Half-century at BC as teacher, administrator, historian Fr. Donovan Remembered As 'Devoted Son ' Of Alma Mater

Fr. Donovan Remembered As 'Devoted Son '
Of Alma Mater

By Mark Sullivan
Staff Writer

Charles F. Donovan, SJ, who served Boston College for a half-century as a teacher, pioneering administrator and devoted chronicler of its past, died of heart failure at St. Elizabeth's Hospital in Brighton on July 17. He was 86.

Since arriving on campus as a student in 1929, Fr. Donovan served as a faculty member, founding dean of the School of Education, academic vice president, member of the Board of Trustees and its predecessor, the Board of Directors, and senior vice president and dean of faculties.

The official historian of the University since 1979, Fr. Donovan co-authored History of Boston College: From the Beginnings to 1990 , and has penned a series of "Occasional Papers on the History of Boston College," which were compiled in 1994 into a book, Boston College: Glimpses of the Past .

At the July 21 funeral Mass, University Chancellor J. Donald Monan, SJ, remembered Fr. Donovan as "a devoted son" who knew not only the history of his beloved alma mater , "but also its highest aspirations."

Charles F. Donovan, SJ.
During Fr. Donovan's tenure as AVP (1961-68), Fr. Monan noted, the University established 11 new doctoral programs and appointed over 400 new faculty. Just as importantly, he added, as "a pillar of good sense and institutional loyalty," Fr. Donovan helped steer the University through a time of growing unrest in higher education.

For all Fr. Donovan's accomplishments as an officer of the University, Fr. Monan said, "what an unfinished symphony his life would have been if he had not been able to serve as University historian" for the past 19 years. Fr. Monan said that Fr. Donovan almost single-handedly preserved, and explained, the legacy of Boston College - not only for those within the University community, but outside it as well.

Fr. Donovan collaborated with late Graduate School of Arts and Sciences Dean Paul Fitzgerald, SJ, on History of Boston College , which builds upon an earlier 1947 history written by David Dunigan, SJ, and recounts the University's academic and athletic milestones and post-war physical transformation.

Fr. Donovan arrived at BC as a freshman just 16 years after the school had moved from the South End to its present campus. After taking his bachelor's degree in 1933, he earned a master's degree in English from Fordham University in 1939, a licentiate in sacred theology from Weston College in 1944 and a doctorate in philosophy of education from Yale University in 1948. He entered the Society of Jesus in 1933 and was ordained in 1943.

He joined the faculty in 1948 as professor of education philosophy and chairman of the Education Department in the College of Arts and Sciences. Recognizing that departmental status was not adequate, given the rising certification requirements for Massachusetts teachers at the time, Fr. Donovan proposed the establishment of a School of Education. His proposal was quickly approved and, beginning with the school's opening in 1952, Fr. Donovan served as dean for 13 years.

The School of Education established in his honor the Charles F. Donovan, SJ, Teaching Scholars program, which benefits students in the master's degree program who intend to teach in urban schools or work with the underprivileged.

Fr. Donovan was awarded an honorary doctorate by Boston College in 1978, and the University's Joseph Coolidge Shaw, SJ, Medal in 1985. He received an honorary degree in 1978 from St. Joseph's College.

On the national level, he served on the executive committees of the American Association for Higher Education and the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, and as chairman of the coordinating committee of the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education.

Fr. Donovan was buried in the Jesuit Cemetery in Weston.

An exhibit honoring his life is on display at Burns Library through mid-November. It includes photos and letters from Fr. Donovan's 69 years at BC.

-Sean Smith contributed to this story.

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