"To bring it here to the United states, in 1789, Georgetown University was founded [in Washington, DC], and one of the priests who eventually became Archbishop Leonard Neale- he founded the Sisters of the Visitation right here in 1799. So these two communities have been friends for over 200 years."
Gonter remembers when, in the 1950s, Bishop John Swint bought the 60-acre cow pasture from the Sisters of Mount de Chantal and donated it to the Jesuits to found Wheeling Jesuit.
Fleming says because of this shared history and shared educational values, it was common for Jesuit schools and schools led by the Sisters of the Visitation to establish close to each other throughout the years.
He explains that Jesuit educational traditions developed during the Renaissance period in Western Europe.
"We grew at a time when the traditional humanist education -- rhetoric, Latin, and the arts -- was combining for the first time with what we would call vocational education, but what would become the universities of Western Europe," Fleming says.
He says many of the first Jesuits were humanists, meaning they were students of philosophies and ethical perspectives that emphasize the value of human beings, and generally place more importance on rational thought than strict faith. When the Jesuits began to establish educational facilities of their own, these values were core components.
"The whole point of the humanist education was that if you learned these things -- art, music, literature, mathematics, science -- you would be a better person. It wasn't that you were going to be smarter; it was that you were actually going to be a better person. You would be more human, more 'humane,' as we say. So you would be a better human being if you had this information in your lexicon of things to do in the world."
Fleming says this emphasis on the arts, with the aim of molding students into more humane versions of themselves, is still central to the Jesuit model of education and is a vision of education that the Jesuits have long shared with the Sisters of the Visitation.
He's looking forward to seeing the renovation of the 5,000-square-foot space in the WJU Center for Educational Technologies, transforming it into the new home of the university's Department of Music. The space will house a recital hall, a study lounge, multiple practice rooms, an artist-in-residence studio, a director's office and the Sisters of the Visitation Art Gallery, which will showcase Mount de Chantal antiques and archival materials, along with WJU student art.