A History of Georgetown University

The Quest for Excellence, 1889-1964

Robert Emmett Curran
Foreword by John J. DeGioia

"A magnum opus that reflects credit on both subject and author. . . . Thoroughly researched and meticulously presented, this history of Georgetown University sets a high standard as the definitive scholarly account of the oldest Catholic and Jesuit university in the United States."
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The discovery and imparting of knowledge are the essential undertakings of any university. Such purposes determined John Carroll, SJ's modest and surprisingly ecumenical proposal to establish an academy on the banks of the Potomac for the education of the young in the early republic. What began earnestly in 1789 still continues today: the idea of Georgetown University as a Catholic university situated squarely in the American experience.

Beautifully designed with over 300 illustrations and photographs, A History of Georgetown University tells the remarkable story of the administrators, boards, faculty, students, and programs that have made Georgetown a leading institution of higher education. With a keen eye for detail, historian Robert Emmett Curran—a member of the Georgetown community for over three decades—explores the broader perspective of Georgetown's sense of identity and its place in American culture.

Volume One traces Georgetown’s evolution during its first century, from its beginnings as an academy within the American Catholic community of the Revolutionary War era through its flowering as a college before the Civil War to its postbellum achievements as a university. Volume Two highlights the efforts of administrators and faculty over the next seventy-five years to make Georgetown an ascending and increasingly diverse institution with a range of graduate programs and professional schools. Volume Three examines Georgetown’s remarkable rise to prominence as an internationally recognized research university—both culturally engaged and cosmopolitan while remaining grounded in its Catholic and Jesuit character.

Each volume features numerous illustrations, photographs, and appendices that include student demographics, enrollments, and lists of board members.

Table of Contents

Foreword by John J. DeGioia


Part One: Toward a Greater Georgetown, 1889-1928

1. Joseph Havens Richards and the Emergence of the University

2. Georgetown in the Early Twentieth Century

3. Over Here: World War I and the 1920s

4. “Hoya Saxa”: Georgetown Athletics From the 1890s to the 1920s

Part Two: Keeping the Dream Alive, 1928-1945

5. Depression, Centralization, and Expansion: 1928-1935

6. Renaissance and the “Clouds of War,” 1935-1941

7. “We Are Eager to Render Service”: The University and the Second World War

Part Three: Recovering the Idea of a Catholic University, 1945-1964

8. In a Hot and Cold War World: 1946-1952

9. Edward Bunn and the Consolidation of the University, 1952-1964

10. Toward the Fulfillment of a Vision

A. Student Enrollments, 1889-1965
B. Presidents of the University, 1888-1968
C. Prefects of Studies/Deans of the College of Arts and Sciences, 1889-1964
D. Deans of the Graduate School, 1900-1967
E. Deans of the Medical School, 1889-1974
F. Deans of the Law School, 1889-1969
G. Deans of the Dental School, 1901-66
H. Superintendents/Principals/Deans of the School of Nursing, 1903-67
I. Deans of the School of Foreign Service, 1919-66
J. Directors of the Institute of Languages and Linguistics/Deans of the School of Languages and Linguistics, 1949-74
K. Directors/Deans of the School of Business Administration, 1957-65
L. Directors/Deans of the School of Summer and Continuing Education (School of Continuing Education), 1953-67
M. Academic Vice Presidents, 1955-67
N. Executive Vice Presidents for Medical Center Affairs, 1960-68
O. Regents of the Law, Medical, Dental, Nursing, Foreign Service, Language and Linguistics, and Business Schools, 1920-68
P. Georgetown University Buildings by Construction Date, 1890-1962

Selected Bibliography



"A magnum opus that reflects credit on both subject and author. . . . Thoroughly researched and meticulously presented, this history of Georgetown University sets a high standard as the definitive scholarly account of the oldest Catholic and Jesuit university in the United States."—The Catholic Historical Review

"Georgetown enriched my life in so many ways, and the habits of mind and friendships I found there continue to enrich it today. I loved it when I was there, I love it still, and I am honored to be part of a family that gave me so much. This beautifully told history by Professor Curran captures the unique spirit of a remarkable institution that has contributed greatly to our common good."—William Jefferson Clinton, Forty-second President of the United States

"Everyone who loves the Hilltop, and many of their friends too, will want to have a copy of this splendid history—exhaustively researched, comprehensive in its viewpoint, and vivid in its telling. It is a story both of the university and of the nation with which it was founded."—Leo J. O'Donovan, SJ, president emeritus, Georgetown University

"This modern history of Georgetown University is good news—and good reading—on several counts. It tells the 20th century story of Georgetown inside and out. It fills in gaps about Catholic higher education. Above all, it confirms Georgetown University's significance within the total landscape of contemporary American higher education."—John Thelin, university research professor, University of Kentucky, and author of A History of American Higher Education

"In these meticulously researched and long-awaited volumes, Emmett Curran provides a rich, complex history of the first 200 years of America’s oldest Catholic, Jesuit university, tracing the struggles of John Carroll’s 'modest academy' in the new nation to the emergence of Georgetown as an international leader in higher education. Throughout, Curran demonstrates the university’s remarkable fidelity to its mission of educating leaders who serve. It is fine history and a good read."—Dorothy M. Brown, professor of history emerita, Georgetown University


Supplemental Materials


Winner of the 2011 Best in Show of the Washington Book Publishers Book and Design Effectiveness Awards

About the Author

Robert Emmett Curran is a professor emeritus of history at Georgetown University, where he served as a faculty member for 32 years. He currently resides, with his wife Eileen, in Richmond, Kentucky.

496 pp., 8 x 10
125 color illustrations
ISBN: 978-1-58901-689-7


496 pp., 8 x 10
125 color illustrations


496 pp.
125 color illustrations


Volume 2

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