Devlin gift honors Fr. Woods

College of Advancing Studies to be named for long-serving dean

By Sean Smith
Chronicle Editor

A $5 million gift from an appreciative Boston College family will name the College of Advancing Studies after the man who for more than three decades has been its dean and mainstay, Rev. James A. Woods, SJ.

Rev. James A. Woods, SJ
The Woods College of Advancing Studies will be formally dedicated at a 4 p.m. ceremony today in Robsham Theater. University President William P. Leahy, SJ, and Clorox Company Chairman and CEO Craig Sullivan will offer remarks.

Besides honoring Fr. Woods, today's dedication will celebrate the gift of Katharine B. and Robert M. Devlin, which symbolizes their high regard for Boston College and the unparalleled dedication of Fr. Woods, who has been a mentor for two generations of Devlins.

"It is all of the Devlins' honor and privilege to recognize Fr. Woods for the commitment, dedication and outstanding leadership he has provided over the years to BC and society in general. It is individuals such as Fr. Woods who make our world a better place," said Bob Devlin, chairman of Curragh Capital Partners and former chairman, president and CEO of American General Corp., who first met Fr. Woods in the 1950s while a student at the Cranwell School in Lenox, Mass., where Fr. Woods taught and served as dormitory prefect.

Katharine and Robert Devlin with their sons Matt (standing at far left) and Michael. Seated in front are Matt's wife Erin and sons Ian (left) and Jack.
Years later, the Devlins' oldest son, Michael, enrolled in the College of Arts and Sciences and received a communications degree in the BC Evening College - as the College of Advancing Studies was formerly known - which was under the direction of Fr. Woods. Michael graduated in 1988 and now heads a communications company.

The Devlins' second son, Matt, enrolled in the Evening Division and graduated with a communications degree from the College of Arts and Sciences in 1990. He is a TV commentator for the National Basketball Association's Memphis Grizzlies.

"Kate and Bob, reflecting their own unique perspectives and talents, possess an unwavering loyalty to Boston College, to secure the future for students who combine studies with competing responsibilities," said Fr. Woods, who joined BC in 1958 and became dean of the Evening College in 1968. He is the longest-serving dean in BC history.

"This dedication speaks to a future, now unfolding, which will seamlessly blend the Jesuit ideals of academic excellence, faith, commitment and service with the selfless labors of the early Boston College pioneers who built the foundation on which others revitalized their dreams.

"On behalf of all those I represent whose resolute faithfulness ensure the availability of Boston College's leadership opportunities for the local community, I thank the Devlins."

A native of Brooklyn, NY, Bob Devlin joined American General in 1977 and served in a broad range of senior management positions in operating subsidiaries and the parent company. He was elected vice-chairman and director in 1993, then named president and CEO in 1995 and chairman in 1997. During Devlin's tenure as CEO, American General, the third largest insurance company in the United States, saw its assets grow from $43 billion to more than $125 billion and its market capitalization swell from $6.5 billion to $24 billion. The company was acquired by the American International Group Inc. in August of last year, and Devlin left upon consummation of the merger.

Kate and Bob Devlin have praised Boston College as a Catholic university that provides educational opportunities which make success possible, by creating a dynamic learning community that cares about the individual learner, while encouraging a self-confidence built on competence, an understanding of self and a desire to serve others.

"The Woods College of Advancing Studies' vision is future-focused, dedicated to scholarship and excellence," said the Devlins in announcing their gift. "It is a testament to Boston College's commitment of resources, mind and heart, to serving those in local and distant communities."

As dean, Fr. Woods has overseen comprehensive changes in the continuing-education curriculum at Boston College, and designed and introduced a graduate degree program for part-time students. At his prompting, the name of the Evening College was changed in 1996 to the College of Advancing Studies to reflect the school's evolving mission.

The College of Advancing Studies historically has served non-traditional students, among them adults working full time, homemakers, and others wishing to broaden their academic knowledge or prepare for professional advancement.

Fr. Woods' career as a BC administrator began in 1958 when he was named registrar of the School of Liberal Studies, the School of Philosophy and the School of Theology. He served as registrar of the University from 1972 to 1975. Since 1988 he has overseen a scholarship fund he established at the night school to aid aspiring local students. He has taught as an instructor in the graduate program at Boston College's Lynch School of Education since 1978.

After entering the Society of Jesus in 1948, Fr. Woods studied at Boston College at the undergraduate and graduate levels, receiving his bachelor of arts degree in 1954, a master of arts degree in teaching in 1961 and a bachelor of sacred theology degree in 1962. Fr. Woods received his doctorate in education from Boston University in 1977. He was ordained a Catholic priest in 1961.


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