For over 450 years, education has been the focus of work for Jesuits. Indeed, after his conversion, Ignatius spent seven years studying at the University of Paris. His own educational vision was deeply influenced by Renaissance humanism. By the time of his death, the Jesuits were directing 33 colleges and universities. Today there are 112 Jesuit institutions of higher education worldwide. Twenty-eight are located in the United States.
The Jesuit tradition prizes the life of the mind, viewing it as a path to the integration of the intellectual and moral aspects of personal and social life. From the beginning, Jesuits believed "that scholarly excellence was vitally important because of the role it played in achieving moral excellence."3
As historian John W. O'Malley, S.J., notes, "Even the study of the sciences and theology had a goal beyond speculation, a goal of service." Thus, according to O'Malley, an early Jesuit official observed that the order's immense commitment to education stemmed from a desire that "those who are now only students will grow up to be pastors, civic officials, administrators of justice, and will fill other important posts."4 To this end, Jesuit universities have always valued teaching, scholarship, and the varied accomplishments of their students.
Santa Clara stands firmly in this Jesuit tradition. In its Statement of Purpose, the University declares its goal as "the preparation of students to assume leadership roles in society" through liberal, professional, and pre-professional education. The entire educational experience fosters the cultivation of intellectual, aesthetic, moral, and spiritual values through a disciplined and imaginative engagement with culture in its many manifestations. As a modern university standing within the mainstream of U.S. higher education, Santa Clara continues to offer an education inspired by the Renaissance and Jesuit ideal of humanitas, the aim of which is to cultivate persons engaged in a wide variety of occupations for service to humanity.