Mission Matters


For your mental improvement

For your mental improvement
An Owl who’s who: In the 1930s, editors editing by daylight. Photo from The Redwood
by SCM |
The first literary mag in the West marks a major milestone. Born as The Owl and rechristened The Santa Clara Review, it’s now (probably) in its 100th volume. Plus, some 19th-century archives have just been digitized for you to explore online.

Highlights from the narrative history “Who is The Owl?” by Linda Larson ’78 with a new addendum by Stephen Layton ’13. The journal was founded well over a century ago, but given 50-plus years of hiatus, most experts agree that 2013 is when volume 100 went to press. And onto iPad.

December 1869. A literary monthly “Devoted to Mental Improvement,” and “Edited by the Boys of Santa Clara College, S.J.” is hatched. The name: The Owl. Why? “We said to ourselves: ‘We’re owls, conning our books of lore in the night …’ Thus it is, and not through a superabundence of wisdom, that we have assumed the name of Minerva’s sober bird.” Among the “original matter” of early editions: scientific and historic essays, dramas, poetry, and humor. “Idle Notes,” the editorial column, tackles women’s suffrage and other topics.

1875. A series “Is the Monkey Father to Man?” declares Darwin’s theory of evolution absurd: “A certain class of naturalists, of this enlightened and highly civilized nineteenth century, flatly refuses to believe that man was created directly by Almighty God, pretending on the contrary, that he is the offspring of anthropomorphous monkeys; in other words, that our ancestors were not Adam and Eve, but a he and she chimpanzee, gorilla, or orang-outang.”

October 1875. A black oval-framed lithograph on the cover bodes ill: The Owl announces it will cease publication. What happened? Historian Gerald McKevitt, S.J., points to student riots in September 1875, after which 20 students are expelled—including the author of the article announcing the end, H. M. Hughes. But the editors pass down a legacy: “After payments of all our debts we have between three and four hundred dollars of surplus gold left, wherewith to erect our tombstone; which is to take the form of An Owl Prize, Annually For Ever.

1903–1920. The Redwood sprouts as the campus literary magazine, then in 1923 morphs into the yearbook.

December 1931. The Owl is born again—as a monthly literary supplement to The Santa Clara, the student newspaper. James Pike ’34 is responsible for the resuscitation. His aspiration: a journal again devoted to mental improvement and to recording “our college doings, to give proof of college industry and to knit together the boys of the present and the past.” Santa Clara, he writes, “has demonstrated the ability to conceive ideals and attain them. She has created for herself a name that is emblazoned forever in the historic annals of California.” Pike later founds the department of religion at Columbia University and is appointed Episcopal bishop of California. In 1969, while on a religious expedition in Judea, he gets lost in the desert; a search party doesn’t find him in time.

September 1938. The Owl takes flight from The Santa Clara and becomes a bird on its own wing.

October 1940—featuring “An
Experiment in Adjustment” by
Guido Morengo ’40

May 1943. With the majority of Santa Clarans having “set aside their pens to take up the sword,” publication is suspended until 1946, when The Owl returns, “lacking a few of its familiar feathers and proud of a few new ones.”

April 1953. Biology is the theme. On the cover: a linoleum cut of a dissected owl. Inside: “The Abominable Snowman and the Ecologist.”

Winter 1955. This issue is dedicated to the recently deceased Edward Shipsey, S.J., who served as Owl advisor for 20 years. Richard Schmidt ’79, one of Shipsey’s former pupils and a member of the English department faculty, establishes the Shipsey Poetry Prize. The prize, along with the McCann Prize for best short story, established in honor of Daniel McCann 1884, is awarded annually.

Spring 1957. “Provoked Owl” edition: “If this issue contains an article or book review which causes your intellectual adrenalin to flow, then we are succeeding in our endeavor.”

December 1963. “In Passing,” a photo essay from the Philippines by Jorma Kaukonen ’64, who regularly contributes photos and essays to the journal, is featured. Kaukonen goes on to become lead guitarist for The Jefferson Airplane and to found Hot Tuna.

Spring 1976. “Who is The Owl?” appears in the same edition as “The Great White Way,” a prize-winning story by Michael S. Malone ’75, MBA ’77. Some 35 years later, the prolific author and television producer returns to teach professional writing for SCU’s English department.

Go mobile: Download the iPad edition of SCR from the iTunes app store.

Spring 1983. Storm clouds brew: Christine (Long) Brunkhosrt ’83 pens “The Student-Athlete Hoax,” an article describing NCAA rule infractions at collegiate athletic programs. Use of the word “crooked” to describe a University of San Francisco alumnus involved with infractions that led to suspension of USF’s basketball program brings an $80 million lawsuit for libel. With an apology issued, the suit is dropped.

1988. A new title is introduced: Santa Clara Review. Editors’ rationale: “The Owl as a name has outlived its effectiveness, and we wished to adopt a name which would both attract better submissions and identify the magazine more closely with the University and the community.” Contributions are solicited from around the country. But a Jesuit who teaches religious studies at SCU laments, “The new name seems a foolish attempt at prestige … Will the Santa Clara Review end up another of the numerous unread dumps for fourth-rate authors who can’t get published elsewhere or for academics with their dull articles on the dreary road to rank and tenure? The Owl has flown. Alas.”

2013. Volume 100. What will you find? Art, fiction, nonfiction, and poetry from near and far. Editors deny the Review’s predicted slide into a dump for fourth-rate authors, but this judgment is ultimately reserved, as always, for the reader. Note that the iPad edition is recommended for folks ages 12 and up.

Read More

Explore a digital archive of the 19th-century issues of The Owl.

Clayton Barbeau '59 said on Jan 9, 2014

I enjoyed the role of editor of The Owl during my years at Santa Clara. I graduated in 1959. I remember devoting a special issue to the Jesuits and the fine arts as part of a personal campaign to get a theatre arts program on campus. The basic argument against such a thing, given by a Jesuit member of the faculty, being, "We will never have women here."

I did some of my earlier writing in the Owl office, in Nobili Hall. One of my short stories in a national magazine brought a letter from Naomi Burton, Tom Merton's agent, asking for a novel, so I used the office that summer to write The Ikon, that was to win the James D. Phelan Award in literature.

One of our contributors, and my selection for my successor as editor, was James Douglass '60, whose antiwar activities and his partnering with Dorothy Day on a trip to Rome during Vatican II impacted the Church's teachings on war and conscientious objection. His latest work makes the best case ever for why John Kennedy and his brother were slated for killing.

My own literary pursuits led to, among other items, my first nonfiction book on Christian fatherhood, now enjoying its 52nd year in print. Shortly after its publication it was translated into Italian at the request of Cardinal Tisserant for the group at Vatican II who were working on issues of marriage and the family. Every edition since the council has had, preceding each chapter, a quotation or two from the Council documents, teachings which were derived from the chapter.

Bob Konrad '66 said on Jan 9, 2014

I served briefly as editor in the 1960s. If additional issues are needed for the digital archives I could send them along.

Dan [Mc]Sweeney '90 said on Jan 14, 2014

I think it best not to get too attached to things like names. I submitted photography to both The Owl and The Santa Clara Review—the name changed while I bivouacked at SCU—on and off between '84 and '90. The University also changed names from USC to SCU during that time.

In the early days of my photo career, I was proud to show that work in my portfolio. I processed film and printed in the science darkroom below Daly science, working around Fr. Hayn and Dr. Nathan, who both developed X-Rays there.

The Owl was a bespoke and analog publication. I recall working with Mark Clevenger, Joe Alvarnas, and Guy Zaninovich who had ink and wax under their nails from pasting the thing together on art boards. I have equal admiration for Alec Malloy who as a senior taught himself to use Digital Publishing Suite and made the Santa Clara Review iPad app, which is understated yet clever and interactive. Same determination, different tools. As ever, for the purpose of our mental improvement.

Guy Zaninovich '87 said on Mar 3, 2014

It was really, really cool working on The Owl. I was editor for one year and it was a great experience. Totally grass root, totally raw, totally hands on. We "literally" pasted the thing together while being inebriated and drove it to the printer. So many great memories from so long ago...

GZ said on Mar 3, 2014

I ran into a fellow Owl contributor at a Burning Man Decomp party a couple of years ago. Years move on, but people never change.....

Robert Daley '58 said on Mar 12, 2014

I thoroughly enjoyed the history of The Owl. (Winter 2014) While I doubt anyone has ever seen one on campus, it seems to have been flitting about the campus for a long time, in pursuit of wisdom—trying to get through to anyone that will listen. The photo on the bottom-left of page 11 offers a clue. I envision the Owl, perched on the patibulum (cross-arm) of the Mission Cross, in the background, watching the assembled editors do their work, quoting the Owl "who's who." That's all he ever says: "Who." But he's frequently misquoted, substituting that for who. Like the engraving on his favorite patibulum-perch: "He that shall persevere to the end, he shall be saved. Matt. xxiv 13" Is the Owl posing the question that is answered by the engraving? Or is he posing a grammatical correction to the engraving? It's such an easy error to fall into. I did it myself at the end of the sentence above. Easy; but it's sloppy grammar, it seems to me. But then, I went to a Grammar school not an Elementary school and maybe there's a difference. And the difference could be lethal. Does not substituting that for who deny personhood? I watched Secretary-of-State, John Kerry, tonight talking about the global carnage by people who disregard the humanity of others. And I think, Why not? That's the way sloppy habits have conditioned us. If we mount a campaign now to raise our consciousness on the issue, perhaps we begin by changing the titles on all those WHO'S WHO books and re-title them to THAT'S THAT, reflecting our modern disregard for the dignity of man.

Winter 2014

Table of contents


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