College Councils History
The college council program began with the establishment of Council 1477 at the University of Notre Dame in 1910. Notre Dame students, who were members of the local Santa Maria Council 553, explored the idea of a separate council on the school’s campus that could directly address the needs of the student members. Despite an initial concern about the constant turnover of college students, the Supreme Council chartered the council and thus began the long legacy of college Knights.
It took time for the newly approved program to grow. Nine years passed before the second college council, Council 1965, formed at Mount Saint Mary College in Maryland. It took an additional 27 years for the college program to expand to public schools, the first of which was Council 2782 at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.
Council Growth and the Birth of the College Councils Conference
The slow growth continued until the 1960s. By the end of that decade, there were over 60 college councils Order-wide. The 1960s also saw the expansion of the college program to both Mexico and Puerto Rico.
As the college program grew, Boston College Council 5278 realized a need for college students to meet and discuss the unique circumstances student Knights faced on campus. This realization led Boston College to host the first College Councils Conference in the spring of 1966. This first conference brought together students from eleven different campuses. The conference also established the first College Council Coordinating Committee to plan the subsequent conference for March of 1967.
In the months leading up to the second conference, the committee enlisted the support of the Supreme Council. Supreme Knight John McDevitt responded to this request and named Deputy Supreme Knight Charles Ducey a delegate and consultant to the conference and the college program. The Supreme Council continued to support the conference for the next three years as it was hosted by councils at Niagara University, the University of Notre Dame and the University of Dallas. In 1970, the Supreme Council assumed a larger role in organizing the conference and moved the conference to New Haven, Connecticut, where it has been continuously held on an annual basis.
World Youth Day and the College Program Today
In the 1990s, the Supreme Council looked for ways to further involve college Knights within the global Church community. In 1997, the Supreme Council invited a group of college leaders to attend World Youth Day in Paris as pilgrims. Since then, the Supreme Council has organized pilgrimages for college Knights to attend World Youth Days in Rome (2000), Toronto (2002), Cologne (2005), Sydney (2008), Madrid (2011) and Kraków (2016). In Sydney, Madrid and Kraków, the Supreme Council sponsored English-language catechesis and youth festival events, which were run in part by the college Knights.
In recent years, the college council program has seen tremendous growth under the leadership of Supreme Knight Carl Anderson. Since 2000 the college council program has doubled in size throughout the world. At present, there are over 350 college councils at colleges and universities in the United States, Canada, Mexico, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, and the Philippines.