When Kevin P. Duffy arrived on the Boston College campus in 1968, one of his first duties was to claim Margo's body and make arrangements for the closing of an era.
Days into his new job as director of student activities, Duffy was informed that Margo, BC's bald eagle mascot, had died. She would be the University's last live mascot and her passing seemed to foreshadow the many changes Boston College would undergo as it evolved from a commuter college into a national university.
Duffy, who assumed the vice presidency of Student Affairs 20 years ago, has helped oversee the University's transition to a residential campus, and the development of resources to serve an increasingly diverse student community. For Duffy, the term "student affairs" means far more than it did during Margo's era.
"When we discuss the Boston College experience, we talk about 'total education inside and outside of the classroom,'" Duffy said. "That has been a priority for us as we have pursued the goal of becoming a truly national, residential Catholic university. How can we help students get the most out of their time at BC? What can we do in our residence halls? What kinds of activities or assistance - personal, spiritual, academic - can we offer?
Vice President for Student Affairs Kevin P. Duffy-"The position of Student Affairs Vice President ... has evolved from what was once more of a 'dean of men' or a disciplinary figure, to a far more comprehensive administrative role." (Photo by Lee Pellegrini)
"As the nature of student affairs has changed here at Boston College," he continued, "so has the position of Student Affairs vice president. It has evolved from what was once more of a 'dean of men' or a disciplinary figure, to a far more comprehensive administrative role."
Duffy's bailiwick now encompasses a variety of offices and services: University Housing, Dean for Student Development, AHANA Student Programs, University Health and Medical Services, the Career Center, Counseling Services, First Year Experience, Learning Resources for Student Athletics, Learning to Learn and the Robsham Theater Arts Center. He also has administrative responsibility for some 170 full-time and 80 part-time staff, and about 300 student employees.
Most, if not all of these departments began or took shape during Duffy's tenure as vice president and he credits the many administrators and staff who helped direct this evolution in Student Affairs.
"There seems to be such a shared sense of mission here," said Duffy, who also served as director of Housing before his vice presidential appointment. "It is the constant striving to be better, to rise above the status quo, which distinguishes a great university, and that is very much the case at Boston College."
Still, Duffy adds, it has been the students themselves who have demanded these changes, directly or indirectly. In the 1960s and '70s, the University saw a generation of undergraduates with a strong wish, he said, "to relate what went on in the classroom to what went on in real life." As the campus population became more residential and geographically and culturally diverse, Duffy said, students indicated their desire for a community atmosphere, one which addressed a greater variety of social, spiritual and personal needs.
Duffy cites three areas where Student Affairs has been particularly effective in responding to, or anticipating the changes. The Office of University Housing is "one of the finest in the country," he said, providing numerous residential options, a professional staff and programs to enhance students' classroom learning.
Through the AHANA and Learning to Learn programs, he said, the University has compiled an impressive record in recruiting and graduating students of color. Boston College is consistently "among the top in graduation rates" for students of color, Duffy said, "and our programs are viewed as models by many other institutions."
The rise of performing arts on campus, especially with the construction of Robsham Theater, has also been a major achievement, Duffy said. Opportunities abound for students to participate in music, theater, dance, improvisational comedy and other activities, and "this adds a great vibrancy to the campus," he said.
The prospect of a new student center - which would be constructed as part of the proposed Middle Campus Project - represents another important step in the area of student affairs, Duffy said. By physically linking the center to another new academic building, "Boston College makes an important, positive statement about the need to combine academic and student life on campus," he said.
This linkage is vital, Duffy added, given the likelihood "there will be increased emphasis on Boston College as a total learning community, and discussion on how faculty and staff can take more of a role in students' lives.
"The issue of values-education, and what values students have when they leave Boston College, is central to our identity as a Jesuit institution," Duffy said. "It is part of our distinctiveness and, therefore, must be shared by all members of the University community."
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