Admission Blog

A Lion’s Guide to LMU History

#WhyLMU, Jesuit Spirit

by Father Randy Roche, S.J.

It seems to me that the best way to get to know a family or some new friends is by learning their stories, because stories are about people and their experiences. Photos might show where they have been, but the events of their lives are what interests us the most.

I love telling stories about LMU’s History, because they enable others to appreciate what the people were like who brought us from where we were in the past, to where we are now. Their characteristics, values and feelings remind us of our own, and support us in our desires to make a positive difference by what we say and do.

In the very beginnings of what we now know as LMU, the purpose was then, as it still is, to help students develop their gifts, capabilities and talents not just for themselves, but for others. Then, as now, not all who wanted an education at the university could afford the tuition. Before there were such things as Financial Aid and Scholarships, the Jesuit Presidents often took in such students. Years later, some of those who had once received the benefits have become benefactors who make it financially possible for still more students to attend who would not otherwise be able to do so.

At a time when other L.A. Law Schools would not admit Jewish students, this university did, and made friends with Jewish film makers in Hollywood who were not accepted in L.A. Society. Friendships grew, and when local sportswriters said of the football team that they “played like lions,” the head of MGM loaned their iconic lion for a photo-shoot in support of the team. For a short while afterwards, the team had a lion cub for a mascot.

The present lion mascot appears at all the athletic events: a student dressed in a very friendly lion outfit and known as “Iggy,” a reference to St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits, who founded LMU.

One really interesting story in our history is when, in the 1950’s, our football team was ranked 14thin the nation, and was scheduled to play a team in the South when segregation laws prevailed. When it was learned that the host university would not permit African American players on their field, our president said that “All play or none play.” So, we forfeited that game, but kept our values. The university is still known for its strong advocacy of inclusive respect for all persons.

One of the first things that LMU students did after the merger of Loyola University and Marymount College was to institute “Special Games,” a completely student-run organization that brings developmentally disabled young adults to some full days of participation in events that the students have devised for maximum sharing and fun.

I like some of the things that do not make it into history books but are part of what students pass on to one another. One story is about a supposed secret tunnel that goes between the two original buildings constructed in 1929. I won’t disclose the full truth, but whatever is down there involves a lot of pipes and cables that are far older and dirtier than any of those who venture through locked doors to the basements.

Father Randy Roche is a Jesuit priest who began his LMU career as a chaplain for students, right about the time Loyola University merged with Marymount College — in turn becoming Loyola Marymount University. He currently presides as chaplain for faculty and staff, and holds fast to a life-long desire to help people recognize and accept ‘the interior experiences of grace and peace that indicate what is good for them, and therefore for those around them.’

Outside of his chaplain duties, he also pens weekly articles and essays, which you can explore HERE.)

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