Shining a Light on Campaign Progress
AN INTIMATE DISCUSSION WITH FR. LEAHY AND FR. NEENAN, SHARED FROM THE NEW YORK GALA, OCT. 28, 2010
Moderated by Emmy Award-winning broadcaster Bob Costas, P'12
BOB COSTAS: Boston College is the place my daughter was meant to be. And I find that her experience, while wonderful, is far from unique. I have yet to encounter a student, alum, parent, or grandparent, second, third generation, whatever it may be, who doesn’t simply rave about the place. And the gravitational pull that brings them back to campus events and keeps them connected to the University is really something special. So although it’s only been a little more than two years—Taylor is a junior now—I find myself fully a BC supporter.
Now, related to that, every university has fundraising drives. What makes Boston College’s Light the World campaign different?
FR. LEAHY: As I look out at this audience tonight and see all those candles, I think about the importance of light, especially in the Christian tradition. We purposely named our campaign Light the World as a way of tapping into the mission of Boston College and our heritage as a Jesuit, Catholic institution. In so many ways, Light the World captures Boston College’s momentum, tradition, and commitment. It also speaks to our aspirations for the future. We do want this to be a distinctive institution, and part of our mission is to bring learning, hope, and faith to the wider world. And so, to me, Light the World symbolizes so beautifully what we’re about.
BOB COSTAS: As BC surpasses $750 million in fundraising, what do we have to look forward to in the second half of this campaign?
FR. NEENAN: The Jesuit motto of St. Ignatius Loyola is ad maiorem Dei gloriam, “for the greater glory of God.” And we are now among the elite American universities. Ignatius would be proud, I think, of Boston College. So I’m confident that Boston College’s alumni, parents, and friends are going to feel pride as well and will recognize that this ad maiorem Dei gloriam motto of Ignatius and the Jesuits can be implemented only if we succeed in completing this campaign. And I honestly think that’s a powerful motivation that’s going to drive this campaign to a successful conclusion.
FR. LEAHY: The key to this campaign is vision. As a number of you know, I like a certain passage in the Old Testament, Proverbs 29:18, which says, “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” I believe Boston College has a compelling vision. And I think that kind of vision, along with the enthusiasm and commitment of our alumni, parents, and friends, will continue to serve us so very well.
BOB COSTAS: Some say the physical transformation on campus, particularly the acquisition of the Brighton Campus, is among the most significant developments in the University’s history. What is its meaning for Boston College?
FR. NEENAN: The Brighton Campus and construction of Stokes Hall on the Middle Campus are going to give us more classrooms, more offices for faculty, and more opportunities for faculty to interact one-on-one with students. That’s the essence of any education, and it’s the core of Jesuit education. In five years, I think Boston College is going to be even more attractive than it is today.
BOB COSTAS: Financial aid is always important, maybe especially important now. Speak to that for a little bit.
FR. NEENAN: Absolutely correct, Bob. We are a school that is under-endowed when it comes to financial aid, so that is a huge part of this campaign. More than half of the campaign is for endowment to support programs, faculty positions, academic centers, and financial aid. We want to raise more than $300 million for financial aid.
When we decide whether to admit a student to BC, we never ask, “Can this student afford BC?” We want to be need-blind and admit students for their qualities and, at the same time, we want to make sure that we can put together a package of aid that will enable the student to come. That requires a lot of money. Our operating budget this year is $807 million, and we’re spending $79.3 million on need-based undergraduate financial aid. So it’s a pressure point. And it’s critical for our future that we stay true to our roots as an institution that gives students, no matter their financial circumstances, the opportunity to come to a place like Boston College.
BOB COSTAS: One of the seven strategic directions that the board approved was to commit BC to becoming the world’s leading Catholic university and theological center. How are we moving in that direction?
FR. NEENAN: Jesuit education in the United States is noted for intellectual and spiritual rigor. And Boston College is one of the premier institutions that carries these values.
So we know Boston College is poised to be this international center in theology and in other areas. With the opening of the School of Theology and Ministry, we now have 170 Jesuits at this University. That large a resource is unique in the United States, maybe unique in the world. And I think because of that uniqueness, the ad maiorem Dei gloriam urgency is pushing us forward.
FR. LEAHY: I would say we’re there, at the head of the field, but we need to make sure we stay there. It’s partly because of the Jesuit personnel, it’s also partly because we have dedicated laymen and women on our faculty and in the administration who believe very much in what we’re about. And our alumni are also eager to see us excel in this way.
We have an obligation, and we have a huge opportunity. The need is great, and BC wants to be there, not simply in theology, but in the humanities, in niches in the sciences, and in the overall student experience. We want our students to leave Boston College having been touched not only academically, not only in the mind, but also in their hearts and souls. It’s that integration of their very lives that’s so critical.
BOB COSTAS: Speak, if you would, to the importance of service—not just making good grades, but making community service a central part of the Boston College experience.
FR. NEENAN: There’s a Latin phrase, bonum diffusivum sui. Good exudes itself, good pours itself forth. Our students want to be generous. I think it’s the fact that they’re happy and they love being at Boston College that makes them want to do good. If you’re happy where you are, you want to share that happiness with others.
BOB COSTAS: For those here this evening who are already on board with the campaign and its goals, what do you want us to take away from this evening?
FR. LEAHY: Share the experience, multiply yourselves, and give what you received as a gift and make Boston College one of the beneficiaries—I would say the number one beneficiary—of the good with which God has blessed you.
BOB COSTAS: In a couple of years, BC will mark its 150th anniversary. If we fast forward a half century to BC’s 200th anniversary, what would you like to see changed in that period of time? And what should never change?
FR. LEAHY: The physical campus will look different and will have additional facilities. But I certainly wouldn’t want the core values and heart of Boston College to change. We still have to be an institution committed to intellectual excellence and link that to religious commitment, embracing people who come from different perspectives and backgrounds, and touching them, influencing them, and then sending them back out to be multipliers, to work for that greater honor and glory of God that Fr. Neenan referenced.