$5 Million Gift Will Memorialize John Corcoran
Dining hall to be named in honor of 1948 grad and philanthropist
By Jack Dunn
Director of Public Affairs
Boston College will honor one of its most generous and devoted graduates, a decorated World War II hero whose lifetime commitment to affordable housing and charitable causes won him the gratitude of the region's needy, by dedicating the Lower Campus Dining Hall and plaza as the John M. Corcoran Commons on Oct. 12 at 4:30 p.m.
John Corcoran '48, who died last Oct. 22 at 80, was a lifelong supporter of the University and the first chairman of The Real Estate Council of Boston College, which he founded in 1980. A 1982 recipient of the Alumni Award for Excellence in Commerce, he served on the Board of Trustees from 1986 to 1994, and then as a trustee associate until his death.
In an effort to enhance interfaith dialogue and understanding, a cause friends and family say was profoundly important to him, Corcoran provided the foundational endowment for the Center for Christian-Jewish Learning at Boston College.
"John Corcoran cared deeply about Boston College and gave much to his alma mater," said University President William P. Leahy, SJ. "I am delighted that his name will grace such a significant area on campus, and I remain grateful to John's siblings and relatives who continue his commitment to Boston College and its Jesuit and Catholic mission."
The Corcoran Commons memorial was established through a $5 million gift to Boston College from his brother and business partner P. Leo Corcoran, Leo's wife Helen and their foundation as a way to honor John's commitment to philanthropy and responsible citizenship.
"While John didn't seek the limelight, we think he would be pleased to have his name linked to a popular destination where students come together in a spirit of camaraderie," said Leo Corcoran. "Promoting fellowship and understanding was important to him."
The Lower Campus Dining Hall, which will now bear John Corcoran's name, opened during the 1993-94 academic year and has become a site for many University functions and social occasions. Adjacent to Robsham Theater, the two-story building includes three separate banquet rooms and features a popular fast-serve counter, Addie's, in addition to the first-floor cooking and serving area.
The son of Irish immigrants who grew up in a family of eight children in the Uphams Corner section of Dorchester, John Corcoran attended Boston English High School before enlisting in the Army upon the outbreak of World War II. He served as a paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne Division, parachuting into France in the early hours of the D-Day invasion where he was wounded by enemy gunfire. Corcoran was awarded a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart.
After the war, he attended Boston College on the GI Bill, graduating with a bachelor's degree in mathematics in only three years despite working 40 hours a week shoveling coal at St. Margaret's Hospital in Dorchester to help support his family. He went on to form the John M. Corcoran & Co. real estate development firm that, with the help of his brother Leo, became one of the nation's leaders in property management and development.
In addition to his generosity towards Boston College, John Corcoran's vision and leadership helped transform an aging Margaret's Hospital into what is now Saint Mary's Women and Children's Center, a multi-service agency that provides a host of services - ranging from a homeless shelter to beds for pregnant teens - to young and at-risk mothers and their children. He also was equally supportive of Boston's inner-city parochial schools, funding in-service programs for teachers as well as scholarships for low-income students.
Support for Boston College and Catholic causes has been a strong commitment within the Corcoran family. Helen and Leo Corcoran established the Leo and Helen Corcoran Scholarship Fund in 2002, which provides scholarship assistance to students enrolled at Boston College, with first preference given to children and grandchildren of Boston firefighters.
Leo Corcoran also established the Caritas Communities, now the largest single-room apartments for the working poor in the northeastern United States. He continues to be a major supporter of many other charitable organizations such as Father Bill's Place in Quincy and the Daniel Marr's Boys and Girls Club in Dorchester. In 2003 he and his brothers established an endowed scholarship at Emmanuel College in honor of their sister, Sister Catherine Theresa Corcoran, a Sister of Charity of Halifax and a 1950 graduate of Emmanuel.
Helen and Leo are the parents of four BC alumni: John F. '76, Francis C. '79, Leo J. '81, and Timothy M. '82 and L'85. Several of their nieces and nephews are also alumni, including Marie Richards '82, Joseph Richer '87, William Richards '90, Therese Richards LSOE '92, and Matthew Richer '93. Two grandchildren are currently enrolled at the University.
The youngest brother, Joseph Corcoran '59, currently serves on the University's Board of Trustees. He is a partner in Corcoran Jennison Co., a real estate and development firm that pioneered the development of mixed-income housing in the US and Ireland. Joe Corcoran is a member of the boards of several local organizations, including the Daniel Marr Boys and Girls Club and the American Ireland Fund. He is also a trustee and leading benefactor at his alma mater, Boston College High School, and along with his brothers donated the school's library in honor of his parents John and Mary Corcoran.
In 2000, Joe Corcoran established the Corcoran Scholars Fund at Boston College to provide educational opportunity to African American students. He and his wife Rosemarie are the parents of four BC alumni: Joseph '85, Michael '86, Patricia LSOE '87, and Sean WCAS '98.
Announcing their most recent gift to BC, Leo and Helen Corcoran said: "We hope that the John M. Corcoran Commons will forever enshrine John's special gift of generosity for future generations of Boston College students."