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A History of Georgetown College
The oldest Catholic College in the United States
Georgetown College, the oldest Catholic College in the United States, was founded in 1789 by John Carroll, Archbishop of Baltimore. A progressive citizen of his time, he firmly believed in the principles of the United States Constitution. He made it clear that the new college was to be open to students of every religious persuasion.
On March 1, 1815, President James Madison signed the act of Congress which chartered the College of Georgetown. In 1844 it was incorporated by another Congressional act. During the years of the Civil War, Georgetown students fought for the North and South. Later the colors blue and gray were adopted by the College to signify the reunited nation and the sons of Georgetown who had served on both sides in its civil war.
From its founding to the present day the graduates of Georgetown College have taken their places in the forefront of almost every human endeavor. They serve as educators, public servants, and statesmen; they work in business, law, medicine, and research.
Today, proud of its tradition and heritage, Georgetown, through all its graduates, seeks to serve the communities and the world in which it lives. The College exists to provide a liberal education for young men and women who will be called to intellectual, moral, and professional leadership, and to foster in them a lifelong commitment to the quest for truth.
As a Jesuit college, it draws upon a dynamic tradition of education, characterized by an optimistic Christian humanism and committed to the assumption of responsibility and action. Accordingly, the College seeks to encourage the development of critical powers, respect for tradition and human reason, and an appreciation of life and all its endeavors. It promotes not only the intellectual disciplines but also the search for personal values and convictions that will enable its graduates, throughout their lives, to continue redefining and maturing their thought, and also to continue pursuing the integration of their activities, values, and relations with others.
In light of these aims, the College has developed a diversified academic program in which fundamental issues and ultimate values play an integral role. A high priority is placed on quality teaching and on developing a community of learning among its faculty, students, and administrators.
In 1995, the School of Languages and Linguistics joined the College as a degree program under the name of the Faculty of Languages and Linguistics (FLL). Students entering the FLL apply specifically to the FLL programs. The mission of the Faculty of Languages and Linguistics has evolved through the years. In the 1950s, the then-new Institute of Languages and Linguistics reflected the immediate needs of those times, emphasizing foreign language learning for students considering service positions in the diplomatic corps and other government agencies. Later, the Faculty refined the study of spoken and written languages to focus on the cultural context of languages to meet the new expectations and new goals of the world community.
Global changes in recent decades and the accompanying new developments in transmission technology have established “superhighways” of information that enable people to communicate instantaneously and abundantly with one another across continents and hemispheres. The world outside the Academy as now interconnected offers a new and inescapable “worldview.” More than ever, this emerging multicultural “worldview” requires an informed understanding of cultures other than one’s own. As always, this comes about when people listen to and read the spoken and written words of other peoples who, like themselves, have been and are being changed by new ways of communication and interaction.
This history of Georgetown College was written for the Georgetown University Undergraduate Bulletin by Robert Emmett Curran, Ph.D., professor emeritus in the Department of History.
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