Fr. William Masterson, S.J. made Pres. Harry S. Truman and Francis Cardinal Spellman honorary alumni of Ateneo de Manila University

The school and the Society of Jesus faced massive problems. The campus with its majestic edifices and buildings lay in ruins. Due to the lack of facilities, many of its students had transferred to nearby schools. The Jesuit faculty was severely depleted because of the war. Some died during their internment in Los Baños during the war while those who survived were weary, sick or malnourished. Father Reardon reopened the school although it operated at a staggering Php 100,000 loss in 1947 alone.

. . .

Fathers [William “Bil” Masterson, S.J.] and [John McCarron, S.J.] looked at several locations but the one place they instantly fell in love with was the Balara area overlooking the Marikina Valley. Coincidentally, the University of the Philippines was contemplating a similar move and in the same area.

During one exploration trip to Balara with some students, Masterson raised his arms and declared, “On this location the new Ateneo will rise.”

. . .

The announcement was met with protest by the faculty, the student body and their parents, alumni and Masterson’s fellow Jesuits. The school catered to the genteel and the insulares who all lived nearby. Its proximity to Malacañang, Luneta, and those stomping grounds of Taft was perfect. A move to Balara which was a howling wilderness meant that the school would drift from the center of the galaxy that was Manila. Many openly wondered if the school would lose its market and if they were going to open their doors to monkeys and wild animals given how Balara was then so underdeveloped.

. . .

If there was anything that life during wartime taught Father Bill, it was resourcefulness. Masterson found a tremendous amount of support from stateside allies that included New York City Mayor William O’Dwyer, Francis Cardinal Spellman, the sixth Archbishop of the Catholic Diocese of New York, former US Postmaster General James Farley, and the then-President of the United States, Harry S. Truman.

The gracious Ateneo rector offered all of them honorary alumnus status; a gesture that so moved President Truman that in an official White House stationary letter dated June 9, 1947, he wrote Masterson: “I consider it a great honor and privilege to be made an honorary member of the foremost Jesuit educational institution in the Far East. I hope you will continue your work in building a greater citadel of education in the Philippines.”

***

These are excerpts from “A Master Stroke: the move from Padre Faura to Loyola Heights” by Rick Olivares 2004-04-02

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About Quirino M. Sugon Jr
Theoretical Physicist in Manila Observatory

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