St. John's College, Belize

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St. John's College
SJC(Belize) Logo.jpg
Logo of St. John's College, Belize
Motto Men And Women For Others
Established 1887
Type Private
President Andrew Lopez
Students Apx. 2600
Location Belize City, Belize
Campus Urban
Colors Navy Blue & White
Sports Basketball, Football, Softball, Volleyball and Track and Field
Nickname SJC, St. John's, John's
SJC(Belize) Logo.gif

St. John's College has three divisions, and a number of central academic centres and activities. Through its three divisions, SJC offers a wide variety of subjects covered in any secondary and two-year postsecondary curricula. 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. Established by Jesuit priests in 1887.[1]

The three divisions of St. John's College are:

Key Centres and Institutes of St. John's College are:

  • The Belize Centre for Art Education and Cultural Understanding[5]
  • Institute for Workforce and Economic Development[6]
  • Belizean Studies Research Centre[7]
  • Counseling Centre[8]


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 Father Cassian Gillett, one of the four brothers, all British Province Jesuits priests who arrived in Belize in the 1880s. Father Gillett’s school opened its doors in1887 with a grand total enrollment of twelve day-students and two boarders. According to the 1897 catalogue, 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.” The Prospectus 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 out of the Catholic Presbytery into a newly constructed, nearby building. Its name changed from the Select School to St. John’s College under the direction of 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, this time to spacious but swampy quarters in the mangrove fields one mile south of the edge of town. The government provided the Jesuits with the property for a new campus as a free grant, on the condition that it be used for religious and educational purposes. 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 in later years including a gymnasium and chapel. By 1929 there were 90 students at the College.

The first two major crisis in the school’s history occurred in August 1921, with the outbreak of yellow fever in Loyola Park. The Government health authorities ordered the college closed. Day students returned to their homes and were required to report to the local city hospital daily. The boarding students were first taken to a small island just off the coast, Moho Caye. From there boarders from the rural areas of Belize and from Yucatán and Guatemala eventually returned home, but those from Honduras were refused admittance in their country. The unfortunate students were returned to Belize and quarantined at another island, Sargent's Caye, under the care of two Jesuit priests. Two students and two faculty members died before the fever passed.

The second major crisis was even more deadly and destructive. Eleven Jesuits were killed September 11, 1931 when a hurricane swept across the shallow coastal waters and completely destroyed not only the wooden building of St. John's but also much of the town of Belize. The buildings collapsed in the storm trapping teachers and students who drowned in the rising waters. The total destruction forced the school's return to the cathedral in the center of town for “temporary” quarters.

Temporary became twenty years, but St. John's moved to a new site in 1952 to begin building again. The land was low and swampy, about one mile to the north of Belize City. The new campus was named after the Central American poet and renowned scholar, Rafael Landivar, S.J. Pumps dredged up sand from the nearby sea to fill in the low ground. The abundance of space on the Landivar campus is a luxury for people used to the crowded streets of Belize which is built on a narrow spit of land where a branch of the Belize River empties into the sea. The Landivar campus has two full football fields, plus even more unused space surrounding widely spaced classroom buildings. The land is low and floods with a high tide or heavy rain, but there is room. Today, with several more classroom buildings, a science lab, chapel, and a huge fieldhouse, the campus is the largest open area in the city. With thirty years of growth, the city has arrived at the campus; houses surround the school on two sides and only the mangrove swamp by the airport remains wild.

After the grim experience at Loyola Park, the new St. John's College was built with reinforced concrete which has withstood with hurricanes. The buildings were damaged when Hurricane Hattie hit Belize in the dark of night in September 1961, but they survived the storm with only the loss of a few months of school.

St. John's College pioneered adult evening education with the inauguration of an adult education program, called the Extension School, in September 1947. The press release announcing this important, innovative expansion described the program’s goals well: “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 entitled, “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 which wasn’t available 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.

Ten years later economics, book keeping, and arithmetic were part of the syllabus. The Extension School gradually evolved into the Extension Department of St. John's College. Under the direction of Fr. John Stochl, it began offering high school equivalency courses in 1965 to young men and women who were unable to attend or complete a regular secondary school program. The Extension Department is now in its fourth location, still in the center of the city so it is accessible to the students who work during the day and study at night. A computer lab with 10 computers is a part of a modern program that also stresses business and accounting courses. Around 700 students, 70% of whom are women, take Extension courses, which are open by design. The minimum requirement is that students have finished grade school. The school also provides English classes 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 Father Robert Raszkowski, S.J. Over time, these limited offerings expanded into what, in the British tradition, is called Sixth Form, a two-year program leading to Advanced Level Examinations, or simply, the “A-Levels.” These external examinations are set by Cambridge University.

In an effort to provide wider opportunities for further education for graduates of the Sixth Form, St. John’s College, in the mid-1960s, 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. This afforded graduates of St. John's College Sixth Form 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 bachelors degree program. In 1960, St. John’s College Sixth Form was granted membership in the American Association of Community and Junior Colleges.[9]


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[10]

Patron Saint[edit]

St. John Berchmans was born the eldest son of a shoemaker in 1599 at Diest, Belgium. At a very young age he wanted to be a priest, and when thirteen he 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 diligence and piety, and his stress on perfection even in small things. That year his father was ordained 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 boys.

Although he longed to work in the mission fields of China, he did not live; long enough to permit it. 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. Although he distinguished himself in this disputation, he had studied so assiduously that he caught a cold in mid-summer, became very ill with an undetermined illness accompanied by a fever, although some think it now to have been dysentery, and died a week later. He was buried in the church of Saint Ignatius at Rome, but his heart was later translated to the Jesuit church at Louvain.

Landivar Campus[edit]

The main campus of St. John's College is named in honor of Fr. Rafael Landivar, S.J. (1731-1793) 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 caused him to be called the national poet of Guatemala. He died and was buried in Bologna, but later at the demand of students, his body was translated from Bologna 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 the postage of Guatemala.[11]


  1. ^ "St. John's College Website". St. John's College, Belize. Retrieved 2012-04-12. 
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  5. ^ "The Belize Centre for Art Education and Cultural Understanding". St. John's College, Belize. 2012. Retrieved 13 April 2012. 
  6. ^ "Institute for Workforce and Economic Development". St. John's College, Belize. 2012. Retrieved 13 April 2012. 
  7. ^ "Belizean Studies Research Centre". St. John's College, Belize. 2012. Retrieved 13 April 2012. 
  8. ^ "Campus Resources - Counseling Centre". St. John's College, Belize. 2012. Retrieved 13 April 2012. 
  9. ^ "History of St. John's College". St. John's College, Belize. Retrieved 2012-04-12. 
  10. ^ "St. John's College - Timeline". St. John's College. Retrieved 2012-04-12. 
  11. ^ "Rafael Landivar, S.J.". St. John's College, Belize. Retrieved 2012-04-12.