Long-Time Athletic Director Remembered

William J. Flynn Dies

By Sean Smith
Staff Writer

William J. Flynn, whose 33-year tenure as athletic director saw Boston College reach the highest levels of intercollegiate competition, died on June 27 at St. Elizabeth's Hospital in Brighton. He was 82.

About 800 colleagues, alumni and friends attended Flynn's funeral Mass on July 1 in St. Ignatius Church. The Mass was concelebrated by Bishop Joseph Maguire, DD, University President William P. Leahy, SJ, and University Chancellor J. Donald Monan, SJ.

During Flynn's tenure as AD, which spanned the years 1957 to 1990, Boston College expanded its varsity sports programs and constructed most of its major athletic facilities, including Alumni Stadium, Conte Forum and the recreation complex that bears his name. Flynn played a key role in establishing the University's commitment to balancing academic and athletic excellence, and earned national recognition as president of the National Collegiate Athletic Association.

William J. Flynn

Flynn relished his frequent contact with students, coaches and staff, and the many memorable sporting events he attended throughout his career. He recalled in a 1991 interview with the Boston College Biweekly how he had been standing "10 feet away" as Gerard Phelan caught Doug Flutie's famous pass in the legendary 1984 Miami game.

"I loved working here, even though it didn't seem like a job to me," he said. "I'll miss it a lot."

Flynn's association with Boston College began when he arrived on campus as a member of the Class of 1939. A three-sport athlete, he went on to earn nine varsity letters and became the first BC hockey player to score 20 goals in a season.

After serving with the Federal Bureau of Investigation during World War II, Flynn returned to the University in 1945 as a mathematics teacher and assistant football coach, and became the Alumni Association executive secretary seven years later.

Boston College varsity sports had little on-campus presence at that time: The basketball team played in a quonset hut; the hockey team in an arena on Huntington Avenue. The Eagle football team had for some years played at off-campus locations like Fenway Park, but those sites were no longer available by the beginning of 1957 and many speculated BC would end the program.

Instead, Flynn - who was appointed athletic director in July of that year - helped spearhead a whirlwind $370,000 fundraising campaign that enabled the University to build Alumni Stadium.

By the end of Flynn's first decade as athletic director, Boston College had added an indoor hockey rink (McHugh Forum), a basketball court (Roberts Center) and a new baseball field. The growth of the University's student population during the 1960s convinced Flynn that a recreation facility also was sorely needed.

He suggested a $25 student recreation fee to help finance the project, and Boston College borrowed the necessary funds to complete it. The complex opened in 1972 and was dedicated to Flynn in 1979.

Flynn also oversaw improvements to Alumni Stadium in 1971 and 1986, and in 1988, the construction of the University's state-of-the-art athletic and convocation center, the Silvio O. Conte Forum.

But Flynn tended to more than bricks and mortar. In 1984, he helped establish the Office of Learning Resources for Student Athletes, which provides academic advisement, monitoring and support services to BC varsity student-athletes. Through this and other initiatives, Boston College has regularly compiled one of the highest graduation rates for student-athletes in the nation.

Flynn's achievements earned him prominence far beyond Chestnut Hill. In 1979, he became only the second athletic director to be voted president of the NCAA, where he served on the executive council and television committee. The National Football Foundation and Hall of Fame selected him as the 1984 Distinguished American Award winner, while the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics presented him its James J. Corbett Award.

"Boston College will always bear his imprint," said Fr. Monan in his eulogy at the funeral. "His vision never stopped conjuring what could be ... Bill Flynn's legacy is etched in stone, style and spirit, but it also rests on integrity.

"Bill knew the importance of physical education," Fr. Monan added, and was one of its greatest supporters as a student-athlete, athletic director and administrator. "But he also knew where he fit in the larger context of the kind of intellectual pursuit found in a Jesuit institution. That horizon was his horizon."

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