In 1940 at the invitation of Bishop Pedro P. Santos of Caceres, the Ateneo de Naga was founded as a Jesuit school for boys, with Fr. Francis D. Burns, S.J., as Rector. The classes were first held in the building formerly used by the Camarines Sur Catholic Academy (now the Naga Parochial School). Meanwhile the construction of the new school building, dominated by the now well known façade of our four pillars, began. In December 1941 the Jesuits moved to their new residence on campus and were preparing to transfer classes to the newly finished structures after the Christmas holidays. But suddenly on December 8 the Pacific War broke out.
When the Japanese Imperial Forces came to Naga, they imprisoned the Jesuits, occupied the Ateneo de Naga and converted it into the local Fort Santiago. As soon as Philippine independence was restored in 1946, the high school classes resumed.
On June 1, 1947 Ateneo de Naga was granted by the Department of Education full recognition as a standard four-year high school. On June 5, 1947 the College was opened with 87 male students. On October 26, 1953, the Ateneo College became coeducational with the admission of five women.
The steady growth of the Ateneo called for new structures for governance. Thus, the 1940 Articles of Incorporation were amended and the new By-laws adopted in 1979, transferring the school’s highest governing authority to the Board of Trustees, the majority of whom were Jesuits.
Through its more than half a century of existence, the Ateneo has made significant breakthroughs and suffered serious setbacks. Economic difficulties during the Martial Law years led to a dip in college enrollment. But as the school marked its Golden Jubilee in 1990, there began a remarkable turn-around and recovery. The Graduate School, which had a brief existence in the seventies, was revived in 1993.
In 1981, the College and the High School were the first in Camarines Sur to be accredited by the Philippine Accrediting Association of Schools, Colleges and Universities (PAASCU). They were accredited for the fourth time in 1998. In 1991, the Department of Education, Culture and Sports placed the Ateneo de Naga in its list of 18 excellent universities and colleges in the country.
The 1990’s was a decade of development. The Ateneo implemented CORPLAN 2000. A vigorous faculty development program enabled faculty members to earn graduate degrees. An Endowment Fund was established for scholarships and professorial chairs. Standards were upgraded. New courses were offered. Centers and institutes were established. New buildings were constructed. Enrollment increased.
On September 16, 1996, the Father President, Fr. Raul J. Bonoan, S.J, issued a memorandum declaring the separation of the college into three, namely: the College of Arts and Sciences, the College of Commerce, and the College of Information Technology and Engineering. Almost a year later, the College of Education was created. In 2001, the College of Computer Studies was also separated from the College of Engineering.
On February 20, 1999 the Commission of Higher Education (CHED) conferred on the Ateneo de Naga, university status with the late Fr. Raul J. Bonoan, S.J, as the first University President. Under his leadership, the University was named by CHED as Center of Development in Business and Management Education, and Center for Development for Excellence in Information Technology Education in the Bikol region.
On the 28th of August 1999, Fr. Joel E. Tabora, S.J. was installed as the second University President. At the turn of the century, the University community crafted its intent for the first decade of the new millennium. In CORPLAN 2010, the University recommitted itself to its mission, defined its vision of the Ateneo graduate, clarified its pedagogy, characterized the Ignatian pedagogue, and elucidated on its transformative role as university “in the world”. Under his leadership, the University continues to set milestones. In 2001, CHED identified ADNU among the first batch of 22 private higher education institutions (PHEIs) granted deregulated status for a period of five years. The College of Nursing was opened in 2004. In 2007, CHED re-designated the College of Computer Studies as a Center for Development for Excellence in Information Technology Education and designated the College of Commerce as Center of Development in Business Administration as well as a Center of Development in Entrepreneurship. In the same year, CHED also identified the Graduate School as a delivering institution for its Faculty Development Program. Last June 2, 2008 CHED approved the designation of the College of Education as a Center of Excellence in Teacher Education and the grant of autonomous status to the University.
More recently last May 25, 2009, the Philippine Accrediting Association of Schools, Colleges and Universities (PAASCU) granted Institutional Accreditation to ADNU – the first to be awarded nationwide to a private educational institution. The Federation of Accrediting Agencies of the Philippines (FAAP) certified ADNU’s Institutional Accreditation last June 22, 2009. Institutional Accreditation requires the following: (1) the Arts and Sciences, Commerce and Education programs must have been granted Level III accredited status and at least 75% of all the school’s degree program offerings must be at least Level I accredited, (2) majority of the total student population must be enrolled in the accredited programs, (3) the school’s performance in the licensure exams must be higher or at least at par with the national passing rates over three years, and (4) the school must have a robust and effective quality assurance mechanism in place for its degree programs.