Since 1935 there had been something of an honors program at Boston College, in the form of a special degree program--A.B. Honors--whose purpose was to entice talented students to study Greek and Latin, since Greek would no longer be required for the A.B. degree after 1938 (Latin was dropped in 1958). That is where our history begins.

1956
William Van Etten Casey, S.J. was appointed Dean of the College of Arts & Sciences. In August he offered Carney Gavin, who had just graduated from Boston Latin School, a full Presidential Scholarship and sophomore standing, remarking that he wanted him to be a "guinea pig" for the honors program he hoped to institute.

1957
In the spring and summer of 1957 Dean Casey and others recruited an additional number of high-school seniors for the program the dean envisioned. Special sections of freshman courses were offered for these students. Nationally the October launching of Sputnik intensified discussion of reform in science teaching and of programs for talented students generally.

1958
In January Dean Casey announced the establishment of a new office to supervise a number of programs intended to challenge academically talented students. The new programs included: early admission for third-year high school students, advanced placement and sophomore Standing, junior year abroad, Scholars of the College, and a new Honors Program featuring special sections of required courses for students in all four years.

The dean named P. Albert Duhamel (English Department) as director of the Office of Special Programs. He and Walter Langlois (Romance Languages, a former Scholar of the College at Yale), and Joseph Sheerin (Classics) moved into a vacant office on the first floor of Gasson and they began selecting students for the new Honors Program.

In March a proposal was submitted to the Carnegie Foundation for a grant to fund the Honors Program. John Honey, executive associate director of the foundation, visited the campus. In June the foundation awarded a grant of $84,700 to support experimental courses, library acquisitions, summer programs for high-school administrators interested in developing Avanced Placement programs and for maintaining liason with these schools. James McIntyre was added to the Admissions Office to recruit talented students and Francis Mackin, S.J., assistant to the president, became involved in searching for qualified students from Jesuit high schools across the country.

In April Dean Casey appointed Carney Gavin and Daniel Geagan '59 as the first Scholars of the College. With the consultation of their faculty advisors, they were free to plan their own program of studies for their entire senior year and to attend any classes they wished. They were required only to submit an honors thesis, and they were expected to graduate Summa Cum Laude, which they did.

In September the Honors Program/Office of Special Programs moved to new quarters at the east end of the old college library, which had been partitioned into office space for various administrative activities. Special sections of English (taught by Richard Hughes), philosophy (Donald McCarthy), and history (Dean Burnham) were initiated for selected students.

1959
Further Scholars of the College were named (Joseph Tribble and Thomas Birmingham '60).

Six women were admitted, technically to the School of Education but de facto to the Honors Program of the College of Arts and Sciences, from which they received their A.B. degrees in 1963. The move proved controversial in administrative circles, however, and no further women were admitted into A&S until the College became fully coeducational in 1969.

Zeno Vendler, S.J. was now teaching philosophy to freshmen, Paul Michaud oriental history to sophomores, Lawrence Jones was teaching Russian, and Joseph D. Gauthier, S.J. was now supervising the junior-year abroad program and advising on graduate fellowships.

1961
The first graduates of the Honors Program (other than Scholars of the College) were listed in the Commencement Program. Four years of the program were now operative.

1962
Shaw House, a former private home on the edge of the upper campus, became a residence for Honors Program students. Its relationship with the Honors Program lapsed by the summer of 1971, but was restored in 1975 and has continued since then.

1964
Martin Kilmer '64 was the first student from the Honors Program to win a Marshall Scholarship for graduate study.

In June Albert M. Folkard (English) was named second director of the Program. In September the freshman year of the "pilot program" Honors course that came to be called Modern Man was initiated (taught by Prof. Folkard), as a result of the positive endorsement of a report prepared by a committee of B.C. faculty for a Danforth Foundation conference on the liberal arts. All subsequent Honors Program students have since been required to take two years of this course or its successor The Western Cultural Tradition.

As part of a university-wide self-study, a curriculum committee chaired by Edward Hirsh (English) recommended that honors students write a "graduation" or "liberal arts essay" and be able to do joint BA/MA degrees. The recommendation of the essay became the basis for the subsequent senior-thesis requirement. The first graduate of the BA/MA program was Wendell Bowerman in 1966.

1965
In May two specially constituted committees, chaired by John Finley and Richard Niebuhr of Harvard University, conducted oral examinations of the first group of Modern Man students.

In September a second, team-taught section of the first-year Modern Man course was put in place, led by Andrew Von Hendy (English), to see whether the course worked best when taught by a group of faculty or a single instructor. At the end of the year the single-instructor model was chosen and has been the norm since.

The sophomore year of the Modern Man course was inaugurated as a result of planning by an interdepartmental committee. A feature of the course in its first years was appearances by two guest lecturers from the Boston academic community each week, in addition to regular class meetings.

1966
The first Junior Honors Seminars were taught by Richard Hughes and John Mahoney (English).

1967
The Honors Program offices moved to the first floor of Lyons Hall, as a result of expansion of the Financial Offices in Gasson. The offices moved back to Gasson basement in the summer of 1972.

The first Honors Program students went to Manchester College, Oxford, for their junior year. The relationship with Manchester has continued to the present.

1970
The year of the strike.

1974
John Michalczyk (Fine Arts) was appointed Assistant Director (subsequently Associate Director) of the Program. Under his direction Shaw House members have organized lectures, films, and concerts for students in the Program.

Dean Thomas P. O'Malley, S.J. opened the Scholar of the College program to students other than Honors Program members.

1977
In September the renovation of Gasson Hall, underway for more than a year, was finished. The treasurer's and controller's offices moved to More Hall. Gasson 100 was returned to its original use as a lecture hall. The old college library, now restored to something like its original glory, became the Honors Library, for student study, seminars, lectures and concerts. In 1988 it was named the Weston M. Jenks, Jr. Honors Library, in honor of Sandy Jenks, longtime director of counseling services, who died that year. The Honors Program offices moved from Lyons Hall into Gasson 111 on the southeast corner of the building.

1981
David Gill, S.J. (Classics) became the third director of the Honors Program.

The name of the Modern Man course was changed to The Western Cultural Tradition.

Mark O'Connor (History), an instructor since 1977 in the Modern Man course, was named Assistant Director of the Program.

1984
Students from the School of Management began to take the Western Cultural Tradition course as part of the honors program requirements in that school. Since 1988 all CSOM honors program students have taken both years of the course.

1987
In the spring, after further renovations of the Gasson Hall offices, the associate deans' quarters expanded into the space on the southeast corner of the building and the Honors Program office moved to Gasson 102 on the northwest corner. The former office of the university librarian there was outfitted as a seminar room for the use of Honors Program classes. Prof. Folkard subsequently donated more than 1500 books from his private library for this room, as the nucleus of a library for Honors Program faculty use.

In July J. A. Appleyard, S.J. became fourth director of the Program.

Mary Joe Hughes (History), an instructor since 1979 in the Modern Man and Western Cultural Tradition courses, was named an Assistant Director of the Program.

1988
First Serve, an orientation program for freshmen in the A&S and CSOM Honors Programs, came into existence. 20 students (in 1989 35 students) and several faculty members and deans spent three days at the end of August doing community service work in Boston neighborhoods and three evenings exploring Plato, Aristotle and contemporary writers on issues of justice and responsibility.

1990
On November 10th the anniversary of the Honors Program was celebratedwith an academic convocation, a memorial Mass for deceased graduates, and dinner.

Exactly which anniversary this was turned out to be the subject of somedebate, however. The announcements and invitations assumed that what wasbeing celebrated was the completion of 30 years of a program that came into existence in 1959. Letters from graduates argued otherwise. Diligent research ensued, but it proved by no means simple to reconcile all the claims. If one considers the crucial events to be the naming of the first director, the opening of a special office, the establishment of a four-year program and designation of the first Scholars of the College, then the Honors Program began in 1958 and this was the 32nd anniversary of the Program. If one takes as decisive the recruiting of the first sizable group of students and the initiation of honors sections of freshman courses, then the crucial date is 1957 and this was the 33rd anniversary. If one accords primatial significance to the selection of the original guinea pig and the gleam in Dean Casey's eye, then the Honors Program came into existence in 1956 and this was the 34th anniversary. Of course, if one considers the present Program to be in some sense continuous with the old A.B. Honors degree program begun in 1935, then this was the 55th anniversary!

One thing at least seems clear: There was no justification whatsoever for calling this the 30th Anniversary of the Honors Program.

1994
A pilot version of a new junior-year course, "The 20th Century and the Tradition," was taught for the first time. This course continues the material of the Western Cultural Tradition course into the 20th century, but also deals with the ways in which the tradition has been criticized and rethought in contemporary culture.

1995
The decision was made to eliminate gradually the existing third-year seminars and in place of them to require all students who enter as freshmen in 1995 and subsequently to take both semesters of "The 20th Century and the Tradition" course in their junior year.

Students who enter as freshmen in 1995 will also be allowed to do either a senior thesis or one of several new senior seminars, on an experimental basis.

In December the final class of a seminar on T. S. Eliot brought to an end 50 years of teaching at B.C. by Prof. Albert M. Folkard, second director of the Honors Program. After the class there was a surprise reception for Prof. Folkard by colleagues and students. The guests included Emma Folkard, his wife of more than 50 years.

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