The University of Saint Anthony is the first university on the City of Iriga and the first University established in the new society. It was born out of the ashes of a global conflagration and it was built in the ruins and rubbles of the Second World War. It was founded by the pioneering group of educators as a school for the masses, including the thousands of men and women whose schooling was interrupted by the outbreak of the Pacific War in 1941.
The postwar years posed a period of crisis and bewilderment as the traumatic consequence of the greatest World War in history. As Dr. Santiago G. Ortega, who was later to become its first president, observed the period after the Second World War was an “age of shortage and confusion”. There was lack of almost everything: food, clothing and shelter. The economy was want equaled by the educational chaos. Many educators died during the war years and there were no replacement for them; school buildings and equipment were ruined; books and other materials for instructors were either burned or purposely destroyed. While there was a dearth of teachers, school buildings and educational materials, there was an abundance of students.
It was with this background that a group form themselves into the Rinconada Educators Association, founded on August 18, 1947 the Saint Anthony Academy, a private high school in Iriga , then the municipality of the province of Camarines Sur. Originally a night high school, it was housed in the rented building in the Barrio of San Francisco, with an enrollment of 131 student and a teaching staff of eight. Most of the students were over-aged, their schooling having been delayed by the five year war.
In 1948, Dr. Ortega was elected president of the board of trustees and was appointed director of the school. Under his leadership, the school was given government recognition for the complete secondary day course.
As early as 1949 the school began to offer Associates in Arts. From then on, new collegiate courses were offered. In 1950, two classes in the intermediates level were organized. A year later, the entire elementary department was given government recognition. Today the elementary department in housed in the two storeys Doña Felise Deregla-Ortega Hall.
In 1959, a dissension arose among the member of the board of trustees, which nearly cause the closing of the school for failing to comply with the Bureau requirements. There was a move to sell the school but it did not materialized. Instead, there was reorganization of the Rinconada Educators Association and Dr. Ortega came out as the president. The reorganized group, through his initiative, acquired its present site and the first owned school building. It was erected with a semi-permanent 14-room building.
In 1961, courses leading to the degree of Bachelor of Science in Education, Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education, elementary Teacher Certificate in Home Economics, and Bachelor of Science in Economics opened simultaneously,. The following years, summer classes were started. Then, the night High School was opened specially for working students.
In 1966, the College of Commerce, the school of Midwifery and the Pre - Nursing courses were opened. The following years, the baccalaureate program in Nursing was complete.
The idea of opening the School of Midwifery as an offshoot of Our Lady of Mediatrix Hospital was a satisfactory arrangement between the University President and the Hospital's Medical Director, Dr. Andres Gonzales. The school becomes the answer of the community's needs for the professional maternal and infant care services.
The Graduate School was started in 1966. After a year, Criminology, Engineering, Architecture and Home Economics were offered. Kindergarten was also started.
In 1976-77, to extend its Masteral program. The University offered Doctoral courses leading to the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Education.
From a small high school later becoming a college, and after 27 years of educational operation and service, the institution, which as long aspired to be a university acquired university status on December 18, 1973. The University of Saint Anthony becomes the first university established in Iriga City and also the first in the Philippines under martial rule.
Since change is the immutable law of life no matter how will the old might have performed, so one changes to the new. Only in this manner can life acquired a fresh vitality, the very element essential to its renewal and continuity. This is the rationale of change.
In 1984, determine to built a "New Jerusalem in Bicolandia," Atty. Santiago G. Ortega , Jr., the only son of the founder and the late Doña Deregla-Ortega, became the president of the USANT.
Upon the assumption of the presidency, Atty. Ortega pursued with the relentless vigor of his obsession for quality education and his passion for excellence. He demands excellence of the academic community. Excellence is a strict conformance to the standard that is generally accepted to be above the ordinary. He knows that excellence is achieved through the cooperative effort of each and every member of academic community who is faithful and effective in the performance of the tasks assigned to him. And this can only be done if everyone concerned in the university has developed a firm commitment to the goal of excellence.
President Ortega is zealous and vigilant in the implementation of the philosophies and objectives of the university. The Anthonian education must never revert to the "ivory tower" of learning of the middle ages; neither must it determine to the "skyscraper" of utilitarianism of the modern age. It must be the lovely blend of the beautiful and the useful, the happy combination of the humanities and science and technology. It is an education that develops brains that think, hearts that feel, and brain that works.
Inspired by its ideals, the University of Saint Antony aims to give the student the opportunity to develop their potentials for moral, social, spiritual, cultural and productive living in a democratic society that recognize the intrinsic worth and dignity of an individual.>
The present administration, through the initiative, effort and enterprise of President Ortega, has brought innovations that resulted to educational advancement, in quality and quantity. These improvements are manifested in its new building, modern facilities and equipments, in its progressive, dedicated faculty members committed to the ideals of the service which has inspired the administration in the molding of the youth for effective citizenship in the community and the nation. The 131 student of Saint Anthony Academy of 1947 to the more than 8000 students of the University of Saint Anthony of 1997 is an eloquent testimony of the confidence of the public in the quality and excellence of education and training in the university.
Today the University of Saint Anthony is a sprawling entity of nine departments. It is made up of its main building now known as the Saint Anthony of Padua Hall (SAP Hall) a three storey quadragon 54 meters wide and 96 meters long; the University Forum; the University Chapel; the Dr. Andres Gonzales Science Hall (ACG Science Hall); the Perpetua Socorro Hall (Admin. Building), The Dr. Santiago G. Ortega Hall (SGO Hall), Doña Felisa Hall (DAH), and the newly constructed Gregoria Sanchez Hall (GSH).
Among the smaller buildings, the University has a reviewing stand for military and similar purposes, and automotive /Technology Shop. These buildings provide rooms for the library; Cafeteria; the Cooperative Store; the Medical and Dental Clinic; the Guidance and Counseling rooms; the Personnel Room; the Audio - Visual Rooms; and Comfort Rooms; not to mention the faculty lounges; the stock rooms; the offices of the heads of college department; the administrative offices; the hydraulic rooms; the physics, chemistry, biology, nursing and midwifery laboratories; and the conference room.
But all these seem not enough for the university aspiring for more and better offerings. At the of Dr. Gonzales Hall, were wasteland used to meet the eye , construction project for the purpose of serving marine courses has finally anchored . Additional courses are now offered both in the undergraduate and graduate levels. In the undergraduate there is now the B.S. in Physical Therapy. There are some addition in vocational courses such as associate in Police Science, Basic seaman Course, and Hotel and Restaurant Management.
For the graduate program, additional courses are Master of Arts in Education major in English, History, Mathematics, Guidance and Counseling, Physical Education, Pre-School Education and Special Education for the hearing impaired; Master of Science in Criminology major in Law Enforcement and Correction; and Master in Business Administration; for the doctorate courses, additional major offered are Filipino and Resource Management.
With all this and what the future holds, a vision of a "New Jerusalem" , which will be built in this beautiful region of the country, lies in the University of Saint Anthony. The present catches a vista of a brighter and fairer tomorrow. The future holds a promise of splendor and greatness. To President Ortega, However there is no resting of laurels. It means blazing new trails, scaling greater heights, striving increasingly to reach the unreachable star. For he knows and never forgets the new challenges of our time, challenges that require the vision and the dedication of a lifetime.