Fr. Joseph Bayma: SI’s Fifth President: 1869–1873

Born in Piedmont, Italy, Joseph Bayma entered the Society of Jesus in 1832 and began a distinguished career as a teacher of literature, mathematics, physics and chemistry. (Look for more on Bayma’s scholarship in the next section.) While administering an Italian seminary in 1860, Bayma found himself in the middle of anti-Catholic riots, forcing him to flee to England where he taught at Stonyhurst for seven years. He left for California in 1868 and became SI’s fifth president in 1869 before moving to Santa Clara College three years later. He taught there until his death in 1892.

For his first task, Bayma borrowed $30,000 for the construction of 16 classrooms in a three-story wooden addition to the school, and the new wing was completed by December 1869. This expenditure, of course, simply added to the vast debt. Despite swimming in red ink, the Jesuits still committed themselves to educating those who could not afford to pay tuition. A reporter noted this in the January 8, 1870, edition of The Monitor: “The rules of the college require pay, but there are many attending whose parents cannot afford the pension, small as it is, so the good Fathers teach their children gratis. But all that can afford are required to pay regularly. There are about five hundred boys attending the college; nearly one-half of them, we are informed, do not pay a cent.” (Every Jesuit school still follows the policy that no child be denied an education because he or she cannot afford tuition.)

Two years later, when the Jesuits heard of rumors accusing them of a lack of generosity, Bayma sent this letter to the editor of the Monitor: “As we have heard on unquestionable authority that, in a certain public place in this city, in discussing the merits of Catholic schools, it has lately been asserted that, at St. Ignatius College, the Jesuits make their scholars pay very well, and that very few receive the privilege of a gratuitous education, we think it proper to bring before the public the following facts…. Our yearly receipts pay for an average of 184 pupils at most, leaving a balance of 201 pupils per year, from whom we receive no compensation. When this is taken in connection with the nature of our institution, which is not a common school, but an incorporated college having all the rights and prerogatives of the best universities, imparting to her pupils every branch of knowledge and fitting them for the highest positions in society, it will be evident to any unbiased mind that the assertions we criticize are illiberal and uncharitable. Those who made them could do something more useful to the community than dissuade Catholic parents from sending their children to a Catholic college. Their zeal would show to better advantage if they spoke of helping Catholic schools to teach the thousands of Catholic children in this city, whom Catholic schools are unable to accommodate. As it is, we do not require payment as a necessary condition of admission; but we do require quiet behavior, close application and gentlemanly manners. A deficiency in these requirements, especially the last, and not that of money, justifies a refusal either to admit or to keep a pupil. Time and again have we admitted deserving pupils who had been refused admission into other schools, for the reason, we were informed, that they could not pay. Were it our primary object to make our college a paying institution, we would certainly adopt a different policy. But we can inform our patrons and the public that our expenses are considerably greater than our receipts, and this is the best apology we can offer for inviting our friends to the College Hall sometime next month, that we may dispose of some gifts at the ‘Ladies Enterprise’ for the benefit of the school.”

As a symbol of the school’s commitment to the people of San Francisco — and of its poverty — the Jesuits erected a tower for the 6,000-pound bell on December 28, 1869, but the priests couldn’t raise enough funds to build a working clock atop the tower. They did paint hours on the face of the clock, but had no money to buy hands or the clockworks. The big bell, writes Riordan, “[rang] out the old and [rang] in the new; though to our thinking, the new that it rang in for St. Ignatius was only an increase of the old that it rang out — debt — debt — debt….”17

Despite the money owed by SI (more than $170,000 by now), Bayma and his brother priests began discussing the need to build a larger college and church in a quieter part of San Francisco. The primary reason for the move was the large tax-burden the Jesuits faced ($12,000 in 1877) for their valuable Market Street real estate. As Riordan adds: “those that scanned the future knew that, on the present site, permanence could never be.”18

Maraschi believed SI could best provide for its future by investing in real estate. Toward that end, he purchased a portion of the San Pablo Ranch in the East Bay. No one farmed this barren land, but Maraschi saw it as valuable as it bordered the deep water of the San Francisco Bay. The sale of this land in 1902 for $200,000 would help SI repay its debts.

Not all the Jesuits approved of Maraschi’s money-making schemes. At one point, he encouraged his friends to buy stock in a company that owned a gold mine. When that company went bankrupt, the Jesuits were afraid that they would be liable and that Maraschi would be accused of being an accessory to fraud. Maraschi also rented out apartments and organized an informal insurance company. Fr. Henry Imoda, SJ, SI rector in 1888, wrote to his superiors of his concern, noting that if Maraschi died without a will, the Society of Jesus could face numerous lawsuits.

Life at the school continued despite earthquake and debt. In 1871 the school inaugurated a new Debating Hall and instituted the Ignatian Literary Society, dedicated to “the improvement of all connected with it, in debate, social advancement and general literature.” The group barred any discussion “bordering on immorality, sectarianism and direct politics,” and set the minimum age of membership at 16.19 Also, the first school band and choral group formed on February 12, 1874, “to cultivate music for innocent social enjoyment and to add solemnity to civil and religious festivals.”20