All: In response to our plea for details about the end of the Villa, we received this missive from Cyril Boschert, still stationed in Switzerland.. Here is his report.
Reading Stu McClintock’s article on the closing of the Villa points out that the “mystery” still remains, after 36 years! It’s likely to remain even longer. I was a member of the faculty of the Villa at the time of its closing. I was very much effected by its closing, but was in no way one of the decision-makers. We Marianists who were there had been told it was going to happen ( I don’t remember just when, but in the first semester, I think), were unhappy with the decision and tried our best, with the strong support of Brother Moran, to keep it going.
We planned, and proposed to the various Marianist authorities in the U.S. a program which we titled STEP (Study/Travel in Europe Program) which was to offer the Villa as the base for students from Marianist schools to study and travel in Europe. We hoped this would attract a sufficient number of students to all that the Villa and Europe had to offer in order to keep it going financially. Brother Moran even made a trip to the States to propose it to various key people.
Sadly, the Villa closed nevertheless. Why? I cannot say with certainty because I was never in on the discussions which led to the decision to close. What’s more, those who did make the decision and Brother Moran, who surely knew more than I did, are now no longer alive to give a definite answer. I do remember, however, a few of the things that probably played a part in the decision.
1. In the late 60’s an increasing number of religious, Marianists included, were leaving religious life. This fact, coupled with a diminishing number of new members entering, was starting to cause an acute shortage of personnel in existing establishments. Decisions had to be made how best to deploy available personnel. One of those decisions was to close the Villa.
2. Why the Villa? One reason was probably financial. The cutoff point for breaking even was 100 students. The final two or three years (at the end there were only 55 students) were below that crucial level. The school was clearly a drain on Marianist finances that had to be considered.
3. When the Villa became an international school in 1960 taught in Englsh by Marianists from the St. Louis Priovince it was already thought of as an opportunity for Marianist schools to be able to offer something special for their students by going to the Villa for a semester or year or two. This idea never really caught on.
4. The international seminary across the street from the Villa always provided an opportunity for American seminarians to teach part time or become involved in different activities. In the early 70’s, American seminarians were starting to go to Toronto instead of Fribourg; therefore that connection to the Villa, and potential source of faculty, was also coming to an end.
5. Marianist provincial authorities in St. Louis knew some of the Marianist staff at the Villa would soon be leaving the order. If the Villa stayed open, that would be a further drain on Marianist personnel.
6. The enrollment of the Villa was not only very small, there was a large percentage of students who were not Catholic. In the eyes of some, Marianists traditionally taught in schools almost entirely Catholic, and the Villa was slipping out of that category.
7. The city of Fribourg was anxious to buy the Villa property for a good price. The time seemed right for the Marianists to sell in order to meet their financial obligations throughout the world. A few years later the Marianist seminary across the street from the Villa was also sold. In the next few years a number of other Catholic international boarding schools in Europe also closed for reasons similar to the Villa’s closing.
8. In the Wikpedia article about the Villa Jerry Gegg (mispelled as Gregg) was quoted as saying the Marianist authorities were not open to the idea of the Villa becoming coed. I was not aware of that being a reason, but it might have been. Overall, there just didn’t seem to be enough viable reasons to keep it open.
As I implied earlier, there may have been other more important reasons that I did not know about. What I have stated above, however, based on weakening memories of 36 years ago, may shed a little light on the “mystery.”
Regardless, I think we can consider ourselves lucky to have been a part of the Villa while it lasted.
— Cyril Boschert (former brother at the Villa 1964-66 and again 1968-70)