Father Leahy Marks Five Years at Helm

Father Leahy Marks Five Years at Helm

Convocation address cites financial resources as vital to success

By Sean Smith
Chronicle Editor

In his annual Faculty Convocation address Wednesday, University President William P. Leahy, SJ, said Boston College must devote equal attention to financial resources, while continuing to pursue excellence in academics and research and deepen the commitment to its Jesuit and Catholic mission.

Accordingly, Fr. Leahy said, the University will increase the size and scope of its fundraising operations and personnel. As part of this expansion, Vice President for University Relations Mary Lou DeLong will become senior vice president, and the University will hire a vice president for development.

"For Boston College to realize its ambitious goals, we must increase our financial resources," Fr. Leahy told the audience in Robsham Theater, "and I think the best option for doing that is through an expanded fundraising effort."

Wednesday's event served as a debut for new Executive Vice President Patrick J. Keating, who in his remarks offered praise for his predecessor, Frank B. Campanella. Academic Vice President and Dean of Faculties John J. Neuhauser also spoke, delivering what he said has become his "state of the union address" in which he announced the formation of a new administrative organization to assist in faculty use of technology [see related story].

This year's convocation marked the beginning of Fr. Leahy's sixth year as president, an occasion he noted at the beginning of his address.

"I have met many impressive people since July, 1996," said Fr. Leahy. "I realize more than I did five years ago how much good is being accomplished at Boston College and what a distinctive, caring culture we have."

Fr. Leahy reviewed BC's progress in several areas since 1996. The endowment grew from $590 million to $1.1 billion; student applications rose from 16,501 to 19,059 and applicants' average SAT scores from 1,248 to 1,300; the percentage of AHANA students increased from 18 to 22; total gifts received by the University went more than doubled from $24.6 million to $50 million, as did research grants, from $18 million to $36.5 million.

Noting the transition in leadership during the last five years, Fr. Leahy praised the individuals who were "at the heart of Boston College's success.

"Those who have taken their places, talented people clearly and full of good will, face the significant challenge of continuing and building on the legacy of their predecessors who did so much to help make Boston College the distinctive place it is today."

Fr. Leahy discussed the challenges at length. He called for BC to "sharpen and refine" its academic planning and to follow a similar path as in its successful financial planning: "set measurable academic targets, make choices between alternative goods, define more explicitly the balance between teaching and research and between undergraduate and graduate-professional education."

This planning should strive for involving more full-time faculty in undergraduate instruction and non-classroom activities, he said, and a better means of determining BC's effectiveness in meeting goals for fostering intellectual, personal and religious growth. He also emphasized the need for "targeted, well-funded" goals in research, and professional and graduate education.

Discussing the importance of affirming BC's Jesuit and Catholic character, Fr. Leahy referred to the 1996 University Academic Planning Council report, which offered several means for linking the intellectual and religious dimensions in education. These include teaching students to be critically reflective and being attentive to religious questions that arise in their disciplines, he said, as well as emphasizing issues of social justice and ethics and encouraging reflection and research on religious faith and cultural issues.

Fr. Leahy said BC's growth in financial resources has been impressive, but funding goals for academics, research and student formation requires building on, and increasing, these efforts.

"The history of Boston College shows that there have always been issues and struggles," he concluded. "And we have worked through them. I am more confident than ever that we will live up to our motto, 'Ever to Excel' and keep making a unique contribution to American intellectual and religious culture."

Keating, who began his duties as EVP last month, followed Fr. Leahy by offering his observations thus far of BC. He praised the University's "rich, deep tradition" and high quality in "education, service and research."

He noted some recent trends in higher education, including the advent of for-profit educational companies and on-line universities, as well as a growing demand for life-long learning. These, along with fierce competition for faculty, staff and research funds, make the landscape a challenging one.

"But there is a strong base here," said Keating, "and I am confident in our ability to live up to our legacy of sound planning. I look forward to working with all of you."

Neuhauser warmly greeted Keating and welcomed the 37 new faculty members - including 17 women and 11 AHANA - joining the University this year. He reported positive signs in undergraduate, graduate and professional school enrollments, as well as increases in sponsored research and research expenditures over the past year.

He praised research and other activities that have served to highlight BC's Jesuit-Catholic nature, including the "Belief and Non-Belief" forum series, this past summer's "Healing the Wounds of Murder" conference and the Intersections project .

Academic support will be an area of particular focus, Neuhauser said. He said he plans to reform the University Council on Teaching, which will aid in exploring the role of advisement as well as formulation of strategies for distance learning and other new elements of academia.

Neuhauser echoed Fr. Leahy's remarks on the need to make "difficult choices" to accentuate BC's strengths. But he held up the example of Erik Weihenmayer '91, who successfully scaled Mt. Everest despite his blindness.
"Boston College has its limitations," he said, "but it will get to the top of the mountain."


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