St. Vincent’s College: Jewish Support for Los Angeles’ First Institute of Higher Learning

St. Vincent’s College: Jewish Support for Los Angeles’ First Institute of Higher Learning

St. Vincent’s College, Los Angeles, CA (1869), predecessor of Loyola Marymount University #WS0460


Jewish pioneers supported a variety of Roman Catholic charitable projects in early Los Angeles, including the city’s first orphanage, improvements to the Catholic cemetery, renovations of the first church, construction of the cathedral, and the formation of St. Vincent’s College.

Founded in 1865, St. Vincent’ College was the first institute of higher learning in Southern California.

In May 1865, Bishop Thaddeus Amat organized a meeting of prominent Angelinos to help establish a college run by Vincentian fathers. The attendees voted to form two committees, one for men and one for women, to promote the initiative.

Boyle Workman, the son of Los Angeles Mayor and Boyle Heights developer William H. Workman, was just seven years old when he began attending St. Vincent’s College, which initially included elementary and high school programs. In his book, The City that Grew, Boyle Workman, who became president of the Los Angeles City Council (1919–1927), recounted:

“The manner in which St. Vincent’s College was started was typical of the spirit of tolerance and cooperation which was so marked in early days. About the time of the Civil War, Bishop Amat suggested to leading men of the city that it was time the youth of this community had opportunity for higher learning. He suggested a Catholic college. Jews, Protestants and Catholic responded. Women of the town joined hands, regardless of creed, to put on a fair, proceeds of which went to the college.”

Rosa Newmark, Los Angeles, CA #WS0748

The women’s group was led by Rosa Newmark, the wife of Joseph Newmark, a lay rabbi and organizer of the Hebrew Benevolent Society of Los Angeles (est. 1854). Rosa Newmark spearheaded the fundraising fair at the cost of $30. The fair raised $530 dollars, or about $9,000 in today’s money.

Five years later, Rosa Newmark helped form the Ladies’ Hebrew Benevolent Society, Los Angeles’ first women’s charity.

St. Vincent’s College began classes at an adobe building at the southeast corner of Los Angeles and Alameda, donated by Don Vicente Lugo.

In 1867, the school moved to a two-story, seven-room building occupying a block bounded by Broadway, Sixth Street, Hill Street, and Seventh Street. Today, the site is known as St. Vincent Court, in the heart of the jewelry district.

St. Vincent’s College changed hands to the Jesuits in 1911 and gradually grew into Loyola Marymount University, located in the Westchester neighborhood of Los Angeles.


  • Michael E. Engh, “‘Charity Knows Neither Race Nor Creed: Jewish Philanthropy to Roman Catholic Projects in Los Angeles, 1856-1876,” Western States Jewish History 21/2.
  • Boyle Workman, The City that Grew, as told to Caroline Walker (Los Angeles: Southland Publishing, 1935).

Jonathan Friedmann is curator of this St. Vincent’s College exhibit.