The First Steps

Xavier University - Ateneo de Cagayan was founded in 1933 by Fr James TG Hayes SJ, Superior of the Philippine Jesuit mission and first Bishop and Archbishop of Cagayan de Oro. In the next 11 years, the two-storey wooden building along Burgos Street that schooled 17 high school male students mushroomed into several buildings along Corrales Street with 614 students. This studentry came from the existing high school; from the college department that was added in 1938 with course offerings in Liberal Arts, Education, and Commerce; and from the Grade School, established in 1940. All these were brought to the ground during the outbreak of World War II which forced the school to close on 9 December 1941. The chemistry laboratory then was used to extract quinine for the government forces. Later on, the campus was used as the Northern Mindanao headquarters of the Japanese troops after they entered Cagayan de Oro on 2 May 1942.

Soon after Cagayan de Oro was freed from the Japanese forces, the school was reduced to rubble when on 9 September 1944, American planes began bombing Cagayan de Oro. “Those liberators wrecked the town of Cagayan and its wharves. When the day was over the old transit showed our college in ruins, the century old cathedral gone, and the lovely house of the Bishop a heap of concrete,” wrote Fr Edward Haggerty SJ, then-Rector of the Ateneo de Cagayan. His successor, Fr Andrew F Cervini SJ, sought the reconstruction of the school. Through their efforts and with the assistance of local and foreign benefactors, the school reopened in 1946 with the usual classes held in partially-restored buildings.

By 1946, collegiate program offerings included Bachelor of Arts, Pre-Legal, and Commerce. The Ateneo de Cagayan Graduate School was opened in 1948. The College of Agriculture was started by Fr William F Masterson SJ in 1953 and the Manresa Farm in 1955. The College of Law also started operations the same year.

In March 1958, two years after Fr Francisco Araneta SJ became Rector, Ateneo de Cagayan was granted the university status. At its inauguration on 27 August 1958, Ateneo de Cagayan was called “Xavier University,” in honor of St Francis Xavier, a Jesuit missionary to the Indies and companion of St Ignatius Loyola, founder of the Society of Jesus. The alumni, however, insisted the school to retain the “Ateneo de Cagayan” in the official name of the university. In response, the administration combined the old and new names of the school, and thenceforth, known as “Xavier University - Ateneo de Cagayan.” It became the first university in Mindanao and the first Jesuit university in the Philippines.  

Fr Francisco Araneta SJ further explains that the change of name “merely crystallized an old spirit that always had been the soul of all Ateneo schools, the spirit of learning and service, the spirit of purposeful scholarship.

Academic Expansions

Responding to the demands of a rapidly developing Northern Mindanao, Xavier University opened more and more courses, becoming the leading educational institution in the Mindanao (and its neighboring regions in the Visayas) and the principal training ground for professionals and leaders.

The two-year Pre-Engineering course, offered in 1957, eventually became a four-year course with the opening of the College of Engineering in 1981. A graduate course in Guidance and Counseling was opened in the summer of 1958. The College of Medicine started in 1983. The College of Nursing was established in 1988, and reopened in 2002. In consonance with the Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines (CEAP) plan to establish Master Pilot Technician Training Center, Xavier University launched the Center for Industrial Technologies (CIT). In June 1983, classes for three-year technical programs started. The Computer Center also began its program offerings in 1993.

The Nursing and Medicine programs now have their own base hospital, the Maria Reyna - Xavier University Hospital, in partnership with the Sisters of St Paul de Chartres and the Archdiocese of Cagayan de Oro. In the global arena, Xavier has linkages with universities and institutions in America, Asia, Australia, and Europe through its Office of International Cooperation and Networking.

The year 2016 saw the opening of the XU Senior High School program, offering all strands under the academic track, namely, Science Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM); Accountancy, Business, and Management (ABM); Humanities and Social Sciences (HUMMS); and the General Academic Strand (GAS). The Center for Integrated Technologies is now a Senior High School unit offering the Technical-Vocational Track. The college campus along Corrales Avenue and the CIT campus in Manresa, including all their facilities and resources, cater to the needs of Senior High School students.

The Andrew L Gotianun Sr Center for Integrated Technologies (ALGCIT) Senior High School, an endowment from the Gotianun Foundation, provides Academic and Residential Scholarships to competent yet financially-disadvantaged youth. Xavier Ateneo’s ALGCIT aims to champion technical and vocational education, provide profitable employment options or entrepreneurial opportunities for its graduates, and contribute to the country's social and economic growth. ALGCIT is a highly specialized 3-year Tech-Voc Senior High School where the first two years are allotted for academics and coursework, while the third year is primarily for industry internship. In the face of globalization and the K-12 reform in our country’s educational system, ALGCIT puts its resources into honing the technical skills of the students in four globally in-demand specializations: (1) Automotive Servicing, (2) Computer and Electronics Technology, (3) Energy and Power System, and (4) Mechanical Design and Fabrication. ALGCIT scholars live in the dormitories specially built for them and hold their classes in a state-of-the-art building situated in XU's Manresa Complex. At the end of the three-year program, the students are expected to graduate world-ready, with international and national standard competencies, and formed with magis (excellence) and cura personalis (care for the whole person).

Research and Social Development

The University has been closely involved with the life and growth, concerns and problems of Cagayan de Oro City and Mindanao. Under the leadership of Jesuits, the University undertook various development initiatives in countless areas. Improvements in the school’s intellectual life were made; more scholarships were granted, and more emphasis was given to research activities and social involvement.

The Research Institute for Mindanao Culture (RIMCU) was established in 1957 to conduct studies on Mindanao, its cultures, issues, and concerns. In 1963, the University Journal “Kinaadman” started publishing research and articles on Mindanao, and has since been well-received locally and globally.

As a University, Xavier has played an active role in the development of Cagayan de Oro and Northern Mindanao, responding to the needs of its people whenever possible. Since 1963, the Southeast Asia Rural Social Leadership Institute (SEARSOLIN) has been forming and producing rural social development leaders in Asia.

Committed to the appreciation, preservation, and enrichment of Filipino culture and heritage, Xavier established the Philippine Folklife Museum and Archives in 1968, presently called “Museo de Oro.” The Institute for the Development of Educational Administrators (IDEA) has been training school administrators since 1972. In May 2014, the University opened the XU Marine Station in Jasaan, Misamis Oriental under the management and supervision of the McKeough Marine Center to support research and capacity-building on environmental conservation and marine life.

In line with the University’s vision of becoming a leading ASEAN university, Xavier reorganized its Research and Social Outreach cluster in early 2016 to have separate and specialized structures. This updating was carried out to respond more effectively to the mandates of CHED, PAASCU and the ASEAN University Network-Quality Assurance. It strengthened the prime responsibility of college faculty members to undertake research programs and create new knowledge products, and of the Colleges to conduct social development and community involvement programs for their students, faculty, and staff.

The restructuring effort put in place the Kinaadman University Research Office to support and monitor the research programs and activities of the Colleges, and the Social Development Office to support and monitor the Colleges’ Service Learning Programs, social development projects and activities, and social development centers.

Mission and Ministry

Central to Xavier Education is the spiritual and social formation of its community members. Facilitated by the Office of Mission and Ministry, the University has institutionalized a collaborative and integrated formation program, which includes spiritual formation, psycho-emotional formation, physical wellness and sociocultural formation for students, faculty, staff, and alumni.

In 2007, Xavier launched the Xavier Center for Culture and the Arts out of the desire to contribute to the cultivation and appreciation of Philippine and Mindanao culture, considered as a potent instrument for social transformation. In 2013, the university’s 80th Ruby Jubilee year, XU renamed its chapel as the University Church of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary as a testament of its service to the local Church and the greater community.

Xavier exhorts its students to be more open to spiritual growth and to understand the values of Jesuit Education. Programs such as the First Year Formation Program (FFP) and Religious Studies include community exposures to supplement classroom discussions. Other formation units include the Campus Ministries, which provides students and faculty with retreats and recollections; the Service Learning Program, which encourages social involvement and advocacy; and the Office of Student Affairs, which takes care of the students’ leadership formation and activities.

In December 2011, when news of the devastation of Typhoon Sendong broke out, Xavier University responded by launching Operation: Tabang Sendong to give relief to those who were affected by the flash flood. Xavier mobilized an average of 1,500 volunteers per day and served nearly 40,000 families needing aid. Xavier also offered five hectares of its property in the uptown village of Lumbia to serve as resettlement and relocation area for the typhoon survivors. The resettlement site called Xavier Ecoville was aimed at building a community of responsible citizens who care for one another, for Cagayan de Oro, and for the environment. Xavier Ecoville was officially blessed in 2013 in an event called “Hope Festival.” All throughout the experience of Sendong, the faculty & staff, students, and alumni showed their hearts of cura personalis.

Xavier University - Ateneo de Cagayan is thus a product of a rich history. But more importantly, it is a product of an encompassing commitment to address the needs of the Church, the global community, and the Filipino people. In the minds of all those who contribute to Xavier’s present standing is Ignatius’ vision and in their hearts, Francis Xavier’s burning desire to spread the good.

Xavier Ateneo Today

Xavier operates on the following campuses: (1) the Agriculture extension called Manresa Farm Complex, and the Andrew L Gotianun Sr Center for Integrated Technologies in Manresa, (2) the Junior High School, Senior High School and Grade School in Pueblo de Oro, and (3) the main Tertiary campus on Corrales Avenue. Soon, the Campus of the Future will rise in the Manresa Complex to be known as the Masterson Campus, and the El Gaucho in Puerto, Cagayan de Oro City, to house the new farm laboratories of the College of Agriculture.

As an academic institution, Xavier has continually shown exemplary performance in instruction, research, and public service. Xavier now has Centers of Excellence in Teacher Education and Agriculture; and Centers of Development in English Literature, Biology, Chemical Engineering, Civil Engineering, Electrical Engineering, Electronics Engineering, and Mechanical Engineering. It is also a CHED Delivering Higher Education Institution for graduate programs. Likewise, the University has Level IV PAASCU accreditation for Arts and Sciences Programs, Business Administration and Accountancy Programs, and Elementary and Secondary Education Programs; Level III for the Agriculture Program and Basic Medical Education Program; and Level II for Chemical, Civil, Electrical, Electronics, Industrial and Mechanical Engineering Programs in addition to regaining “Autonomy” from CHED until 2019.  The Xavier University-Junior High School has also achieved PAASCU Level 3, the highest possible level for Basic Education. Meantime, after the consolidation of the Macasandig and the Pueblo campuses, XU-Grade School Pueblo is now working on its Level 2 accreditation while the new Senior High School has started its application for preliminary survey.

Xavier University continues to further its thrusts of better administration, stronger formation, and greater societal engagement. The units and departments have been clustered into (1) Academic, (2) Mission and Ministry, (3) Administration, (4) Social Development, and (5) Research to address the growing scale and complexity of the operations of the University.

True to its vision, Xavier Ateneo has earned a spot among top performing universities in Asia in the 2024 QS University Ranking (Asia). Xavier Ateneo remains engaged in teaching, formation, research, and social development that promote the pursuit of knowledge and truth, dialogue with religions and cultures, and care for the environment and creation.