NPR on the Jesuit Legacy of Baghdad College

The inspiring story of the New England Jesuits who founded and ran Baghdad College, that city's premier high school for several decades, is well known to Jesuits.  (The Society was summarily kicked out of the country when the Baath party came to power.)  The school's alumni are among the most loyal of all Jesuit alumni; and the New England Jesuits known as "Baghdaddys" (alt: "Baghdadis") still speak fondly of their time in Iraq.  This morning NPR did a brief story on the school's legacy; it was gratifying to see this chapter in U.S. Jesuit history given its due.

A school founded by Americans in Iraq before the Saddam Hussein era is an emblem of a time when the United States was known in the Middle East not for military action, but for culture and education. That's the view of Puliter Prize-winning New York Times correspondent Anthony Shadid, who recently wrote an essay about the school, titled "The American Age, Iraq."

Advertisement

First opened in the 1930s by New England Jesuits, Baghdad College became the Iraqi capital's premier high school. Classes were conducted in English — and the defining feature of the school was not proselytizing, but a rigorous education, Shadid says.

As Shadid tells Morning Edition co-host Steve Inskeep, the school was a symbol of Iraq's identity — which he says was more secular and universal in the middle of the 20th century than it is today.

The school "also represented something for both the United States and for Iraq, and the way that they saw each other," Shadid says, "that they could allow themselves an almost idealistic version of each other. I think that's impossible today, and I say that with a certain sense of sadness."

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
6 years 5 months ago
This is a great picture of a basketball game. After Mass one Sunday, I spoke briefly with the late Fr. Joe MacDonnell, S.J., who asked me if I played basketball. He informed me that, as coach for Baghdad College, he led the team to a championship by introducing the "man-to-man" defense to that country. 

Advertisement

Don't miss the best from America

Sign up for our Newsletter to get the Jesuit perspective on news, faith and culture.

The latest from america

February has been one of the most violent months in the seven years of conflict.
Gerard O’ConnellFebruary 25, 2018
Asia Bibi's husband and her daughter Eisham arrive in the Vatican prior to a private meeting with Pope Francis. (Credit: Vatican News)
The pope said Rebecca Bitrus and Asia Bibi are models for a society that today has ever more fear of suffering.
Gerard O’ConnellFebruary 24, 2018
(Nick Ansell/PA via AP, archive)
Recent allegations about one of the United Kingdom’s biggest and best-known charities has driven increased demands from some quarters that overseas aid be reduced, if not abolished completely.
David StewartFebruary 23, 2018
Students who walked out of classes from Montgomery County Public Schools in Maryland protest against gun violence in front of the White House on Feb. 21 in Washington. (CNS photo/Kevin Lamarque, Reuters)
The desire for stronger gun control may not translate into more caution with gun storage among owners of firearms.
Kevin ClarkeFebruary 23, 2018