The official start of the 2021-22 school year on July 1 also marked the official start of an 18-month celebration of Prep’s sesquicentennial. Heralded by the installation of celebratory banners and signs around campus this summer, the festivities will begin in earnest this fall and continue throughout calendar year 2022. Here is your guide to what’s ahead for this school year, as we celebrate 150 years of Pride & Glory and look to what comes next. This page will be updated throughout our celebration!
May your banners still guide us
In the relative lull of on-campus activity between the closing faculty/staff meetings and the start of HAP each year, Prep’s operations staff is always busy, and this year was no exception. What was exceptional, though, was a new task on the agenda: installing banners and signs virtually everywhere, proclaiming the theme for Prep’s 150th anniversary: “Pride & Glory | Then. Now. Always.” They range in scale from the banners (each “only” five feet tall) on the Warren Street lamp posts to massive displays on the walls of the Perkins Athletic Center and Moriarty Science Center. The large windows of the Siperstein Library received their own perforated-vinyl treatment, appending the all-important “150” to the Memorial Gymnasium’s iconic “PREP” lettering (which itself got a fresh coat of paint shortly after the photo above was taken), while allowing light to pass into the library almost unabated. Add in a healthy dose of anniversary branding in Prep’s online presence and printed materials, and there’s no overlooking the festive mood that has begun to take hold.
The Jesuit Tradition
For more than 470 years, one of the first steps in the new year’s journey at every Jesuit school has been the Mass of the Holy Spirit. It is a time to pray for the grace to approach the new year ready to rise to its challenges and opportunities, and open to God’s presence— in other words, to reflect on the past, give thanks for the present, and look with hope to the year ahead. There could hardly be a more fitting moment for the first large-scale event in the sesquicentennial celebration. This year’s Mass of the Holy Spirit on September 17 will, of course, take on even greater significance as Prep embarks on a more normal fall semester following a year and a half of COVID-related disruption. In fact, it will be the first time the entire Prep community has gathered to pray in person since the Ash Wednesday service in February 2020! We have invited all living Jesuits who have served on Prep’s faculty and staff—about 60 Jesuits!—to help us celebrate this deeply meaningful Mass.
After Mass, a carnival for students, faculty, and staff will take place on Warren Street, serving as a “welcome home” to campus life and a welcome to the ongoing 150th anniversary festivities.
A NIGHT FOR CLASS ACTS
On November 11, a group of legendary past members of the Prep faculty will share their memories and favorite stories—some of which might even be true!—from Grand & Warren during a panel discussion in the Siperstein Library. This will be a great opportunity for alumni to visit the Prep campus of today while reconnecting with some of the people who are synonymous with Prep as you might remember it! There will be a cocktail hour with appetizers as well, so if you’re looking to share a toast to Prep with one of your favorite teachers from days gone by, this is your night!
The Grandest of all
Prep’s 150th “birthday” will be on April 3, 2022. That’s the date in 1872 when the New Jersey State Legislature approved a charter for a new school directed by the Jesuits of Saint Peter’s Church, at the corner of Grand and Van Vorst Streets in Jersey City. That school, initially occupying only what is now Shalloe Hall and offering both collegiate and college-preparatory level courses, would eventually become both Saint Peter’s Prep and Saint Peter’s University.
Since the biggest party on the Prep calendar each year—the Grand Gala, supporting Prep’s financial assistance program—has taken place each spring since 2008, it seemed only fitting to schedule this year’s event for the 150th anniversary weekend, Saturday night, April 2. Save the date for what Prep President Michael Gomez, Ed.D., ’91 has taken to calling “the Grandest Gala!” We expect a sellout crowd as we celebrate the difference Prep has made in untold thousands of lives through its first 150 years, and work together to make a difference for today’s Prep students and their families who count on financial aid to reach the starting point for life’s great journeys, right here at the corner of Grand & Warren. When we celebrate Prep, we are really celebrating Prep’s Jesuit mission, and opening our doors to students of all backgrounds is a vital part of that mission.
A family celebration
Some of Prep’s most memorable parties—including one during the 125th anniversary year of 1996-97 (see Photo File on the next page!) and two different parties honoring Fr. Tony Azzarto, S.J. (2005 and 2018)—have been barbecues for the entire Prep family, right in our “front yard” along Warren Street. On May 14, we invite alumni, parents past and present, students, and faculty and staff past and present to join us in the courtyard and on the plaza for a day of ourdoor fun. Bring the kids along and share in this celebration of all things Prep! A surprise unveiling is in the works for a permanent commemoration of Prep’s 150th anniversary, so don’t miss it!
A media event
In addition to these and other events (our usual slate of Prep events during the year will all have an extra sesquicentennial flair, too!), two media projects are in the works that will showcase Prep’s history and proud tradition. First, an ongoing series of videos will premiere on Prep’s YouTube channel (youtube.com/spprep1872) this fall, which highlights important moments, themes, and people in Prep life through the decades. A book documenting the first 150 years of the Prep story from a variety of perspectives, and illustrated with archival images, will be published in the spring.
Prep has grown and evolved, continually meeting new challenges and setting new goals throughout the first 150 years of this “story of gladness.” Being true to that heritage means never being content only to look back. One lasting legacy of this sesquicentennial era will be the next chapter in the ongoing renewal of Prep’s campus. With the main academic buildings west of Warren Street (Hogan, Mulry, and the Moriarty Science Center—formerly Burke Hall) all recently modernized, and the Perkins Athletic Center serving as a base of operations for most of Prep’s outdoor sports, early planning is in progress for the restoration and renovation of what (depending on one’s year of graduation) might be called the Science, Freshman or Humanities Building, but what most people just call the English Building.
With its stunning Romanesque design and pride of place overlooking the courtyard, the building stands literally “upon this rock” known as Paulus Hook, on the highest and firmest ground in downtown Jersey City. It is built for the ages. It is arguably the crown jewel of Prep’s campus. The task now is to delete the “arguably” by further strengthening its structure, upgrading its interior spaces to bring them on par with the outstanding work that takes place within them, and maintaining its distinct and historic character. The end product will be a fitting stage on which to play out Prep’s next 150 years.