History of the University of San Carlos
Role and Contributions to Leadership and Nation-building

(Paper delivered by Father Ernesto M. Lagura, SVD, President of the University of San Carlos at the Centennial Congress on Higher Education held on May 28-29, 1998 at the Manila Mid-town Hotel, Ermita, Manila)

I am proud to have been requested to discuss the role of private higher education from the Revolution into the 21st Century, specifically, the history of the University of San Carlos, its role and contributions to leadership and nation-building. This invitation has a certain urgency for me, as San Carlos will be celebrating the fiftieth year of its recognition as a university on July 1, 1998. This occasion, therefore, affords me the opportunity of reviewing the details of its origin and its role as an institution of higher learning vis-ŕ-vis national development and the ideals of the Philippine Revolution of 1898.

Origins of the Institution

In 1595, the Society of Jesus founded a grammar school in Cebu under the name Colegio de San Ildefonso; it was only the secondary school outside of Manila before the nineteenth century and was opened the same year as their college in Manila. (de la costa, 1992) The Colegio was closed upon the expulsion of the Jesuits from the Philippines in 1768. It was reopened in 1733 when the Diocese of Cebu turned it into a Seminary, the Real Seminario de San Carlos, named after the great patron of ecclesiastical training of the Renaissance. The diocesan clergy administered the Seminario until 1862 when the Dominican Order assumed its administration. To assure a sufficient number of teachers, the Bishop of Cebu (Fray Romualdo Gimeno) asked the Congregation of Saint Vincent de Paul to succeed the Dominicans. In 1867, the Vincentians assumed the administration of the school, now named Seminario-Colegio de San Carlos as it began to admit externos, that is, student who were enrolled without the intention of joining the priesthood. This change in the character of the Seminario has been aptly chronicled by Fenner (1985):

The presence of increased commercial opportunities was accompanied by a growing interest on the part of urban principalia in education. The expansion of economic contacts seem to have led to a broadening of educational horizons…In 1867, officials and principales from both the gremio de metizos and gremio de naturales of Cebu City, including merchants and landowners,…petitioned the bishop of Cebu to open classes at the seminary of San Carlos to day students.

Previously, all students admitted to San Carlos had been requied to board at the seminary. Both Spanish religious and civil officials supported the petition, and in 1867, San Carlos opened to day students from Cebu City and the neighboring town of San Nicolas.

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