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Reviewed by:
  • A History of Georgetown University, Vol. 1: From Academy to University, 1789-1889; Vol. 2: The Quest for Excellence, 1889-1964; Vol. 3: The Rise to Prominence, 1964-1989
  • Anthony J. Kuzniewski S.J.
A History of Georgetown University, Vol. 1: From Academy to University, 1789-1889; Vol. 2: The Quest for Excellence, 1889-1964; Vol. 3: The Rise to Prominence, 1964-1989. By Robert Emmett Curran. (Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press. 2010. Vol. 1: pp. xix, 476, ISBN 978-1-589-01688-0; Vol. 2: xix, 476, ISBN 978-1-589-01689-7; Vol. 3: xix, 348, ISBN 978-1-589-01690-3. $39.95 each volume; $119.95 boxed three-volume set, ISBN 978-1-589-01691-0 for the set.)

Robert Emmett Curran's three-volume history of Georgetown University is a magnum opus that reflects credit on both subject and author. Lavishly and copiously illustrated, these volumes appear in a large format (8 × 10-inch pages) and are handsomely boxed. The full text runs to 1328 pages, including more than 200 pages of appendices, notes, and bibliographies. 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. It is a complex institution and a multifaceted story that Curran introduces with a preface that successfully lays out the general organization and the structure of the three volumes.

The first volume, presenting the first century, was published separately in 1993 and has been slightly revised (reviewed by Philip Gleason, ante, 81 [1995], 103-05). Gleason drew attention to the rich database that disclosed the demographic characteristics of students and alumni as well as described "the uncertain, up-and-down rockiness of Georgetown's development, and . . . the crucial role of individual leaders in moving it ahead" (p. 104). Those patterns of irregular progress and uneven leadership were to persist during Georgetown's second century.

The second volume, covering 1889 to 1964, is divided into three parts, roughly corresponding to the interval before the depression, years of depression and war, and the postwar period. This period, Curran notes, was "book-ended" by two very strong Jesuit presidents: Joseph Havens Richards (1888-98) and Edward Bunn (1952-64). Richards was a man of vision who labored hard to make Georgetown a modern university with the requisite facilities, faculty, and resources. Besides his support for the law and medical schools, he expanded the undergraduate curriculum, began allowing elective courses, and established formal programs in graduate studies. Over the next six decades, his successors opened the schools of business administration, continuing education, dentistry, foreign service, languages and linguistics, and nursing. But it took Bunn to bring this highly complex enterprise up to a level of true excellence with an ambitious building and fund-raising program, centralized administration, professionalized standards, institutional support for the faculty, and a formal planning process. He succeeded in unifying Georgetown as "an actual university rather than a collection of schools" (2:391). [End Page 853]

The third volume covers Georgetown's "rise to prominence" as an international university during the quarter-century before the bicentennial. There are two sections. Part 1 offers three chapters, including an inevitable and lively chapter on the institutional impact of the 1960s. The second part's two chapters consider the presidency of Timothy Healy (1976-89). This volume concludes with a brief but useful epilogue of a dozen pages that carries the story forward into the administration of the first non-Jesuit president, John DeGioia (2001 to the present). President Gerard Campbell (1964-68) refashioned Georgetown as a modern university by opening governance to faculty participation, according a full welcome to African Americans and women, sponsoring the first comprehensive capital development campaign, and facilitating separate incorporation of the Jesuit community. Healy was, arguably, the most forceful president in the school's history. He could be arbitrary, as in his decision to discontinue the dental school, his tendency to disregard faculty views, and his decision to override protests and award honorary degrees to President Ronald Reagan and Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick. But his personality, insight, and energy made him an influential national leader in...


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