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History of the Ateneo de Davao University

Any chronicle of Ateneo de Davao University’s past begins with 1948, when American Jesuits, led by Fr. Theodore Daigler, assumed responsibility for St. Peter’s Parochial School then located along Jacinto Street in downtown Davao. With missionary zeal, the American fathers and Filipino scholastics built up Ateneo de Davao from a basic education unit to a small Liberal Arts college for men in 1951. In 1953, women students were welcomed to the college.

Courses leading to college degrees in Liberal Arts and Business were taught in a wooden hall named after St. Robert Bellarmine SJ. (Bellarmine was a 16th century Italian Jesuit bishop who, being an outstanding theologian, lecturer, and writer, was meant to inspire rigorous intellectual pursuit in the service of the Church.)

By the 1960s, the student population had risen enough to warrant the construction of a hall in honor of St. Peter Canisius SJ, a Dutch Jesuit preacher, and writer who defended the Catholic faith among German-speaking peoples of the sixteenth century. Canisius Hall is the oldest existing structure on the campus today.

Canisius Hall witnessed the development of postgraduate Ateneo education—the College of Law in 1961 and the Graduate School in 1968. The College of Law was established ten years after the first college courses were offered. Ranked as one of the Top Ten Law Schools of the country by the Supreme Court of the Philippines, the College of Law has maintained this excellent distinction and tradition for many years.
In 1969, the Ateneo de Davao College received its first accreditation from the Philippine Accrediting Association of Schools, Colleges, and, Universities (PAASCU). This formal recognition of the quality of education would be reaffirmed in regular PAASCU team visits in subsequent years.

Ateneo de Davao attained University status in 1977. Developments in the 1970s include the establishment of the College of Agriculture in 1977 and the Regional Science Teaching Center (RSTC) in 1979. After fourteen years, the College of Agriculture was closed as part of the agreement of the Mindanao Consortium of Ateneo Schools (which includes Ateneo de Davao, Ateneo de Zamboanga, and Xavier University). RSTC is still organizing training workshops for science educators in Southern Mindanao to this day.

Other milestones in 1979 include the introduction of the Chemical Engineering program, the rest of what are now seven Engineering courses, and the publication of Kinaadman, an academic journal containing research and scholarly articles especially focused on Mindanao. Kinaadman (Bisaya for wisdom) was a joint publication of the consortium.

The 1980s saw the birth of a homegrown journal and three other engineering courses. Weaning itself of Kinaadman, Ateneo de Davao published the first issue of its journal in 1984. Christened Tambara (Bagobo for “offering to the gods”), it publishes peer-reviewed, multidisciplinary articles on Mindanao issues. Courses in Civil Engineering, Electrical Engineering, and Mechanical Engineering were offered beginning in 1984.

Physical facilities were also upgraded at this time. Bellarmine Hall was reconstructed. Five halls were built and dedicated to men of the cloth whose life and times are part of the history of Jesuits in the Philippines. The library building honors Fr. Mateo Gisbert SJ, a 19th century Spanish Jesuit whose mission area was Davao. Known for his love for the Bagobos, he respected their culture and learned their language so well he spoke it fluently and wrote Diccionario Espanol-Bagobo in 1892.

The hall that still accommodates engineering classrooms is named after Most Reverend Luis del Rosario, SJ, Bishop of Zamboanga. He is the one who invited the Jesuits to take over the administration of St. Peter’s Parochial School in 1948. The connecting hall is dedicated to Most Reverend Clovis Thibault PME, Bishop Prelate of Davao whose early support to the Jesuit educational apostolate is seen in the donation of the land for the Jacinto campus.

Also honored by way of halls is the lifework of two American Jesuit missionaries. Both teachers and counselors, Fr. Justus R. Wieman, SJ and Fr. John A. Dotterweich, SJ were regarded as friends of Ateneans in Davao in the 1970s to the 1980s.

Work in the 1980s did not only focus on developing academic excellence. Community engagement, particularly of students, was also a key concern. It found expression in the establishment of the Social Involvement Coordinating Office (SICO), which was a clear response to the need for conscientization and social involvement of college students. SICO is now known as the Arrupe Office of Social Formation.
Top of mind in the 1990s were high technology and high quality. The University kept in stride with the times with the Ateneo Computer Science Center, which awarded certificates in short computer courses and later a degree in Computer Science. Internet access, as well as computer education, were harnessed in aid of connecting faculty, staff, and students to the rest of the wired universe. Further, courses in Electronics and Communications Engineering and Architecture were first taught at this time.

The University’s outstanding work in the areas of curriculum and instruction, faculty, administration, student services, physical plant, and laboratories continued to be recognized by PAASCU reaccreditations as well as awards from the Commission on Higher Education (CHED). Ateneo de Davao was declared a CHED Center of Development in Business and Management Education in 1994 and in Chemistry and Mathematics Education in 1998 as well as a Center of Excellence in Teacher Education in 1996.

On the cusp of the 21st century, the University spun the School of Business and Governance of the College of Arts and Sciences; the leaner College became the School of Arts and Sciences. More degree programs were offered—in Nursing (2001), Information Technology and Information Management (2002), and Accounting Technology (2009). From 2000 to 2003, Ateneo de Davao was Region XI’s Center of Development for Excellence in Information Technology Education.

These improvements in organizational structure and program offerings were accompanied by a major change in the campus landscape. Finster Hall (named after Fr. Paul V. Finster, a much loved Jesuit who served the Ateneo de Davao community as Rector-President, treasurer, teacher and counselor for more than forty years) was constructed. The building drastically increased the instruction space in the campus. Through the years, various laboratories for computer instruction and interaction; for speech lessons, journalism, and video editing; and for engineering experiments and research have been built up and constantly updated.

On the university’s 60th year, the cornerstone for Jubilee Hall was laid. Space was earmarked for classrooms and offices of student organizations and administrative units.

In 2009, the University earned the ultimate official accolade of a PAASCU Institutional Accreditation, one of only six such awards in the Philippines, for:

“the University’s long tradition of exemplary accomplishments in the areas of instruction, research and community service and high performance of its graduates in government licensure examinations; for the laudable practices leading to internal efficiency and external productivity; for its meritorious record of excellence as evidenced by the high level of performance of program accreditation and effective assurance mechanisms.”

Stronger, deeper, and richer institutional changes followed. Greater emphasis has been placed on the university functions of research and community service, leading to the creation of the University Research Council (URC) and the University Community Engagement and Advocacy Council (UCEAC) in 2011.

The instruction function, however, remains paramount. On top of the School of Arts and Sciences and the School of Business and Governance, three other Schools were organized in 2012: the School of Nursing, the School of Engineering and Architecture, and the School of Education. Jointly, they award degrees from 47 college programs and 44 graduate programs to more than a thousand students every school year.

In 2015, the Ateneo Community ratified the University’s Strategic Plan for 2015-2020, which “provides a way of proceeding that seeks to build a community working for social justice and the common good.” To realize the University’s mission, the Plan is organized around five guiding principles: transformative administration and services (A); integral formation (F); excellent instruction (I); robust research and publication (R); and vibrant engagement and advocacy (E) or AFIRE.

For transformative administration and services (A), new Vice President offices were approved by the Board of Trustees in 2017: Executive Vice President, Vice President for Finance (and Treasurer), and Vice President for Planning and Quality Assurance.

Offices and other workspaces were reestablished in the Community Center of the First Companions and the Fr. Edgar Martin SJ Hall in 2015. The Community Center hosts a student study center, faculty workspaces, academic department offices, research and advocacy offices, the Jesuit Residence, and a dialogue center in its eleven floors. Martin Hall has sports and athletic facilities— volleyball and basketball courts, jogging track, and a fitness center as well as a multipurpose hall—in four of its seven floors. The other floors have the Office of Student Affairs, offices of student organizations, and carparks.

Other University facilities in the Jacinto Campus include the Fitness and Wellness Center (2016), the Lactation Room (2017), and the University Swimming Pool (2018). Sports facilities in the Matina Campus include the Fr. Rodolfo A. Malasmas SJ Swimming Pool and the all-weather running track, both inaugurated in 2012.

Every year since 2012, several Ignatian Conversations have been organized in the name of integral formation (F). Retreats and recollections for faculty, staff, and students are held all year-round and have included the College of Law since 2016. Induction programs for both faculty and staff have been institutionalized since 2015. The formation of retreat guides started in 2017.

Further, the St. Ignatius Spirituality Center (SISC) was built in 2014 to be a place for prayer and reflection on the Island Garden of Samal. The SISC accommodates silent and individually-guided retreats and provides refuge, rest and solitude for members of the Ateneo community, as well as interested others.

In 2015, Our Lady of the Assumption Chapel, another place of worship and prayer, was blessed. The chapel interiors are rich with cultural symbols and images of Mindanao in brass, wood, and fabric. Murals depict Bible stories in oil on canvas. “It supports the catholicity of the University in the multiethnic context of Mindanao and its culture of Ignatian spirituality.”

In the area of excellent instruction (I), additional degree programs began to be offered from 2012 to 2017 to provide integrated, humane, and professional educational formation that is transformative, globally competitive, Mindanao-responsive and socially conscious, and imparts to the learner a lifelong passion for learning and action for the greater glory of God. Among these programs are Bachelor of Public Management, Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science, Bachelor of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies, Bachelor of Arts in Islamic Studies, Bachelor of Science in Entrepreneurship, major in Agribusiness, as well as Master of Arts in Anthropology and Master of Tropical Risk Management.

The University was instrumental in establishing the Tboli Sbù Senior High School in June 2015. It is the first indigenous Senior High School in the country. Its first Graduation Ceremonies were held in April 2017.
The University opened its own Senior High School in June 2016. The unit’s base of operations is in the Finster Hall of the Jacinto Campus. In June 2018, the unit shall be moving to the new Bangkal Campus.
To ensure the delivery of excellent instruction across units, the Academic Vice President’s scope of work, which originally covered the College Unit and Law School, was expanded to include the other academic units—Grade School, Junior High School, Senior High School—in 2017.

To solidify efforts in research (R), and engagement and advocacy (E), seven offices and centers were established between 2013 and 2017: the Natural Family Planning Center (NFPC) in 2013, the Joint Ateneo Institute for Mindanao Economics (JAIME) and Innovation and Technology Support Office (ITSO) in 2016; the Center for Politics and International Affairs (CPIA), Center Against Illegal Drugs (CAID), and the University Research Ethics Committee (UREC), all in 2017. In 2017, Ecoteneo became a University office; it began as a Matina Campus office in 2013.

Established earlier in 2012 were the following Centers under the aegis of URC and UCEAC: the Center of Psychological Extension and Research Services (COPERS), Ateneo Public Interest and Legal Advocacy Center (APILA), Ateneo Migration Center (AMC), Tropical Institute for Climate Studies (TropICS), Al Qalam Institute for Islamic Identities and Dialogue in Southeast Asia (Al Qalam), Center for Renewable Energy and Alternative Technologies (CREATe), Ateneo Institute of Anthropology (AIA), and Mindanawon Initiatives for Cultural Dialogue.

They joined the pre-2000 offices, including the Social Research, Training, and Development Office (SRTDO), Publication Office, Tambara, and Center for Business Research and Extension (CBRE), which are under URC, and the Legal Aid Office, Institute for Socio-Economic Development Initiatives (ISEDI), Ateneo Resource Center for Local Governance (ARCLG), which are under UCEAC.

The Office of the President initiated the Pakighinabi conversation series in 2012 “to provide members of the University community a platform to discuss multidisciplinary issues and concerns in a more informal and conversational manner.” Its goal is to create a structure for conversations in the frame of social justice and the common good in the pursuit of forming AdDU sui generis leaders. Topics covered include Constitutional change and federalism, interreligious dialogue, Enhanced Bangsamoro Basic Law, peacebuilding, among others.

Other University engagements include the Mindanao Peace Games (2015), which promotes inter-university, interreligious, intercultural, and interpersonal contact through sports; the Arrupe Office of Social Formation’s Cardoner Volunteer Program (2016); the Al Qalam’s Salaam Youth Movement (2017), which promotes unity in diversity and sustainable and inclusive peace in Mindanao; and the Madaris Volunteer Program (2015), which the University implements with the Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines (CEAP) to promote inter- and intrafaith dialogue through immersion.

The engagement efforts are aimed at promoting and advocating “social justice and the common good for the empowerment of the poor, oppressed, the marginalized, and the excluded through collaborative, sustainable, and purposive initiatives that give utmost respect to human dignity, leading to reconciliation with the Creator, nature, and the human society by and through each and every member of the Ateneo de Davao community—as graced by God and as grateful stewards.”

A Career Center and Alumni Hub was inaugurated in 2018. It aims to develop students’ occupational maturity through career exploration and counseling, as well as provide alumni with information on career planning, job opportunities, and graduate studies.

Also in 2018, the University Board of Trustees approved a new school for multilevel adult education to enhance human development, technopreneurship, and continuing professional development: the Ateneo de Davao Academy for Lifelong Learning (ADD-ALL). The ADD-ALL is a project of the Office of the President.

As the Ateneo de Davao University celebrates its 70th Year, it moves forward to much greater service through AFIRE— transformative administration and services, integral formation, excellent instruction, robust research and publication, as well as vibrant engagement and advocacy, all informed by Jesuit ideals of finding God in all things and working for God’s greater glory.