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Presidents’ Correspondence and Other Materials (Richards, Whitney, Daugherty), 1888-1904

Identifier: GTA-000010

Scope and Contents

Included are copies of outgoing letters from the tenures of three Georgetown University Presidents - J. Havens Richards (1888-1898), John D. Whitney (1898-1901) and Jerome Daugherty (1901-1905), as well as incoming correspondence received by Father Richards between 1888 and 1898. A volume listing major donations to Georgetown University, 1891-1898, is also present.

The correspondence documents the work of Presidents Richards, Whitney and Daugherty during a period of major reform and significant enhancement of the University’s reputation. Most dates from the ten year term of Father Richards. Included are letters to/from: University administrators especially at the Law and Medical Schools; financial benefactors of the University including E. Francis Riggs and John Vinton and Elizabeth Dahlgren; companies doing business with the University; fellow Jesuits including Patrick F. Healy; local charitable institutions; educators and administrators at other educational institutions; Commissioners of the District of Columbia; federal government officials; parents of students and potential students; alumni; and the Maryland Provincial and the Rector General of the Jesuit Order. Correspondence from relatives of Father Richards is also present.

Among other topics, the letters address the: planning of the University’s centennial celebrations; improvement/expansion of the Law and Medical Schools; planning/construction of Riggs Library, Dahlgren Chapel, and the Georgetown University Hospital with the aim of providing expanded clinical opportunities for Georgetown’s medical students; improvements to campus and existing buildings including Healy Hall, Gaston Hall, and the Observatory; availability and use of telephones and electric lights on campus; happenings in the neighborhood around the University; and the relationship between Georgetown University and the Catholic University of America.

Materials relating to Father Richards not connected to his presidency of Georgetown can be found in the J. Havens Richards, S.J., Papers, GTA 20211201.


  • 1872 - 1904
  • Majority of material found within 1888 - 1898

Biographical / Historical

Joseph Havens Richards was born on November 8, 1851 in Columbus, Ohio. His father Henry Richards, an ordained Episcopalian minister, converted to Catholicism shortly after his son's birth. Havens attended Boston College where he showed an aptitude for the sciences, especially physics. He entered the Society of Jesus after graduation in 1872 and was named the thirtieth president of Georgetown College in 1888.

Richards' term as president of Georgetown, which lasted until 1898, was marked by the institution of major reforms and the significant enhancement of the quality and stature of the University. He oversaw the improvement of Georgetown’s physical plant, including the completion of the interior of Healy Hall and the construction of Dahlgren Chapel and of a building for the Law School. He planned the University’s centennial celebrations in 1889, established the Georgetown University Hospital to provide expanded clinical opportunities for Georgetown’s medical students, improved the astronomical observatory, and recruited prominent faculty including Austrian astronomer Johann G. Hagen, S.J. He also re-established graduate programs in the arts and sciences and expanded and improved the University's Schools of Medicine and Law School - actions which brought him into direct opposition with Rome's desire to centralize graduate and professional programs in the area at the newly established Catholic University of America, like Georgetown, located in Washington, D.C.

In 1898, he resigned the presidency for health reasons; he was succeeded by John D. Whitney, S.J. Father Richards moved first to Frederick, Maryland and was later stationed at Los Gatos in California, Boston College, and St. Andrew-on-Hudson in Hyde Park, New York, among other posts. He died in 1923 at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts.

John Dunning Whitney was born in Nantucket, Massachusetts, on July 19, 1850. After serving in the U.S. Navy, he entered the Society of Jesus in 1872 and subsequently studied and taught mathematics at Jesuit schools in New York, Maryland, Boston, and Louisiana, as well as in England and Ireland. He was also Vice President of Spring Hill College, Alabama. In July 1898, Father Whitney was appointed President of Georgetown University. During his three-year tenure (three years being the typical presidential term), the interior of Gaston Hall was completed, porticos were added to Healy Hall, the Georgetown University Hospital was formally opened and saw its first patient was admitted, the University of Washington Dental College was incorporated into the University (becoming Georgetown’s Dental School), the Law School course was extended to three years, and student enrollment significantly increased. In 1901, he left Georgetown; he was succeeded as President by Jerome Daugherty, S.J. First appointed as treasurer at Boston College, he was later stationed in Philadelphia, Brooklyn, and Baltimore, where he engaged in pastoral work. He died at Boston College on November 27, 1917 and is buried at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts.

Jerome Daugherty was born on March 25, 1849 in Baltimore, Maryland. He attended Loyola College before entering the Society of Jesus in 1865. He then taught mathematics, Latin, Greek, rhetoric, and other subjects at Jesuit schools in Massachusetts, New York City, and Washington, D.C. He taught mathematics at Georgetown between 1872 and 1874, returned to campus in 1889, and served as Georgetown’s Vice President in 1893-1894. Appointed as President of Georgetown in 1901, he oversaw the demolition of the South Building (Carroll Building) and the construction of Ryan Hall on its site. He also continued his predecessors’ work of reforming the curriculum and managing tensions with the Catholic University of America. In 1905, he resigned the presidency due to ill-health. He continued his ministry in Maryland, Washington, and Philadelphia, before returning to New York where he died on May 24, 1914.


5.75 Linear Feet (12 boxes)

Language of Materials



These records were housed in University Archives prior to 1970. They were transferred to the Manuscripts unit at an unknown date and transferred back to the University Archives in December 2021.

Presidents’ Correspondence (Richards, Whitney, Daugherty), 1888-1904
Under Revision
Margaret H. McAleer (Special Collections staff)
September 1982
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Georgetown University Archives Repository

Lauinger Library, 5th Floor
37th and O Streets, N.W.
Washington DC 20057