SI’s First Two Principals

The high school department in 1924 was led for the first time not by the college president but by a principal. The first principal, Fr. Cornelius Buckley, SJ, ran the school from 1924 to 1926, presiding over a faculty of 11 Jesuits and 12 laymen.

Fr. Buckley graduated from SI’s preparatory department in 1890 and two years later from SI College. He joined the Society of Jesus in Los Gatos and, after studies in Spokane, returned to SI to teach briefly before leaving to continue his studies in Italy and England. He was ordained in 1908 in Dublin and returned to the Bay Area where he served as dean of students at SCU (1912–1922) and as a teacher of novices (1922–1924) before becoming SI’s first principal. He served as a history professor at USF from 1926 until 1935 when heart trouble forced him into early retirement from the classroom. From 1936 until his death, he served as Regent of the USF Law School and as spiritual director of several San Francisco convents.

After his death on January 20, 1947, the following obituary appeared in theProvince News of the California Province of the Society of Jesus: “Fr. Buckley was a well educated man, both in secular and religious subjects. He was an excellent teacher, and a very popular confessor. In 1946 he heard 18,000 confessions.” He used to voice his disapproval of the training that Jesuit seminarians were receiving. “He did this once too often, for the Provincial, Fr. Francis Dillon in 1922, sent him to Los Gatos [for more formation] to remedy the situation.”

The author of the obituary noted that Fr. Buckley usually submitted his reports on SI to the Province office late. “The only difficulty was to get the report on time. He was usually one to two years late. Strange to tell, he was up to date when death called him.”

Succeeding Fr. Buckley was Fr. Albert Whelan, SJ, the younger brother of Fr. Edward Whelan, SJ, president of St. Ignatius College. Of Fr. Albert Whelan, McGloin writes the following of this “Prefect of Studies” — another term for principal: “Those who remember the Albert Whelan regime recall that he ran what perhaps may best be described as a ‘tight ship’ — for he was a disciplinarian par excellence and tolerated little in the way of infractions.”

Ken Atwell ’29 remembered one incident that illustrates this quality: “One day, after seeing a disturbance in the hallway, Fr. Whelan rushed out and pinned the suspected ringleader to the bulletin board by the neck. The trouble is, he chose the wrong boy. The next day, that boy’s father, a wealthy physician showed up and proceeded to tell Fr. Whelan what he thought of him and the institution. He told Fr. Whelan, ‘If you take off that collar, I’ll give you a whipping.’ Fr. Whelan ripped the collar off, but the doctor turned around and left.”