Rev. George Drury, S.J., who created Boston College’s Student Affairs division and served as its inaugural vice president from 1966-68, died on Sept. 27 at the Campion Residence and Renewal Center in Weston. He was 94.
Fr. Drury fulfilled numerous roles in his first decade at the University, after arriving in 1954: instructor in philosophy; advisor to pre-medical students and professor of biology; assistant in the College of Arts and Sciences Office of Special Programs; dormitory prefect; and executive assistant to University President Michael Walsh, S.J.
During that period, Boston College became an increasingly residential institution that, coupled with a growing student population, presented considerable administrative challenges.
In 1965, Fr. Walsh appointed Fr. Drury as the first director of student personnel services to coordinate operations and services in areas such as admissions, extracurricular activities, housing, health, and international student programs. Fr. Drury’s first major undertaking was to consolidate the student bulletins for the four undergraduate schools into one University handbook, a project he saw as an opportunity for a major self-study of the non-academic aspects of BC student life.
But he also viewed the handbook as a means to promote BC as a university rather than a collection of schools, each with its own rules and regulations. At a September 1966 meeting of the Campus Council, The Heights reported, Fr. Drury described the handbook as a “’how-to-do-it-yourself’ manual for life in the University community.”
Fr. Drury added, “The concept behind the book, though, is that of the student as a member of the University and not, strictly speaking, as a member of just an individual school.”
Later that month, Fr. Drury was appointed as the first vice president for student affairs. The Office of Student Affairs had a broader range of oversight than Student Personnel Services, one that also included financial aid, counseling, placement, religious activities, student activities and student government – a model befitting a modern university with a progressively national profile.
Fr. Drury’s tenure as student affairs vice president – during which a total reorganization of the student government took place – not only reflected the changing character of BC but also the tenor of the times, as the era’s often polarizing political and social issues emerged at BC. Among other matters, Fr. Drury weighed in on disputes concerning censorship of the Stylus literary magazine and limits on guest speaker policies for faculty and student groups.
Although larger-scale flashpoints – including the 1970 “student strike” – came later, Fr. Drury would recall the Student Affairs organization’s first years at BC as restive.
"It started in a difficult context,” he said in a 2002 interview with the Boston College Chronicle. “There was the Vietnam War, of course, which was having an effect on much of the country. Within BC, the idea of a vice president for student affairs was so new; everyone was used to dealing with the president on such matters.
"But there was a lot that needed attending to, and having a separate administrative office to concentrate on student affairs was an important step for the University. It's been an example of how one brings together, in such a wonderful way, the great resources we have here at BC – our people."
From 1968-69, Fr. Drury served in another key senior leadership post as vice president of community affairs, representing the University’s interests in dealings with local residents and municipal governments.
He later taught theology for several years at Pope John XXIII (now Pope St. John XXIII) Seminary before being named superior of Campion Center. He subsequently became involved in retreat ministry and spiritual direction in various New England apostolates before returning to Campion and working in ministry of the Spiritual Exercises.
In a Sept. 27 Facebook post, author and America editor-at-large James Martin, S.J., M.Div. ’98, recalled his encounter with Fr. Drury 22 years ago while working with the Jesuit Refugee Service in Kenya – a turbulent time during which he had considered leaving the Society of Jesus. Under Fr. Drury’s guidance, Fr. Martin wrote, he was able to clarify his sense of vocation, albeit not without difficulty. Disappointed upon learning that his provincial felt he needed another year of discernment, he recalled, Fr. Drury gave him advice that Fr. Martin would himself later pass on to young Jesuits.
"I remember his question verbatim: ‘What is your formation, Jim? Is it a series of hoops to jump through to get to ordination? Or is God really and truly forming you?’
“Thanks to that question, and God's grace, I stayed. And the next year was missioned to America magazine. So were it not for that question, and for George, I would not be doing what I'm doing today.”
A native of Somerville, Fr. Drury entered the Society of Jesus in 1939 at the Novitiate of St. Stanislaus in Lenox, Mass., and was ordained to the priesthood in 1952 in the Chapel of the Holy Spirit at Weston College in Weston; he pronounced final vows in 1977 at the Bellarmine Hall Chapel in Cohasset.
A Mass of Christian Burial was held on Sept. 30 at the Chapel of the Holy Spirit at Campion Center. Fr. Drury was predeceased by his two sisters, Mary and Ann. Expressions of condolence may be sent to his cousin:
Ms. Lorraine Burke
91 Newton Street
Stratford, CT 06615
—Sean Smith | News & Public Affairs