Fr. Leahy also described the launch this fall of another major undertaking by BC: "The Church in the 21st Century" initiative, which will will explore the issues arising from the clergy sexual abuse crisis in the Catholic Church and provide a forum for the Catholic community to help assist in the Church's renewal [see separate story].
The past year has seen BC become stronger in key areas such as academic strength, research and external funding, said Fr. Leahy, who also noted that the "Ever to Excel" capital campaign had raised more than $375 million in cash and pledges toward its $400 million goal.
"The overall quality of BC and its reputation have increased," he said, "but so have the pressures not simply to maintain our position but also to 'move up,' a pressure faced by competitive institutions that are investing heavily in their own improvement and advancement."
With the virtual completion of the most recent large-scale planning initiative - the 1996 University Academic Planning Council report, which recommended the addition of approximately $13 million to academic budgets - Fr. Leahy said BC once again needs to assess its strengths and weaknesses and identify the best route to "take us to the next level of institutional quality."
"Once tentative goals have been identified," he continued, "we need to evaluate them according to such criteria as academic potential, need, cost, required personnel and space, and fit with institutional mission."
Fr. Leahy said this fall he will appoint a planning council of faculty, students, staff, and administrators, and drawing upon alumni and outside experts for advice, to offer recommendations.
"My charge to this council," said Fr. Leahy, "[is to] continue the strong tradition that has brought Boston College to its current success; indicate what we need to do to reach the next level; propose a plan that makes us the best possible institution of higher education we can be and that will advance our mission and heritage as a Jesuit, Catholic university."
Fr. Leahy also emphasized the importance of The Church in the 21st Century initiative. "It is obvious that the Catholic Church has been deeply wounded by this scandal. I am confident that Boston College can help, not by substituting itself for the laity, priests, and bishops who must eventually renew the Church, but by being a meeting place for serious discussion and by providing scholarly resources that can promote needed healing and revitalization."
Executive Vice President Patrick Keating and Academic Vice President and Dean of Faculties John Neuhauser also spoke at Wednesday's event.
Keating, beginning his second year at BC, praised the "hard-working, talented" faculty, staff and administrators he met during his first months on campus.
Discussing the outlook for long-term capital, facility and space planning, Keating said at present there is no imminent resolution to the Middle Campus Project, stalled by a legal challenge by the City of Newton to a 2001 Massachusetts Land Court ruling allowing BC to start the project. While still hopeful of a favorable outcome, he said, the University will consider alternative plans that meet some of the classroom, meeting and office space needs laid out in the project.
Reviewing the past year's highlights, Keating noted the appointment of new Director of Residential Life Henry Humphreys, who, upon his arrival in October, will join Vice President for Development James Husson as the University's newest senior administrators [see story].
Keating offered updates on recent campus construction and technology initiatives, praising the administrators and staff in Facilities Management and Information Technology - including Vice President for Information Technology Marian Moore, who arrived at BC during the summer - for their hard work and diligence in bringing the projects to fruition.
Keating described BC's financial condition as "strong" but "becoming more constrained," especially given an economy still recovering from the Sept. 11 disaster and other factors. The University will therefore depend on diversified investing, continued success in fundraising, and careful planning and decision-making.
Neuhauser, in addition to welcoming to BC 22 new full-time faculty, noted appointments of current faculty to several recently endowed chairs: Political Science Department chairwoman Kay Schlozman as Moakley Professor in American Politics; computer scientist James Gips as Egan Professor; long-time English professor Judith Wilt as holder of the Newton College Alumnae Chair in Western Culture; Richard Kearney of Philosophy as holder of the Seelig Chair; and Albert Beaton as Augustus Long Professor in the Lynch School of Education.
Other new endowed chair-holders are Brennan Professor of Education Andrew Hargreaves and Joseph Professor of Theology Shawn Copeland.
The past year saw BC achieve records in external funding and undergraduate applications, Neuhauser said. Total sponsored projects topped $40 million, an increase of nearly 12 percent from the previous fiscal year, and of this, $26 million was specifically accorded to research awards, an 11 percent increase. The newly established Office of Sponsored Programs - which combines the old offices of Contracts and Grants and Research Administration - will further provide new and vigorous support to faculty pursuing funding for research, along with the office of Corporate and Foundation Relations, he said.
More than 21,000 applicants applied for approximately 2,200 openings in this year's freshman class, Neuhauser said. "Based on several measures this is our most accomplished class to date and certainly one of our most diverse." He said the percentage of AHANA students in the freshman class, which includes 145 students of African descent, rose to 24 percent.
He said key initiatives this coming year will include the continuing development of resources to aid faculty's use of technology in teaching and research. He cited the Academic Technology Services organization, established last year, as an integral part of this effort.
[Fr. Leahy's Convocation Address is available here.]
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