A near-capacity audience listened to Fr. Leahy, who became the University's 25th president on Aug. 1, share his initial observations of Boston College and his hopes for its future. Fr. Leahy said his conversations and experiences around campus had already formed a strong impression of a "warm, caring community" reflective of its Catholic and Jesuit heritage.
"People are the heart of any organization," Fr. Leahy said, "and Boston College is very blessed to have among its faculty, administration and staff so many intelligent, dedicated and competent individuals."
Following Fr. Leahy, Executive Vice President Frank B. Campanella discussed the continuing work on Project Delta, which will improve productivity and efficiency. He also provided an update on major campus building projects, including the Middle Campus Project. Construction is scheduled to begin on a new Law School classroom building next summer and on a new student athletic center in 1998, he said, while plans are now being made for a renovation of Higgins Hall.
Academic Vice President and Dean of Faculties William B. Neenan, SJ, also spoke, presenting his view on the recently completed University Academic Planning Council study of Boston College's long-term academic goals.
Fr. Leahy, who was warmly applauded by the audience, dwelt on Delta and UAPC in his address as well, noting they have been the source of much conversation - and some concern - among members of the University community. While changes in leadership can also cause anxiety, he said he would continue "visiting with people, listening and learning" to make for a smooth transition.
"Like everyone here," he said, "I want Boston College to continue to be Boston College and for it to thrive."
Fr. Leahy said he regarded Delta as "essential" and said it "reflects our commitment to be responsible stewards of our resources. I am convinced that we have to take advantage of savings wherever possible through technology and revamped practices, if we are to remain a strong institution."
Implementing the UAPC recommendations will be "a top priority for my administration," said Fr. Leahy, who is chairing a committee created for that purpose. The University's emphasis on undergraduate education will continue to be a priority, he said, and the UAPC goals outline ways of enhancing the undergraduate experience at Boston College. Furthermore, he said, the UAPC study pointed out vital needs and opportunities in graduate education and research.
"The task for us now is to analyze possibilities in light of our current strengths and educational mission, set measurable goals and then allocate necessary resources," he said. "I am confident that the UAPC effort will yield much fruit."
Concluding his address, Fr. Leahy expressed hope that Boston College would continue "to be an academic institution where teaching, research, debate, and learning flourish." He added that he hopes the University will be "part not only of the conversation of Boston, but also of our country and world ... [and] increasingly be a meeting place between faith and culture, especially between the Catholic Church and our society.
"I hope that BC meets the challenge of helping all its students to integrate intellectual excellence and religious commitment," he said.
Fr. Neenan began his Convocation remarks with his trademark humor by welcoming his fellow Iowan, Fr. Leahy, and giving the audience a quick lesson in the diction of his native state, where "washing" is pronounced "warshing" and "roof" is "ruf." He assured audience members they would have no trouble learning the new dialect.
Turning to academic matters, Fr. Neenan said there were many familiar indicators of the University's success to mark the beginning of the academic year: a strong faculty with 24 new tenure-track members; seven new endowed professorships; and a freshman class displaying a geographical and cultural diversity "as impressive as its undoubted academic quality."
But with "a new president and a new vision," Fr. Neenan continued, the 1996-97 academic year looms as a "watershed" for Boston College. The UAPC initiative will enable the University to move "to a new level of excellence," he said, and the committee implementing the council recommendations will once again call upon the University community to achieve this.
"You have been generous of your time, your imagination and your intelligence in developing the broad consensus contained in the UAPC report," Fr. Neenan said. "I ask you now to make a similar commitment to complete the task."
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