Anthony Maraschi, S.J.
Vision, faith, and determination are perhaps three of the most important characteristics needed by an individual seeking to start an enterprise and sustain it during its fledgling years. Anthony Maraschi, S.J., the founding president of Saint Ignatius Academy, later to become the University of San Francisco, possessed these characteristics in great abundance.
Anthony Maraschi was born in 1820, in the Italian state of Piedmont. He entered the Society of Jesus in 1841, at the Chieri novitiate in northern Italy. As a scholastic, he began his teaching career in Nice, France, but was forced to flee the city in 1847 in the face of a growing anti-Jesuit movement. After being ordained a priest in Marseilles, France, in 1849, Fr. Maraschi came to America. He completed a theology degree at Georgetown College, and briefly taught at that institution before assignment to Holy Cross College in Worcester, Massachusetts, where he taught philosophy and Spanish. He was later sent to teach philosophy at Loyola College in Maryland. In 1854, Fr. Maraschi took his final vows as a Jesuit and was ordered to set sail for San Francisco, arriving on November 1 of that year. When Fr. Maraschi first set foot in our city, it was in the midst of an economic depression following the end of the Gold Rush boom years. Scores of once-lucrative mines had been worked out, many miners and support workers were unemployed, one-third of San Franciscos approximately one thousand stores stood vacant, and many companies had gone bankrupt. Economically, it was perhaps not the best of times to start an educational enterprise.
During his first six months in San Francisco, Fr. Maraschi served as an assistant pastor at St. Francis Church and then as an assistant pastor at St. Patricks Church. During this time, however, he laid the groundwork for the establishment of a Jesuit church and school in the city. He met with the Domican Archbishop of San Francisco, Joseph Alemany, to secure approval for a Jesuit institution to be erected among the sand dunes west of the then-downtown section of the city, on Market Street, between Fourth and Fifth Streets. He borrowed money to purchase a small parcel of land and to build a church, a Jesuit residence, and a one-room schoolhouse. The first Saint Ignatius Church in San Francisco was dedicated on July 15, 1855, less than a year after Fr. Maraschis arrival in the city. With the assistance of Michael Accolti, S.J. and Joseph Bixio, S.J., Saint Ignatius Academy opened its doors on October 15, 1855. The enrollment was so disappointing, however, and so few students paid full tuition, that classes were temporarily suspended in February 1856. Undeterred, Fr. Maraschi reopened the Academy in the fall of 1856 and was rewarded by a steady increase in enrollment. By 1858, the school had 65 students, necessitating the hiring of additional instructors. In 1859, the Jesuit General in Rome, Peter Beckx, officially recognized the Academy. In that same year, Fr. Maraschi successfully incorporated the institution under California state law, obtained a charter to issue college degrees, formed a board of trustees, and renamed the institution Saint Ignatius College. During the institutions early years, Fr. Maraschi simultaneously served as the college president; college treasurer; and instructor for Latin, Greek, and Spanish. He was also the parish priest for Saint Ignatius Church: he preached, heard confessions, visited the sick, kept the church accounts, and supervised repairs and additions to the church and school. In addition, he had general accounting responsibilities for the California and Oregon missions.
In August 1859, Fr. Maraschi received some well-deserved and favorable press in the San Francisco newspaper, Alta California: The Reverend Anthony Maraschi, President of St. Ignatius College, is eminently qualified for the position, being a finished scholar and a man of high moral character. He has labored incessantly to advance the interests of those placed under his charge and the examination of several classes exhibited the complete success which has attended his efforts.
In 1862, Fr. Maraschi turned over the presidency of Saint Ignatius College to Nicolas Congiato, S.J. Fr. Maraschi continued, however, to serve as treasurer for the school and college and effectively managed the financial affairs of the institution. The year before he left the presidency, he started a fund-raising effort for a new building. The first gift was for a hundred dollars. Fr. Maraschi secured some other small gifts, borrowed additional money, and oversaw the construction on a new three-story church and school adjacent to the original site. He also obtained bequests to over 800 acres of land in the East Bay, near Point San Pablo. This land came to be known as ?Maraschis Ranch.? Fr. Maraschi lived to see the institution he founded grow and move to another location, on the corner of Van Ness and Hayes streets, and to witness the sale of the original piece of property he had purchased on Market for a profit of nearly $900,000. The sale of this land, plus the sale of ?Maraschis Ranch? for $200,000, enabled Saint Ignatius Church and College to eliminate all of its accumulated debt by the turn of the century. Fr. Maraschi died in 1897, after serving in San Francisco for 43 years. Thousands of people attended his requiem mass held in Saint Ignatius Church, and hundreds more journeyed south with his body to the Santa Clara Mission cemetery on board a special Southern Pacific funeral train.
Today on the University of San Francisco campus, a few feet from the northeast corner of Saint Ignatius Church, there stands a bust of Father Anthony Maraschi, S.J. It was created by a local sculptor, Harriet Moore, and unveiled in 1985, the 130th anniversary of our institutions founding. In addition, Xavier Hall has a meeting room named after our founding president. The sculpture and the room are dedicated to a man whose vision, faith, and determination were critical to the creation of an institution that has enriched the lives of thousands of people over the course of nearly 150 years.
Bibliographic note: The life of Anthony Maraschi, S.J., is described in The First Half Century: St Ignatius Church and College by Joseph Riordan, S.J., and in Jesuits by the Golden Gate: The Society of Jesus in San Francisco, 18491969 by John McGloin, S.J., the late historian and archivist at USF. Michael Kotlanger, S.J., USFs archivist, also supplied several important details about Fr. Maraschi.