March 31, 2005 • Volume 13 Number 15
The concept of Boston College's Boston Citizen Seminar - a major catalyst in the growth and development of the city and its surrounding region - began in the mid-1950s when Rev. W. Seavey Joyce, SJ, then the young dean of the University's business school, looked out of an airplane window while flying into Logan Airport and didn't like what he saw.
Since Fr. Joyce hardly ever flew, explains University Historian Thomas H. O'Connor, seeing the city where he had lived his entire life from a different view made him realize that "for all its historical distinction, there was nothing distinctive about Boston."
That revelation prompted Fr. Joyce, who went on to serve as Boston College's 23rd president (1968-72), to focus a series of campus business seminars he had instituted into a forum for leaders of Boston's diverse - and often warring - constituencies, with the goal of hammering out common-based solutions for the area's economic and development stagnation.
Fifty years later, the Boston College Citizen Seminars, now under the direction of Carroll School of Management's Executive Director for Corporate and Government Affairs Peter Rollins, continue to provide a venue for discussion and evaluation of solutions that strive to keep Boston a vibrant, growing and responsive metropolis.
The long-running seminar series celebrated its Golden anniversary on Wednesday at the Boston Harbor Hotel with a meeting of leaders from Boston's commerce, education, media, social service and government sectors.
O'Connor, a member of the History Department faculty when the Citizen Seminars began, recalls the antipathy that characterized that era: on one side, the Irish, Democrats, working-class, neighborhood people; on the other, Yankees, Republicans, Protestants, bankers and financiers.
"They couldn't work together and the city was falling apart. Boston College provided neutral territory for elements of the city that had been battling for generations."
It was at the first meeting of the Citizen Seminar, on October 26, 1954, that Boston mayor John B. Hynes presented his vision of a "new Boston," O'Connor said, which would eventually bring about such landmarks as the Prudential Center, Government Center, the World Trade Center and a convention center that now bears Hynes' name.
"The Citizen Seminars have provided the setting, provided the agenda and provided the ideas upon which the urban renewal of the city was developed," said O'Connor.
O'Connor listed several contemporary issues - "health, education, crime, the immigration of the 'new' Bostonians, the new demographics, the new changes of business in the city" - that loom as important topics for future Boston Citizen Seminars. "We're asking 'where do we go from here?' As John Hynes said, 'Boston, Whither Goest Thou?' That is the right question to ask."
Omar Gonzalez '06 (photo) received the 13th Archbishop Oscar A. Romero Scholarship at the annual Romero Scholarship Awards Banquet on March 19. Gonzalez, a sociology major, was one of three candidates - along with juniors Adrian Rossello-Conrier and Zannibel Melo - for the award, which covers 75 percent of the winner's senior year tuition.
The banquet, held in the Welch Dining Room of Lyons Hall, also included presentation of the Rev. John A. Dinneen, SJ, Hispanic Alumni Community Service Award to Alexander M. Sanchez '90. Sanchez is president and CEO of the United Neighborhood Centers of America, a nonprofit organization originally founded in 1911 by Jane Addams and other pioneers of the settlement movement. He is also former director of the National Hispanic Bar Association.
University President William P. Leahy, SJ, spoke at the event, as did the 2004 Romero winner, Arivee Vargas '05.
Night of the Baldwins
A supernatural thriller derived from Greek mythology and a satirical documentary aimed at Olympic speed skater Apollo Anton Ohno were among the winners at the inaugural Baldwin Awards honoring Boston College student filmmakers.
Baldwins were given out in 13 categories at the ceremony, held March 18 in Corcoran Commons, including Best Picture, Editing, Best Actor/Actress, Sound and Screenwriting, as well as in specific genres: Drama, Documentary, Comedy and Horror. The awards were sponsored by Boston College Magazine, the Film Studies Program and Communication Department.
Best Picture, Best Drama and Screenwriting prizes went to "Before the Styx," which depicts a young man's growing realization that something catastrophic has befallen him. Producer/director Harrison Wilcox '05 wrote the screenplay with Emily Weissbach '04, whose original script involved a man trapped in limbo. Wilcox incorporated aspects of Greek mythology, notably the River Styx, which was believed to transport the dead to the Underworld.
Although he and editor Oliver Grigsby '04 had produced an earlier version of "Before the Styx" for his film class last spring, Wilcox decided to make some improvements and add special effects, with the help of James O'Meara '05. They completed the final work only two days before the deadline for Baldwin submissions.
Some of "Styx" was shot at night on the streets of nearby Needham, where his mother works as a school principal. In fact, he adds, she helped Wilcox make arrangements with the local police to do the filming.
While the dramatic build-up and revelations in "Before the Styx" seem to suggest M. Night Shyamalan's "The Sixth Sense" - another portrayal of a world between life and death - Wilcox says he has been more influenced by the horror films of Roman Polanski, such as "The Ninth Gate." "The man is a genius when it comes to film. He always throws in these little subtle tendencies. If I can once in my life create a scene that someone says 'feels like Polanski' I can die a happy man."
The Viewer's Choice Award, meanwhile, went to "Skating on Thin Ice," a project conceived by student comedy group Hello...Shovelhead! for their annual live show, which traditionally incorporates a film or video production. The film, which mixes actual clips of 2002 Winter Olympic medalist Apollo Anton Ohno with an actor portraying the skater, purports to show Ohno's descent into unhealthy living habits and troubled relationships with decidedly quirky women.
Group director Kevin Allocca '06 - who co-directed, co-wrote and acted in the film - says the idea stemmed from a discussion with a friend about flash-in-the-pan celebrities. Ohno, who had drawn media and public attention for his exotic name and looks, including an ever-present "soul patch," seemed a perfect target for a "Whatever Happened To?" parody, he decided.
Allocca, wanting the film to be of a higher technical quality than past projects, enlisted communication major William Driscoll '05 to help with those aspects. Driscoll, a Shovelhead fan since freshman year, readily agreed.
After writing out a plot and developing characters, Allocca turned the idea over to his fellow Shovelheads. "As a sketch comedian, I've learned to let the actors do the bulk of the work if you want real results. So I wrote a little dialogue and a series of questions that were given to each actor in the group prior to the filming. Using the script to develop their characters, each actor improvised some of their lines and performed some prewritten ones."
The film was received enthusiastically at the Shovelhead fall show and the group decided to submit it to the Baldwins, says Allocca, who says "Skating" will be released on DVD with some minor changes as well as deleted scenes and bloopers.
But would the subject of their "mockumentary" approve? "I think if Apollo saw this film, he would probably laugh uncomfortably as he slowly realized we were capitalizing on his lack of fame and fortune," quipped Allocca.
Driscoll, for his part, says he will help to keep the skater's legend alive. "I plan to grow an Apollo goatee as a tribute for the next Winter Games."
"Before the Styx" and "Skating On Thin Ice" will be screened during the Boston College Arts Festival April 28-30. All the Baldwin Award winners can be viewed at www.bc.edu/publications/atbc/features/baldwin/winners.shtml.
-Sean Smith •