50th Anniversary

Fifty Years of History in Madrid

The tale of the origins of SLU-Madrid is exactly as mysterious as its founder. How did a lone Jesuit navigate the Spanish bureaucracy during the dictatorship of Francisco Franco, who ruled from 1939 until his death in 1975, in order to establish a campus for an American university?

Some basic facts are clear: Father Sullivant was born in 1925, in Waverly, Kansas. He entered the army and was a volunteer medic, landing at Utah Beach on D-Day. He studied at Kansas State University, the University of Portiers in France on a Fulbright Fellowship, and the Sorbonne. He entered the Society of Jesus in 1959, studying at the seminary in Florissant, then was ordained in Lyon, France in 1966, and took final vows in 1975. He earned his master's and doctoral degrees in French literature at Washington University, taught in the United States and abroad, and was fluent in Spanish and French.

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In 1966, Father Walter Ong. S.J. wrote that Sullivant was "a fine teacher and a promising young scholar." An assistant professor of modern languages at Saint Louis University, he is reported to have been working with homeless people in Madrid when he saw a need for more intercultural awareness. He began a study abroad program in 1967 on what was described as an "extension" campus of Saint Louis University in Madrid's Ciudad Universitaria.

Classes were offered in conjunction with the Universidad Pontificia Comillas. SLU later established an independent, permanent program. Spanish students were drawn by the liberal arts curriculum, enrollment grew, and soon the program had a full range of courses, a library, and a system in which Spanish and European students could complete the first two years of their undergraduate studies in Madrid. In 1990, SLU purchased two buildings now called Padre Rubio and Padre Arrupe halls. Under the direction of Dr. Rick Chaney, who became vice president and academic dean in 1992, SLU-Madrid became the first U.S. university to receive official recognition from the Consejería de Educación y Cultura, Madrid's higher education authority in 1996. Chaney was also responsible for expanding the full degree offerings in Madrid and marketing the programs more widely.

Father Frank Reale, S.J., who arrived as vice president and rector in 2008, served as a key figure in the following years. He oversaw administrative reorganization, building renovation, and a renewed emphasis both on Jesuit mission and on ties with the St. Louis campus. Degree offerings grew to include: art history, business, economics, and international relations, among others. In 2011, the University expanded its Madrid Campus with the acquisition of San Ignacio Hall.

Dr. Paul Vita also promoted important changes and growth on campus during this period. Hired in 1999 as an English professor, Vita was charged with developing an M.A. in English degree program in Madrid. He became chair of the department of English and Communication, working on the early degrees that were introduced. In 2008, he became academic dean. Then three years later in 2011, he became interim director, and the following year, director. Vita was named a vice president in 2012. As director, Vita oversaw the multi-year project of renovating San Ignacio Hall, which expanded the campus size by thirty percent.

Dr. Vita sees SLU-Madrid as "part of a broader effort undertaken intentionally by the university to foster a global perspective among young people." At the same time, the existence of the Madrid campus makes the university look further afield when making decisions, Vita suggests. Reflecting on SLU's role in the world, both historically and in the future, he emphasizes that Jesuit, values-based education is critical. "The U.S. model of liberal arts education is under a lot pressure to provide ‘measurable outcomes,' as is SLU itself. What can't be measured very effectively are some of the values embedded in the experiences we are offering students. Through Madrid, SLU is helping form more international ‘men and women for others.'"

SLU Madrid History
SLU Madrid History
SLU Madrid History
SLU Madrid History
SLU Madrid History
SLU Madrid History
SLU Madrid History
SLU Madrid History
SLU Madrid History

Higher purpose. Greater good.
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