Rev. William B. Neenan, SJ
Chair Named for Fr. Neenan
Vanderslices endow chair; inaugural holder is economist Anderson
By Reid Oslin
An endowed academic chair in economics will honor the extraordinary career of one of Boston College's popular and most influential administrators, Rev. William B. Neenan, SJ.
The William B. Neenan, SJ, Millennium Chair in Economics has been established by Margaret A. and Thomas A. Vanderslice '53, Hon. '03. The chair will commemorate the long-serving Jesuit who, in the words of Tom Vanderslice, "is the soul of the University."
The inaugural holder of the Neenan Chair will be Prof. James Anderson (Economics). The chair will be formally presented in a celebratory event on Oct. 6.
Fr. Neenan, an economist who has been a member of the Boston College academic community since 1979, was the University's first Gasson Professor. He later served as Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences (1980-1987) and Academic Vice President and Dean of Faculties (1987-1998). He is currently vice president and assistant to University President William P. Leahy, SJ, a position where he has played an active role in University capital campaigns.
During Fr. Neenan's term as AVP, Boston College affirmed its status as a national university, achieving a ranking among the top 40 institutions of higher learning. In addition to helping build Boston College's reputation in the classroom and halls of academia, Fr. Neenan has added a touch of literary appreciation to the University community's leisure time as well with his annual "Dean's List of Recommended Reading," comprised of novels, biographies, histories and other books that have made Fr. Neenan's top shelf.
The Sioux City, Iowa, native also founded the "Iowa/Nebraska Luncheon Club," where, each semester for the past 23 years, he has hosted Boston College students from the Midwest. The Luncheon Club offers the Heartland students an amiable atmosphere to relax and catch up on happenings in their home region. Fr. Neenan's "Iowa/Nebraska" concept was the basis for University's establishment of numerous other "back home" activities for undergraduates from all over the country.
"Fr. Neenan is a revered member of the Boston College community," said Tom Vanderslice. "It is only fitting that he be honored with a chair. In perpetuity, as long as Boston College is in existence, Fr. Neenan's name and contributions will be remembered. An endowed chair is forever."
"I am very grateful to Peggy and Tom Vanderslice for their great generosity toward Boston College," Fr. Neenan said, "and for their personal friendship for me, which really means a lot.
"As a young Jesuit - just ordained and beginning my PhD work in economics," Fr. Neenan said, "I never in my wildest dreams would have thought - even vaguely - that my name would be associated with Boston College's economic department in such a positive way.
"I am extremely gratified by that association and very proud of the strength of the Economics Department at Boston College."
Anderson, who is a visiting scholar at the London School of Economics this semester, said he was delighted to be the first holder of the chair named in honor of his personal friend and professional colleague. "I am very grateful for the recognition of my professional accomplishments which the Neenan Chair represents," he said.
"I am even more grateful to Boston College for having provided me with the supportive environment over the years which enabled me to do the work deemed worthy of this recognition," he continued.
"It is personally and especially pleasing to me that this chair is named for Bill Neenan, a mentor, colleague and friend ever since his arrival at BC," Anderson said.
Fr. Neenan shared similar pride in the choice of Anderson as the inaugural chair holder. "Jim has contributed so much, not only to the Economics Department, but also to the University because of his scholarship and great emphasis on the integrity and quality of all aspects of Boston College," he said.
"After receiving his doctorate, Jim has spent his entire professional career at Boston College," Fr. Neenan noted, "so this is a very fitting honor to have him as an endowed professor."
Announcement of the newly endowed Neenan Chair was met with enthusiasm from the University's Economics faculty. "Jim Anderson is one of the world's leading international trade theorists, as well as a leader in our department," said Prof. Marvin Kraus, the department chair. "All of us in the department are delighted that Jim is about to become a chairholder. The fact that is a chair established in honor of Fr. Neenan makes this truly special."
Tom Vanderslice served as chairman of the University's Board of Trustees from 1987 to 1990 and as a member of the Board from 1978 to 2002. Tom and Peggy Vanderslice have funded two other chairs at Boston College, The Margaret A. and Thomas A. Vanderslice '53 Chair in Chemistry and The Patricia and Joseph T. '49 Vanderslice Millennium Chair in Chemistry.