March 17, 2005 • Volume 13 Number 13
From the Archives
University Historian Thomas O'Connor recalls Richard Cardinal Cushing x'17, Boston's archbishop from 1944 to 1970, pictured with students at McElroy Commons in the early 1960s.
Cardinal Cushing was a frequent visitor to the campus, giving benedictions, attending conferences, speaking at graduations, dedicating buildings. With his direct personal appeal and irrepressible humor, His Eminence was a great favorite with the BC students. Invariably, he highlighted his presence on campus with a wave of the hand and a final announcement that the student body would have a day off from classes. If the student response was loud enough - and it always was! - His Eminence would announce in high glee that they would have two days off, much to the consternation of deans and other administrators.
Born in 1895 in the working-class Irish-Catholic neighborhood of South Boston, Richard James Cushing graduated from Boston College High School when it was still located in the South End. In 1913, he entered Boston College, which had recently moved to suburban Chestnut Hill. At the end of his sophomore year, he transferred to St. John's Seminary to become a diocesan priest.
Although he was selected to study at the North American College at Rome, the outbreak of World War I caused the seminary to cancel the dangerous trans-Atlantic crossing. And so he remained in the city, becoming Archbishop of Boston in 1944, and on his elevation by Pope John XXIII in 1958, the second Bostonian to hold the title of Cardinal. Gruff, affable, down-to-earth, and completely unpredictable, Cardinal Cushing promoted the ideal of ecumenism with all non-Catholic groups, and promoted a spirit of inclusion among many Catholics he felt had been marginalized and ignored.
Cardinal Cushing's attachment to Boston College was always warm and personal, especially since he was a good friend of the college's president, Rev. Michael P. Walsh, SJ, another native of South Boston. The Boston College Alumni Association in 1946 presented then-Archbishop Cushing its highest honor, the William V. McKenney Award. Cardinal Cushing regularly visited the School of Education, where he gave an annual address to the assembled student body.
And it was he who approached Boston College about founding the School of Nursing, which opened in downtown Boston in 1947. The cardinal himself raised $1 million toward the nursing school building dedicated on the Chestnut Hill campus 13 years later with the name Cushing Hall.
"From the Archives" offers commentaries on historic BC images from the Burns Library collection.