Fr. Leahy: New Major Planning Effort to Start Soon

President offers praise for 'Church in the 21st Century' project

By Stephen Gawlik
Staff Writer

Boston College will soon launch a new strategic planning initiative that will identify institutional strengths and weaknesses and set long-term goals and priorities, University President William P. Leahy, SJ, said at the annual Faculty Day event on May 1.

He said the assessment project should be completed by the spring of 2005 and submitted to the Board of Trustees for approval during the summer of that year.

Speaking before a packed audience in the Lower Campus Dining Hall Heights Room, Fr. Leahy also gave an update on the nearly completed "Ever to Excel" capital campaign and offered praise for the Church in the 21st Century project, among other topics. The 2002-03 Distinguished Teaching and Research Awards also were presented at the event. [See related story].

Fr. Leahy said details of the planning and assessment initiative, which he first proposed at last fall's University Convocation, will be firmed up in the coming months. The University has hired two external consultants "to help us shape those discussions," he said.

Fr. Leahy also announced that he would appoint a steering committee of faculty, students, staff, and administrators, and drawing upon alumni and outside experts for advice, to offer recommendations. The committee will be chaired by Executive Vice President Patrick Keating and Academic Vice President and Dean of Faculties John Neuhauser.

Echoing comments he made last fall, Fr. Leahy said that in the wake of the most recent large-scale planning initiative now over - the 1996 University Academic Planning Council report, that recommended adding approximately $13 million to academic budgets - BC needed to examine itself again.

"We have to ask, 'What have we achieved? What are our goals? And what are the obstacles?'" said Fr. Leahy, who is concluding his seventh academic year at the helm of Boston College.

Fr. Leahy said topics of discussion would likely include the University's need to increase its endowment and to offer housing for graduate students and junior faculty members.

An important component in the University's future plans, Fr. Leahy said, is the success of the University's "Ever to Excel" campaign. The most comprehensive fundraising effort in BC history is expected to top its $400 million goal by about $30 million when it officially ends on May 31, he said, and will strengthen resources for teaching, research and student formation.

Fr. Leahy cited last week's announced $15 million donation from the Yawkey Foundation [see related story] as an example of the support BC has been fortunate to receive from alumni and friends.

He said the future of Boston College is directly tied to its ability to raise money, as the University can no longer rely on tuition increases to fund operations.

"Fundraising is a major priority for all we would like to do," he said.

Fr. Leahy also praised the success of the University's Church in the 21st Century project, aimed at exploring the issues underlying the clerical sexual abuse crisis in the Catholic Church. Since launching the program in September, the University has welcomed some 13,000 people to campus for 75 events and the project's web site, has recorded some 15,000 visitors.

He expressed gratitude for the "hundreds on this campus" who have offered support to the initiative and praised the schools, centers and departments for their roles.

"In my view, it has been phenomenal," said Fr. Leahy, who added that the initiative had had an "impressive" national impact.

Fr. Leahy said he expects Church in the 21st Century to shift its focus to discussions on bringing about renewal in the Catholic Church. Although the program was initially envisioned as a two-year effort, Fr. Leahy said he believes it will continue for as long as it is needed.

"What can we do from our vantage point?" he asked. "We need to find ways to help the Church and the wider community."


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