St. Joseph’s college, Trincomalee, was founded on the 27th of July 1867 by Rev. Fr. LOUIS MARY KEATING O.M.I., an Irishman who came to Ceylon to perform missionary work. English was the official language and Fr. Keating recognized the need for an English medium school in this District as all the small schools functioning at that time were vernacular schools.

Realizing the opportunities available for English educated youth both in Government service and in the British army, navy and air force bases, Fr. Keating Founded this school and served as its Principal till 1891,making many additions and improvements in his time.

The school started with 18 students in a single room in the premises of St.Mary’s Cathedral, Trincomalee. At the end of the tenure of Fr. Manict, O.M.I the diocese was handed over to The Jesuit missionaries of the society of Jesus for the purpose of its administration. Thus, Rev. Fr. CHARLES BONNEL S.J., a French Jesuit missionary, took over as the principal and rendered yeoman service from 1902 to 1912.

It was Fr. Bonnel who introduced the motto of the college, ‘MELIORA SEMPER’, translated into English as ‘EVER BETTER’ Rev. Fr. CHARLES RICHARD S.J., another Frenchman, succeeded Fr. Bonnel and continued the good work of his predecessors, providing additional physical and human resource facilities to the ever increasing number on students.

One such new teacher who came to St. Joseph’s college was Rev. Fr. GREGORY, O.M.I. and he served in the tutorial staff till 1928. It was Fr. Gregory who inaugurated the first ever SCOUT TROOP in Trincomalee, the FIRST TRINCO SCOUT TROOP still functioning in the college.

In 1929 Mr. K.S. MANIKKAM joined the staff of the college and rendered dedicated service for 41 years, until he retired from service in 1970. He is mentioned here in recognition of his contribution to the college. R.K.M.Hindu College had developed by this time and there was a move to get the Hindu students of St.Joseph’s to join Hindu college, which too provided education in the English medium. It was Mr. manikkam who convinced the Hindu parents of the need for discipline in addition to knowledge and thus prevented an exodus from St. Joseph’s college.

On 1st April 1931, the administration of the college was transferred from the diocese of Trincomalee - Batticoloa to the Society of Jesus of the Province of Louisiana in the United States of America.

In 1932, Rev. Fr. SANTIAGO MARIAN SOOSAIMUTHU S.J., a Ceylonese Jesuit took over the administration of the college as a stopgap measure with this transfer of administration. He served for a few months as Acting principal and was later relieved by Rev. Fr. A.E.A. CROWTHER, S.J., another Ceylonese Jesuit from Batticoloa. He served as principal for five years from 1932 to 1937.

Rev. Fr. JULIEN THEISEN S.J., a French Jesuit was appointed as the principal of the college in 1938 to succeed Fr. Crowther, and he served as principal till his untimely and tragic demise in 1947.

25th of October 1947 was a day of sorrow not only for the Josephians past and present, but also for the entire population of Trincomalee. The bells of St.Mary’s cathedral chimed the funeral toll, to announce the tragic death of Fr. Theisen, beloved of the people, though a very strict disciplinarian. The North East monsoon had set in and the sea was a little rough. Fr. Theisen had gone for a dip in the Sandy Cove where he was trapped by the undercurrent and died.

Rev. Fr. CLAUDE R.DALY. S.J.,an American Jesuit succeeded Fr. Theisen and he guided the destiny of the college from 1947 to 1954. Fr.Daly is a scholarly priest having obtained the Master of Arts and Master of Science degrees and a double doctorate, Doctor of philosophy and doctor of Divinity. Though a scholar, he also gave equal opportunity for the student progress in sports and the fine arts.

Rev. Fr. Peter C.Beach. S.J., another American Jesuit took over the reins of the college administration in January 1954 and served till 14th May 1955. Another tragic death clouded the hearts and minds of Josephians in particular and the people of Trincomalee in general. Fr. Beach was rushed to Colombo as he suffered from a blood clot, but the efforts of the physicians could not prevent his Lord’s call for his reward.

Rev. Fr. JOHN J. HEANEY S.J., an American who was serving as English teacher and the student counselor at the time, was appointed Acting Principal and served from 14th may, 1955 till the end of that year. It is pertinent to mention here that Fr. Heaney visited the college twice within the last five years, traveling all the way from America, to renew his connections with college.

Another American Jesuit, Rev. Fr. FREDERICK B.PONDER. S.J. was appointed as permanent principal to succeed Fr. Beach after his untimely death. He took over the administration of the college on 16thJanuary 1956 and served till the end of 1956.

The first endeavor of Fr. Ponder was to find a suitable place to erect new building for the college as the single building with about ten classrooms was insufficient for the growing student population and the highly congested environment was not conducive to good education. Fr. Ponder was the chaplain of the Catholic Church inside the dockyard, the British Naval Base and it was easy for him to negotiate the purchase of a plot of land, over an acre in dimension for this purpose. The college shifted to its present premises in 1957. The construction of the auditorium and other smaller structures were entirely the handiwork of Rev. Fr. JOHN LANGE S.J., an American and a qualified civil engineer.

It was during this period that Rev. Fr. Eugene J. Herbert, S.J., another American priest and beloved of the people of Trincomalee, while on furlough in America, collected funds for a building named the Dallas building and a one unit lab. For the first time this college started on science education with Fr. Herbert himself being the teacher in charge.

Rev. Fr. VINCENT de PAUL GNANAPRAGASAM S.J., succeeded Fr. PONDER as principal of the college. His appointment was a new landmark in the history of the college. This was a source of pride and joy to the students of the college and the people of Trincomalee as he was the firsts on of the soil and first old Josephian to be elevated to this high office. A strict disciplinarian and sports lover, he stamped his class in both fields. However, his services were needed at St.Michael’s college, Batticoloa, our brother school, and he was transferred to serve as principal there, at the end of 1968. Rev. Fr. EUGENE J. HERBERT S.J., an American priest serving them as the prefect of games and the Student Counsellor, took over as the new principal of the college. As he was well loved by the people of Trincomalee and a beloved friend of the students, his tenure of service marked new successes. Fr. Herbert served till the end of 1970.

Rev. Fr. VINCENT de PAUL GNANAPRAGASAM S.J., could not be kept away from his beloved ALMA MATER for long. His request to be reverted back to St. Joseph’s met with the favour of his Jesuit superiors and once again St. Joseph’s experienced the joy and pride of welcoming its own product to take over the administration. His second stint at the college commenced in January 1971 and lasted a full decade, concluding on the 10th of July 1981 when he retired from service. He proceeded to South Korea to take up appointment as lecturer in English in a South Korean university and served there till his Lord and master called him to his eternal Reward.

The period from 1965 to 1980 should be remembered as a period of joys and sorrows in the history of this college. The sports loving duo of fathers Gnanapragasam and Herbert, working in partnership, were the cause of several sporting accomplishments for the college. Fr. Herbert loved basketball and Fr. Vincent was a football lover, between them as coaches of the college basketball and football teams, the college made its mark in National basketball and football championships. Many are the football trophies such as All Island Schools; Singer and Mihira football championships annexed by the college while Fr. Herbert led his basketball teams to national championships over the years. St. Joseph’s became a force to be reckoned with in these games.

While the foregoing was a cause for joy and pride, there were moments of sorrow too, during this period. At the school take over by the Government in 1960, the Jesuit Administrators of the college had a very painful decision to make. Was the college to go private and lose the assistance given by the Government till then or allow it to be taken over. After lengthy discussions with teachers, parents, old boys, and well wishers who promised to help financially to maintain the college, St. Joseph’s opted to become a private, NON FEE LEYYING school. The teachers magnanimously offered to stand by the college at risk of losing their pensions. This was a manifestation of the true Josephian grit and their affinity to the college.

After a long struggle for ten years, the college had to be handed over to the government. The financial assistance from the alumni of the college was enough during the tirst three years but during the following years it started to dry up. Payment of salaries itself became a problem. The resources of the college diminished. With the interest of the students at heart, the Jesuit administration took the painful decision to hand over the college.

On the retirement of Fr. GNANAPRAGASAM, Mr. ANTHONY SAMINATHAN was appointed principal of the college. He served in this capacity till his retirement in 1985. Mr. D.S.A.WANASINGHE succeeded Mr. Anthony Saminathan as principal of the college on 18th March 1985 and served with success till the 3rd of June 1989. Mr. J. S. GUY de FONT GALLAN, who was a former teacher of the college, was appointed the next principal of the college in 1989. He encouraged the study of English and to achieve this purpose, induced the students to take up English literature as a subject. A national football player and a good athlete, he personally took up football coaching and was the livewire behind sports activities. The football teams coached by him and the vice principal at the time, Rev. Bro. A. Soosaithasan, SSJ earned glory to the college by annexing many national age group championships. He retired in August 1997 after eight years of fruitful service.

Rev. Bro. ANTHONYPILLAI SOOSAITHASAN, SSJ, who was serving as the vice principal of the college was promoted as principal in 1997. A man of the cassock dedicated to the service of God through the service of his fellow men and bound by an oath of celibacy, he had ample time to devote to the service of the college. Take over of the college administration by a clergyman after a period of twelve years brought a new dimension to the college. Discipline was strengthened. A football addict himself, Bro. Soosaithasan coached the college football teams to several national championships. He was administrator of the St.Joseph’s Sports School affiliated to the college which was established in may, 1997 through the efforts of the pervious principal, Mr.Guy de Font Gallan. The sports school flourished under Bro. Soosaithasan's administration. He left the college in 2002 due to health reasons.

Mr. RAYMONDSOTHY JEROME, another old Josephian who was the vice principal of the college under Bro. Soosaithasan serv in a as the acting principal during the period of Bro. Soosaithasan’s illness, continued as the acting principal till the 30th of September 2003. Rev. Fr. J.S. JEEVANADAS FERNANDO, O.M.I. took over as the principal of the college with effect from 30th September 2003 and is continuing to serve the college well. The college, founded by an Oblate clergyman and later handed over to the Society of Jesus, has come a full circle, its administration entrusted to an Oblate priest, Fr. Jeevanathas after a century. Rev. Fr. Soosaiappu Antony Poncian OMI took in charge of the college on 1st of June 2012. He is leading the college with great enthusiasm. The staff and the students with the new principal, areworking together to elevate the college to its past glory.