'A Full And Exciting Career'

Vice President Peg Dwyer prepares to step into retirement after 24 years at BC

By Sean Smith
Staff Writer

Talk with Vice President and Assistant to the President Margaret A. Dwyer and you get a capsule history of Boston College's last quarter century. From the acquisition of Newton College of the Sacred Heart, to the construction of O'Neill Library, Dwyer has been a central figure in many milestones along the University's rise to national prominence.

For Dwyer, who is retiring this month, her 24 years at Boston College were the culmination of her vocation as an educator, which she began as a teacher in upstate New York.

Interviewed recently, Dwyer reflected on the eventful journey she and the University she cherishes have taken.

"It's been a full and exciting career, and I've had a wonderful opportunity to do and explore so many things," she said. "People tend to look at retirement in different ways: Some have wondered if there's perhaps a hidden reason for my leaving, and whether I'll be able to cope with being retired. I will miss Boston College very much, but I can honestly say I'm looking forward to this new stage of my life."

"Peg was involved in most every aspect of the President's Office," said University Chancellor J. Donald Monan, SJ, who, as president, appointed Dwyer as his executive assistant. "Her wonderful ability to work with and understand people helped her deal with so many different facets of University life. Most importantly, she was genuinely interested in advancing the interests of Boston College and its community."

Vice President Margaret A. Dwyer. (Photo by Lee Pellegrini)

This concern was evident early on, when Dwyer served as liaison in the University's consolidation with Newton College not long after Dwyer's arrival. The initiative was an ambitious step for Boston College, still seeking financial stability at the time, but it also was a matter requiring sensitivity.

"There were thousands of issues to resolve for the people who were becoming part of BC," Dwyer recalled. "It was important for BC to be as responsive as possible and that's where I tried to concentrate efforts. There were a lot of conversations, a lot of questions to answer.

"It's an example of what's made work here interesting," she added. "You do the job as needed, because it's part of what the president is going to deal with. There have been ongoing tasks, like being the liaison with the Board of Trustees and making sure the issues that need to be addressed go before them. But it's also meant filling in, representing the authority of the President's Office when and where necessary."

Her work may often have taken place out of the spotlight, but Dwyer's colleagues say her organizational and interpersonal abilities left an unmistakable stamp.

"Peg is one of those people who helps you to see how an institution like Boston College works, who can accomplish the translation of an ideal into everyday life," said Prof. Paul Schervish (Sociology).

Dwyer's ties to BC go back to her studies for a master's degree in counseling, which she earned in 1956. But her first taste of higher education as a profession came in 1960 when she was appointed registrar at Le Moyne College, in her hometown of Syracuse, NY. Dwyer became dean of women, then assistant academic dean in 1971, and worked frequently with Le Moyne's academic dean and vice president, Fr. Monan, shortly to become Boston College's 24th president.

When Dwyer accompanied a group of Le Moyne administrators in the fall of 1972 to watch the Syracuse-BC football game, Fr. Monan invited her to become his executive assistant. Dwyer arrived in February of the next year. She became vice president in 1975.

"I thought I knew Fr. Monan when I came here, but I didn't yet realize the full range of his abilities; I always seemed to be learning something new about him," Dwyer said. "He had a great confidence in me and my abilities. I think I developed a good instinct for what issues had to go to him, and what could be handled without his direct involvement."

One of Dwyer's most satisfying achievements was helping plan the dedication of O'Neill Library in 1985, an event she feels crystallized the University's emergence as a modern, national institution.

"The library was absolutely critical to our academic life," she explained. "Opening O'Neill gave BC a very real symbol for academic excellence, and the librarians we've had since it opened - Tom O'Connell, Mary Cronin and now Jerome Yavarkovsky - have done a superb job in expanding its capabilities."

Dwyer also has been impressed by the trustees she has worked with. "I've been heartened to see the tremendous commitment of lay members to the University's mission," she said. "Business people are often viewed narrowly, but the trustees here have broad interests, and a great concern for the University community."

Dwyer's own considerable affection for BC will not end with her retirement.

"I had opportunities to become president at other institutions," she said. "But I believed in Boston College and its mission; I felt what we were doing here was, and is, unique, and I wanted to be a part of it. I'm glad I was."

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