out of Cambridge University in England.

In the mid-1960s, in an effort to provide wider opportunities for further education to graduates of the Sixth Form, St. John's College broadened the program of studies so that it met the requirements of the associate degree awarded by junior and community colleges in the United States. It received membership in the American Association of Community and Junior Colleges.[1] This afforded St. John's College Sixth Form graduates a choice of further studies. They could enter Commonwealth universities, which require Cambridge “A Level” certificates, or United States universities as transfer students into the third year of a Bachelor's degree program. Over 200 graduates of Sixth Form have received scholarships from the 28 Jesuit colleges and universities in the United States to finish their bachelor's degree tuition-free. Many accepted the offer to remain as teaching fellows and so finished their master's degree.


1887 Established as St. John Berchmans College, a select school for boys, by Cassian Gillett, SJ
1896 Moved into new building near Holy Redeemer Cathedral; 94 students enrolled, including 17 from neighboring countries
1917 Built new school facilities at Loyola Park
1931 Loyola Park destroyed by hurricane; St. John's College reopened for classes on the Holy Redeemer compound, with 31 students enrolled
1947 Hosted study groups for adults, using classrooms at Holy Redeemer
1952 Built new facilities on reclaimed mangrove swamp at Landivar; high school enrolment at 300 inaugurated the Sixth Form, under the direction of Robert Raszkowski, SJ, with an enrolment of 3 students
1954 Started the St. John's Teachers College, on the Landivar campus, under the direction of Clement Andlauer, SJ, with an enrolment of 6 students
1956 Fordyce Chapel built on Landivar campus
1957 Established the Extension Department, directed by John Stochl, SJ, with an enrolment of about 60 students, housed in the Melhado Building at the foot of the Belize City Swing Bridge (in later years moved to corner New Road and Hyde's Lane, then to the present Regent Street location)
1958 Landivar Gymnasium, open to the public, built on Landivar campus
1964 Yorke and Zinkle Halls at Landivar dedicated for Sixth Form use
1966 Sixth Form started offering associate degrees

Jacoby Hall built on High School side of Landivar campus

1981 Science building established on Landivar campus to house science labs and classrooms for High School and Sixth Form
1990 Established the Evening Studies Program of the Junior College
1992 Weber and Raszkowski Halls built on Landivar Campus to accommodate growing numbers of students at the Sixth Form
1996 Sixth Form officially became a Junior College
2001 Established the National Center for Art Education and Cultural Understanding on the Landivar campus

Established the Belizean Studies Resource Center and revived The Journal of Belizean Studies

2002 Offered the Loyola Institute of Ministry Extension Program in Belize to an inaugural cohort of 26 men and women
2005 Student enrolment of 1,139 students in the Junior College Day and Evening Programs, 510 in the High School, 618 in the Extension
2006 Established the School of Professional Studies
2007 Established the Centre for Business and Career Development

Amalgamated the counselling offices to form the SJC Counseling Center

Renovated Jacoby Hall to include science facilities, computer laboratories, drafting classroom, and other general use classrooms for High School division

2009 Fordyce Memorial Chapel renovated and rededicated

Two Commencement Exercises held for Junior College, one in June and one in October

2011 Jorge Espat is appointed as President

Junior College reconsolidated into one academic division, serving both traditional and nontraditional students

Charles T. Hunter Commission for Social Outreach and Centre for Business and Career Development CLOSED[1]

Patron saint

Jan Berchmans, by Boetius Adams Bolswert.jpg

St. John Berchmans was born the eldest son of a shoemaker in 1599 at Diest, Belgium. At a young age he wanted to be a priest, and at thirteen became a servant in the household of one of the cathedral canons at Malines. After his mother's death, his father and two brothers followed suit and entered religious life. In 1615, he entered the Jesuit college there, becoming a novice a year later. In 1618 he was sent to Rome for more study, and was known for his cheerfulness and his effort to find perfection in all the little details of his life. His father was ordained that year, and died six months later. John was so poor and humble that he walked from Antwerp to Rome. He died at the age of 22 on August 13. Many miracles were attributed to him after his death. He was canonized in 1888, and is the patron saint of altar servers.

He longed to work in the mission fields of China, but did not live long enough to go there. After completing his course work, he was asked to defend the entire field of philosophy in a public disputation in July, just after his exit examinations. The following month he was asked to represent the Roman College in a debate with the Greek College. "John opened the discussion with great clarity and profoundness, but after returning to his own quarters, was seized with the Roman Fever," a particularly virulent form of malaria, that led to his death at the age of 22. The large numbers who came to view his remains testified to his sanctity. He was buried in the Church of the Gesù in Rome, the mother church of the Society of Jesus in which the Society's founder Saint Ignatius of Loyola is also buried.

Landivar campus

The main campus of St. John's College is named in honor of Fr. Rafael Landívar, S.J. (1731-1793)[5] and features a bust of him in a very prominent area of the campus. Rafael Landívar was born in Guatemala October 27, 1731, entered the Jesuits in 1750, and taught philosophy and theology in Guatemala. Banished from the Spanish colonies, he retired to Italy and wrote a five-volume Latin poem, Rusticatio Mexicana, that has made him the national poet of Guatemala. He died and was buried in Bologna, but at the demand of students, his body was moved to Guatemala. Landivar made an etching of Bishop Payo Enriques de Rivera, the original of which is in the Jesuit residence in Madrid. It has appeared thirteen times on Guatemalan postage.

Notable alumni and staff

Joe Meuffels & "Buck"
David F. Hickey

Prominent graduates who entered government service and had attended some division of St. John's College include Emil Arguelles, Johnny Briceño, Jorge Espat, Manuel Esquivel, Francis Fonseca, Ralph Fonseca, Caritas Lawrence, R.S.M., Zenaida Moya, Said Musa, George Cadle Price, and Bishop Dorick M. Wright.

Prominent personages who taught at SJC include Bishop David F. Hickey, S.J., Bishop Robert L. Hodapp, S.J., Edward J. O'Donnell. S.J., later president of Marquette University, William "Buck" Stanton, S.J., biology teacher and prominent naturalist, and Jack Stochl, S.J., who received Belize's Meritorious Service Award for 60 years of service to his adopted country.


  1. ^ a b c d "SJC History". Retrieved June 19, 2015.
  2. ^ "Belizean Studies". SJC. Retrieved 2017-09-24.
  3. ^ "Counselling Center". SJC. Retrieved 2017-09-24.
  4. ^ Woods, Charles M. Sr., et al (2015). Years of Grace: The History of Roman Catholic Evangelization in Belize: 1524-2014 (Belize: Roman Catholic Diocese of Belize City-Belmopan), passim.
  5. ^ Chamorro G., Faustino (2001). Rafael Landívar, Rusticatio Mexicana, Edición Crítica Bilingüe (2.ª edición). (Guatemala: Universidad Rafael Landívar).