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J. Havens Richards, S.J., Papers

Identifier: GTA-20211201

Scope and Contents

The J. Havens Richards, S.J. papers consist of 1 linear foot of materials for sermons and addresses, correspondence, and other documents, dating from 1872, whilst Richards was a student at Boston College, to several decades after his death in 1923.

The majority of the papers consist of outlines and notes for sermons, addresses, and lectures. Most of these date from 1899-1923, the period after Richards’ presidency, during which he served as spiritual father and minister at several Jesuit educational institutions. Prominent topics include Catholic education, temperance, and women’s education. The papers also include a number of notes and outlines for lectures on religion instruction from Richards' time as a professor at Georgetown in the early 1880s, and also from the period after his presidency. Other topics for which materials in the form of notes, clippings, and pamphlets may be found include Christian Science, Socialism, Americanism, and sex hygiene.

All of the correspondence to and from Richards dates from the last 5 years of his life, whilst the papers also include correspondence about Richards after his death. Notable items include correspondence between Richards and Judge Thomas C. T. Crain on the Catholic and Protestant faiths in 1920 and 1921, as well as a fascinating 1946 letter from Mother M. Loretta Griffin, O.S.U, who attributes healing powers to dust collected from Richards’ grave.

Also of interest may be two scripts of Richards’ 1922 play, “An Ambassador of Peace,” which is based on the lives of Jesuit missionaries Isaac Jogues and Rene Goupil.

Correspondence relating to Richards’ presidential tenure may be found in the President’s Correspondence (Richards, Whitney, Daugherty) 1888-1904 collection.


  • 1872 - 1957

Biographical / Historical

Joseph Havens Richards, S.J., (1851-1923), served as the thirtieth president of Georgetown College from 1888 to 1898.

Born in Columbus, Ohio Havens Cowles Richards, he attended public school in Jersey City until the age of fourteen. His father, an ordained Episcopalian minister, converted to Catholicism just a few months after his son’s birth. Richards accompanied his father to Boston in 1869 as his bookkeeper and later that year enrolled in Boston College.

After three years Richards left Boston College, one year before graduation. He entered the Society of Jesus in Frederick, Maryland, on August 7, 1872, where he completed his novitiate and juniorate. It was at this point that he changed his name to Joseph Havens Richards. In 1875 he went to study at the Jesuit Seminary at Woodstock College. In 1888 he became a professor of physics and mathematics at Georgetown College, where he taught for five years before returning to Woodstock for his theology. In 1885 he was ordained two years early on account of the ill health of his father. In 1887 Richards completed his theology and returned to Frederick for his tertianship.

Upon completion of his tertianship, Richards was appointed President of Georgetown College at the age of 37. Highly ambitious in his aims, he hoped to transform Georgetown into a modern University. He introduced formal graduate studies in 1891, and oversaw the expansion of both the Law and Medical Schools. Georgetown’s campus significantly expanded under his direction, with the completion of Healy Hall, and the construction of a new Law School building, a hospital, and Dahlgren Chapel. In 1889 he oversaw the commemoration of the hundredth anniversary of the founding of Georgetown College. He also managed relations with the Catholic University of America, founded in Washington in 1888, especially regarding graduate programs. He had to resign from his position in 1898 on account of poor health, having suffered a nervous attack attributed to overwork.

Richards endured a long recovery to health in the years following his resignation. Having left Georgetown, he returned to the Novitiate at Frederick as Spiritual Father. A year later in 1899 he went to Boston College, also as Spiritual Father, where he founded the Boston Alumni Sodality. In March 1900 he went to the Novitiate at Los Gatos, California, before returning again to Frederick in the Summer of 1901, this time as Minister. When the Novitiate moved to Poughkeepsie, New York, in January 1903, he moved with it, before returning to Boston College in 1906.

In July 1909 Richards moved to New York City where he served as operarius at the Church of St. Ignatius until January 1913. He was then Minister and Prefect of Studies at the newly built Canisius College in Buffalo, NY, during which time he published a biography of his father, “A Loyal Life,” in October 1913. From 1914 until 1919 he was President of Regis High School and Loyola School in New York City, during which time he oversaw the celebrations for the Golden Jubilee of the Parish of St. Ignatius.

In March 1919 he retired to the Jesuit house at Keyser Island, Connecticut. Aside from the Summer months when the island hosted retreats, he shared the island with just one other Jesuit. He moved to the Home of Studies at Weston in December 1921 as Treasurer and Spiritual Father. Richards died at the College of the Holy Cross on June 9, 1923, having suffered a series of strokes.

[Sources: Robert Emmett Curran, A History of Georgetown University, Vol.2 (Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press, 2010); John Gilmary Shea, History of Georgetown College (New York: P.F. Collier, 1891) ; Woodstock Letters]


1 Linear Feet

Language of Materials


In Progress
Adam Teece
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