Gonzaga College High School

Gonzaga College High School
Gonzaga College High School
19 "Eye" St., NW
Washington, D. C., 20001
 United States
Coordinates 38°54′06″N 77°00′37″W / 38.9018°N 77.0103°W / 38.9018; -77.0103Coordinates: 38°54′06″N 77°00′37″W / 38.9018°N 77.0103°W / 38.9018; -77.0103
Type Private, All-Male
Denomination Roman Catholic (Jesuit)
Established 1821
Founder Rev. Anthony Kohlmann, S.J.
Headmaster Vincent Conti, S.J.
Enrollment 930  (2011)
Grade 9 230
Grade 10 240
Grade 11 240
Grade 12 240
Color(s) Purple and White


Song Alma mater
Mascot Eagle
Team name Eagles
Accreditation(s) Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools[1]
Tuition $18,000 aprox.
Gonzaga College High School - Washington, D.C..JPG

Gonzaga College High School is a Jesuit high school for boys located in Washington, D.C. The school is named in honor of St. Aloysius Gonzaga, an Italian saint from the 16th century. Gonzaga is the oldest boys' high school in the District of Columbia and also is the oldest college in the original federal city of Washington.[2]



Gonzaga was officially founded by Father Anthony Kohlmann, a Jesuit, in 1821, though there is some evidence the school began a few years earlier. It is the oldest educational facility in the original federal city of Washington and was at first called Washington Seminary, operating under the charter of Georgetown College (now Georgetown University), which was becoming too crowded for its space at the time.[2] Gonzaga's original location was on F Street near 10th Street, N.W., in a building adjoining Saint Patrick's Church. The school was immediately popular among Catholic families and was well enough known in its early years to attract the attention of President John Quincy Adams, who visited the school to test the boys' Latin and Greek. However, there were financial problems that caused the Jesuits to withdraw in 1827: their order prohibited the charging of tuition for a day school youth education. Although it continued to be run by laity, Gonzaga did not come back under the control of the Jesuits until some twenty years later (with the ordinance regarding tuition changed) and President Zachary Taylor presided at the commencement exercises in 1849.

In 1858, Gonzaga was granted its own charter by Congress as a college empowered to confer degrees in the arts and sciences, which accounts for its name (Gonzaga College) to this day. Although some students did receive bachelor's degrees in the 19th century, Gonzaga no longer confers degrees, other than honorary doctoral degrees presented to commencement speakers or other notable guests. In 1871, the school moved to a building (now called Kohlmann Hall) in the Swampoodle area north of the U.S. Capitol, just down the block from St. Aloysius Church, which had been built in 1859 and is now on the U.S. Register of Historic Buildings. Enrollment declined owing to the distance of the new neighborhood from the center, but the Jesuits persevered and by the end of the century the school was once again flourishing. A theater was built in 1896, and a large new classroom building (previously the Main Building and now called Dooley Hall) was opened in 1912.

The curriculum of Gonzaga from its founding until the late 20th century was at once rigorously classical and emphatically Catholic. Mastery of Latin and deep involvement in the Catholic religion were at its core. Standards were high, and many hopeful boys who lacked the necessary qualities for success were denied admittance. To this day, Gonzaga admits approximately one third of those who apply.

Gonzaga benefited greatly from the fact that the row houses built in Swampoodle were largely occupied by Irish Catholics from the late 19th century on. Although Gonzaga always drew students from other parts of the city as well, the departure of the Swampoodle Irish for the suburbs in the mid-20th century and more especially their replacement by poorer non-Catholics, brought on another period of difficulties. A decline in enrollment and the great inner-city riot of 1968 led some to suggest that Gonzaga should be closed, or moved to a more affluent area. However, the Jesuits once again persisted, and the school survived. In the last years of the 20th century, the school even expanded, adding several new buildings and a large playing field and field house. Today Gonzaga has regained its former status. A recent Wall Street Journal editorial referred to the institution as "the premier Catholic high school of Washington."[1]

St. Aloysius

St. Aloysius is a parish church physically attached to Gonzaga. It was built in 1859. It is often used for school assemblies, masses, concerts, and graduation. The large painting above the altar is the work of Constantino Brumidi, who is famous for painting the frescoes on the interior of the United States Capitol dome.


Gonzaga College High School Eagles are the athletic teams representing Gonzaga College High School. Gonzaga currently fields seventeen different varsity teams, most of which compete in the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference.

Gonzaga's 2007-2008 varsity basketball season was most successful in the school's history. The team, which the Washington Post said had no stars, won the D.C. Classic, the WCAC Championship, the D.C. City Title, and the Alhambra Catholic Invitational Tournament, finishing with a 34-1 record. Climbing the national rankings throughout the season, the Purple Eagles closed the season ranked 4th in the nation by ESPN and 10th in the nation by USA Today. The team also developed a massive following during the season, peaking with a cheering section made up of an estimated 500-600 students of the total 930 for the WCAC Championship game at American University vs. O'Connell.

Also in the 2007-2008 school year, Gonzaga's Athletic Program was ranked #18 in the country according to Sports Illustrated's "Top 25 High School Athletic Programs for 2007-2008".

During the 14-year run of the City Championship Football series (1948–1962), Gonzaga appeared 4 times: 1948 - lost to Central 26-6; 1949 - defeated Wilson 12-7; 1955 - tied Cardozo 6-6; 1959 - defeated Eastern 7-6.

Gonzaga Hockey won the state championship 3 years repeated from 2005 to 2007, and again in 2010

An Eastern Motors TV commercial with Clinton Portis and others was filmed at Gonzaga's athletic fields. You can notice the school to the left of the field and the Gonzaga purple flag in the background.

The Gonzaga Soccer team won 4 consecutive WCAC championships from 2007-2010 and is consistently one of the best teams in the Washington area.

Gonzaga Rugby has won 12 consecutive Potomac Rugby Union Championships and finished the 2010 season ranked #2 in the nation. In the middle of the 2011 season, Gonzaga beat the #1 ranked team in the nation and rival, Xavier, and became the #1 team in the nation. During the 2011 National Championship in Salt Lake City, Utah, Gonzaga finished 3rd with many injuries.

In 2009, Gonzaga Crew's Senior Eight captured the silver medal at the prestigious Stotesbury Cup Regatta on the Schuylkill River in Philadelphia. This was the second time the boat qualified for the grand final (the first being in 2003) and the first medal in the Senior Eight division in team history. At the same regatta, the Freshmen Eight qualified for its second grand final and medaled for the first time in team history capturing the bronze medal. The next week, Gonzaga's Senior Eight made history again by advancing to and winning in the grand final at the Scholastic Rowing Association of America (SRAA) Nationals at Mercer Lake, New Jersey. This was the first National Championship won by a Gonzaga team in school history.

Relationship with other schools

Gonzaga is considered rivals with DeMatha and Georgetown Prep. Their historic rival, however, is St. John's. The schools' football teams have been playing each other annually since 1918, in what is believed to be the oldest high school rivalry between two Catholic high schools in the United States. In rowing, Gonzaga's rivalry with St. Alban's School is annually contested for the Foley Cup (known amongst students as the "God Cup") with Gonzaga currently leading 4-2.

Georgetown Visitation is the "sister school" of Gonzaga. Students of the two schools frequently attend each others' dances and athletic events and participate in school dramatic and choral productions. Gonzaga students also spend their time with the girls of such schools as the Academy of the Holy Cross and the girls of Stone Ridge. Gonzaga's allegiance, however, mostly belongs to the girls of Georgetown Visitation. Even though the two schools will never meet in a sporting event, the drama programs of the two rival each other as the two top high school programs in the D.C. metro area.

Other clubs and activities

The Gonzaga Dramatic Association (GDA) - One of Gonzaga's oldest and proudest institutions, the Gonzaga Dramatic Association was officially formed in 1863 (though the school had been putting on plays for the previous forty-two years). There are two productions each year: a smaller comedy or classical play in the fall and a larger musical in the spring. The theater program is housed in the Gonzaga Theater (formerly known as Gonzaga Hall), which is the oldest continuously-operated theater in the District of Columbia (operated continuously since 1896).[2] The GDA has a rich tradition of drawing upon girls from all the region's schools to play the female parts in its performances. In its most recent production of Li'l Abner, the girls schools represented included: Georgetown Visitation, Academy of the Holy Cross, Oakcrest, Good Counsel, Woodrow Wilson H.S., Stone Ridge, Connelly School of the Holy Child, and O'Connell, as well as several home schooled girls. GDA actors and actresses often go on to accomplish great things in professional theater, and the Gonzaga Dramatic Association Hall of Fame was established in 1999 to honor these individuals (as well as those who continue to add to the theater at Gonzaga or elsewhere in their lives). The GDA inspires great loyalty in its members and five of eight current members of the production staff were involved in the GDA during their high school years. Older members of the GDA also help out in raising money for the Dr. John C. Warman Scholarship for performing arts students by putting on benefits where they sing songs from shows they were in.[3]

It's Academic - Gonzaga's It's Academic Team has been solid in Virginia-D.C.-Maryland tournaments in the past several years. Additionally, they have made a good showing on the It's Academic television show on NBC, receiving third place in the 2006 final and winning in 1998. The team practices twice a week using practice questions that encompass geography, history, mythology, literature, art, and more. Their wins-losses in individual games have also been improving in the past few years; in the 2002–2003 school year the team went 80-26; in the 2003–2004 season they went 91-22; in 2004–2005 they went 110-27; and in the school year 2005–2006 they went 106-32 and finished as a quarter-finalist at PACE national championships.[3] With the 2006–2007 season ending in June 2007, the team is now recouping to form another solid team for the 2007–2008 season. The team finished at 151-35 after competing in two national tournaments, where they placed tied for 5th and tied for 8th at the PACE-NSC tournament and the NAQT High School National Scholastic Tournament, respectively, leading to the best record and winning percentage ever attained by Gonzaga's team in one school year.[4] Throughout the year the team also won the most tournaments ever won by Gonzaga's quizbowl team, winning prestigious tournaments at Princeton University and Yale University. [5]

Speech and Debate - Gonzaga's Speech and Debate Team has competed mainly in Student Congress debate for many years. The team has gained prominence for the school's individual and group accomplishments. Among Gonzaga's greatest achievements is the team's victory for the Harvard Cup, which symbolizes the best overall effort on the part of one school out of the more than 100 schools that participate in the competition.[4]

The Aquilian - Gonzaga's student newspaper, The Aquilian, was founded in 1940. Published throughout the school year, The Aquilian also possesses an online presence on AquilianOnline.com.[5]

Community service

One important aspect of Gonzaga student life that sets it apart from that of other private schools in the area is the school's commitment to community service. Each senior must complete at least forty hours of service before graduation, and although there is no requirement for non-seniors, many students volunteer in programs like 'Food and Friends,' the Father Horace McKenna Center, So Others Might Eat, or other similar projects aimed at helping the surrounding community, including the Sursum Corda Cooperative - an adjacent DC neighborhood infamous for its violence and poverty. Gonzaga's emphasis on community service reflects its students' desire to carry out their school motto, "Men for Others." In 2005 Gonzaga became the first high school to participate in the Campus Kitchen service project, a program previously undertaken only on the college level.


Over the years many famous men have passed through the doors of Gonzaga, including athletes, senators, congressmen, a governor, and Presidential candidates.



  • Jim Kimsey, Co-founder of America Online, attended but dismissed


Journalism and Publishing


  • John M. Loh, former Air Force Vice Chief of Staff, former commander of Air Combat Command (Class of 1956)
  • Captain Humbert Roque "Rocky" Versace, USA, POW, Medal of Honor recipient, Pentagon Hall of Heroes inductee, Ranger Hall of Fame inductee (Class of 1955)
  • Navy SEAL Lieutenant Commander Erik S. Kristensen who died while fighting in Afghanistan (Class of 1990)





  1. ^ MSA-CSS. "MSA-Commission on Secondary Schools". http://www.css-msa.org/search.php/. Retrieved 2009-06-23. 
  2. ^ a b Gonzaga College (1897). Sketch of Gonzaga College from its Foundation in 1821 till the Celebration of the Diamond Jubilee in 1896. 
  3. ^ Gonzaga drama
  4. ^ http://www.gonzaga.org/Page.aspx?pid=735
  5. ^ http://www.gonzaga.org/Page.aspx?pid=726

External links

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