The Ateneo de Manila is proud of a tradition of excellence in academics and service that it has nurtured through the almost 150 years it has existed. It is one of the oldest Jesuit administered institutions of higher learning in Asia. The Ateneo traces its roots to 1859, when the City of Manila entrusted to the Jesuit Fathers the administration of the Escuela Municipal de Manila, located in Intramuros, the old walled city.
The Jesuits soon expanded the Escuela Municipal's primary school curriculum to include a five-year program leading to a Bachelor of Arts degree. In keeping with its new academic status, the school was renamed the Ateneo Municipal de Manila. Among the first graduates of the Bachelor of Arts program was the ' national hero, Dr. Jose Protacio Rizal (A.B. 1877).
In 1901, the city withdrew its subsidy to the school, and the Ateneo officially became a private institution. It changed its name to Ateneo de Manila, as it is currently known.
The spirit of excellence embodied by the Ateneo's inspiring namesake, the Athenaeum in ancient Rome, is reflected in its growth into an active, fully accredited, and much esteemed University with a grade school, high school, and undergraduate and graduate programs in the arts, sciences, law, management, medicine, education, and government.