During a career that included two terms as Massachusetts state treasurer and receiver general, a stint in the state House of Representatives as chairman of the Committee on Taxation, and 24 years as chairman and chief executive officer of the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority, Driscoll remained an active alumnus. Four of his sons graduated from BC and he followed closely the fortunes of his alma mater.
But Driscoll gained a whole new appreciation of Boston College when he became the University's first vice president for administration in 1987.
"I knew, of course, that the University had grown tremendously," said Driscoll in a recent interview. "It was quite a revelation to see just how many different ways the University operated, though. It meant some adjustment, but I can truly say the learning was a delight."
Driscoll will utilize that accumulated wisdom and experience in his new position as special consultant to President William P. Leahy, SJ, which he officially assumed on Sept. 1. He will advise the University on state and community affairs, with a particular focus on the construction process.
John T. Driscoll-As the University draws up a new Master Plan and embarks on construction projects, "I hope to provide some useful background and stability." (Photo by Lee Pellegrini)
Offices and departments which previously reported to the Vice President for Administration have been assigned to other vice presidential divisions. Buildings and Grounds, Dining Services, the Bureau of Conferences, the Boston College Police Department and the Bookstore are managed by the Office of the Financial Vice President; the Vice President for Human Resources oversees Environmental Health and Safety, and the Office of the Executive Vice President has responsibility for Campus Planning and Construction.
His new role entails slightly fewer hours and a relocation of his office from Haley House to Hopkins House, but Driscoll sees a continuity from his nine-year stint overseeing construction management and major services supporting Boston College's academic mission, including campus security, dining services and other functions.
"I thought the time had come to step down as vice president," he explained, "but I wanted to maintain my relationship with BC as much as possible. There also was a strong desire on the part of the administration that I stay involved with the University's management. So while I may not be as active, being a consultant enables me to offer whatever benefits my service and experience might bring."
Given the University's plans for campus construction, Driscoll said, there will be ample opportunity for him to share his expertise. Boston College began work this summer on a new, 48,000-square foot Law School academic building, and is continuing with its efforts to gain approval for the proposed Middle Campus Project.
"There also will be discussions regarding the University's Master Plan," Driscoll noted. "That will mean dealing with officials and other representatives from Boston and Newton, keeping up to date on processes, and so on. There is a lot on the drawing board and I hope to help provide some useful background and stability."
His years at the Turnpike Authority gave Driscoll considerable management experience in areas such as construction and infrastructure, expertise he brought to the vice-presidential cabinet. His vice presidency saw the completion of many large-scale projects, such as the construction of the Merkert Chemistry Center, the Law School library and the new Lower Campus residence halls and dining facility, as well as major renovations and improvements to Campion, Fulton and Devlin halls, and the expansion of Alumni Stadium.
He also oversaw reorganization and development within his division, including for Buildings and Grounds, the Boston College Police Department and Dining Services. The Boston College Bookstore was renovated and expanded during his tenure.
Driscoll is quick to credit other administrators and staff for these achievements and other progress.
"One thing which has always distinguished Boston College is the excellence in its appointments, and the strong leadership the people in those positions demonstrate," he said. "[Executive Vice President] Frank Campanella and [Associate Vice President for Planning and Construction] Fred Pennino, for example, were very successful in managing the construction process before I came on board. It was really a case of picking up and contributing what I could, rather than changing anything dramatically."
Where dramatic change was deemed necessary, Driscoll said, the decisions reflected a consensus among the leadership. The 1994 reorganization of B&G - which included appointing Pennino to his current position, shifting his primary duties to overseeing construction, and hiring Thomas Devine to succeed Pennino as B&G director - "simply made sense," he said, and has proven effective.
"It's because of this ability to work together that I see BC as headed in the right direction," Driscoll said.
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