Happy Birthday, LaSalle!!!

By Joseph Batory

In the 1600’s in France, education was something for the rich alone.  For those born into poverty or from working class backgrounds, it was a certainty that these children would never receive an education.

But in the late 17th century, a Catholic priest, Jean Baptiste de La Salle, began doing the unthinkable.  Moved by the plight of the needy, La Salle started to reach out to these neglected young people. He began working with the Sisters of the Child Jesus, helping them in their efforts with care for the sick and the education of girls in poverty

Additionally, as a sign of his deep commitment to humanitarian purposes, La Salle gave up his family home and used that inherited wealth to feed the poor during a famine.

In 1685, Jean Baptiste de La Salle founded one of the world’s first normal schools, an institution devoted strictly to the training of teachers.  From the beginning, these Christian Brothers have been all about touching the hearts and minds of students, encouraging and inspiring and offering opportunity no matter what the circumstances or backgrounds of students. 

Jean Baptiste de La Salle’s ideas were considered radical and outrageous by French aristocrats. His beliefs and actions created a scandal in the view of the upper classes of France, but La Salle was undeterred.  Aside from his obvious deep faith in God, La Salle’s key principles included: advocacy of quality education for all; concern for the poor and advocacy of social justice; and, respect for all persons.

Today, the vast Christian Brother network of educational institutions exists in 80 countries and provides quality education to nearly one million students.

And among these Lasallian schools internationally is a Philadelphia gemstone, LaSalle University, now celebrating its 160th birthday.

Once a male-only college just a few decades  ago, La Salle’s student population today is more than 50% female. And true to its founding mission, more than 30% of the current La Salle undergraduate students are the first to attend college in their families. And, in terms of following the humanitarian outreach of its founder, La Salle University students annually complete more than many thousands of hours of community service.

Worth noting is that:

Forbes Magazine cited LaSalle in its “Finest in American Education” 2022 list of colleges and universities.

LaSalle’s Master of Science in Cyber Security has been ranked Number one in Philadelphia by Fortune Magazine and among the top 20 such programs nationally.

A detailed study by Georgetown University of 4500 colleges nationally, placed LaSalle at a very high level for those acquiring a LaSalle Degree: Top 6% for 10 year earnings;  and, Top 7% for Lifetime Return on Investment.

The latest U.S news and World Report ranked LaSalle in the top half of national universities,  i.e., those with a spectrum of undergraduate, master’s and doctoral programs and emphasis on faculty scholarship. This report also cited LaSalle in its best 2023 graduate school analysis as among the best in the country for its 100% placement of its MBA grads and among the nation’s Best Values for a university. And LaSalle was also recognized as the 3rd most diverse university in Pennsylvania, behind the University of Pennsylvania (No. 1) and Carnegie Mellon (No. 2).

Finally, LaSalle’s undergraduate nursing and business programs continue to be ranked among the top  half among all USA colleges and universities in America.

The legacy of LaSalle’s Christian Brothers is thousands and thousands of educational success stories all around the world.  And I am one of them.  As a young man from a poor Philadelphia working class family in which no one had ever pursued higher education, I desperately needed support and guidance.  The Christian Brothers at West Catholic High School and later at La Salle College (not yet a university) propped me up, believed in me, motivated me, and inspired me …Lasallian rule: Believe in yourself. Never underestimate what you are capable of. Challenge yourself and you will become much more than you think you can be.

Small wonder that Jean Baptiste de La Salle was canonized by Pope Leo XIII and became a Catholic saint on May 24, 1900. Or that in 1950, La Salle was proclaimed as the Patron Saint of Teachers of Youth by the Catholic Church.

On a personal note, I attribute what personal and career success I have had in life directly to the influence of the Christian Brothers who positively changed my life. And they have also done this for many thousands of other students over the years …and are still doing so.

Today,  Philadelphia’s LaSalle University, now in operation since 1863, boasts 50,000+ graduates living in all 50 states and numerous countries around the world.  

Happy Birthday. LaSalle!!!

Joseph Batory, a 1964 graduate of LaSalle, became the award-winning superintendent of schools in Upper Darby (1984 to 1999), He is the author of three books and more than 200 published articles on history, politics and educatio

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