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Kenna, Robert E., S.J., Fr.



  • Existence: 1844-09-06 - 1912-05-26


Father Robert E. Kenna, S.J. served as the ninth and eleventh president of Santa Clara from 1883-1888 & 1899-1905. Kenna was the first American president. Kenna was born in Mississippi and traveled to California in 1849. Kenna was enrolled at Santa Clara College at the age of 23, and later became a Jesuit. Due to Kenna’s ongoing illness, he completed his 11 years of seminary studies all at Santa Clara, and would later work there for his assignments and became the eventual pastor. Kenna would slowly rise the ranks to vice-president, then finally president for two different terms. It is said that no other individual was more closely identified with the college up to that time. Kenna was quite a successful fundraiser and was instrumental in lowering the school’s massive debt. When Kenna began his presidency the debt was a staggering $93,000, but he managed to raise funds to lower it to $14,000 by the time he finished his first term in 1888. Kenna also focused efforts to constantly improve the Villa Maria vineyards, which served as a significant revenue source for the school. The harvest of 1886 provided wine selling for a total of $10,000. Kenna lead the first major restoration of the mission church in 1885, costing $7,000. Kenna also made the first attempt at alumni fundraising by writing a letter to all alumni seeking funds to rebuild the students’ chapel at a cost $35,000. Although the attempt raised enough funds to start the project, it did not raise enough for it to be completed.

Found in 3 Collections and/or Records:

Records of the Presidents, 1856-1921

 Record Group
Identifier: 3DB
Scope and Contents Files include primarily correspondence of the early presidents of Santa Clara: Congiato (1856-1857), Cicaterri (1857-1861), Villiger (1861-1865), Varsi (1868-1876), Brunengo (1876-1880), Kenna (1883-1888), Pinasco (1888-1893), Riordan (1893-1894), Kenna (1899-1905), Gleeson (1905-1910), Morrissey (1910-1913), Thornton (1913-1918), and Murphy (1918-1921). Boxes 5 and 6 include Fr. Kenna's breviary and crucifix and Box 7 includes 2 copies of Rev. John Ryan, S.J.'s "Memoir of the Life of Rev....
Dates: 1856-1921

Records of Fr. Robert E. Kenna, S.J., 1899-1912

 Unprocessed Material
Identifier: 1989-021
Dates: 1899-1912

Records of Robert Kenna, S.J., 1883-1888

 Unprocessed Material
Identifier: 1989-018
Dates: 1883-1888