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History of ROTC at Boston College

reserve officers' training corps (rotc)

The third president of Boston College established military drill for all students in 1870 as a form of exercise. A sergeant in the regular army initially provided the instruction. The rifles were provided by the state, as there was no contractual agreement between Boston College and the War Department.

In 1918, the War Department inaugurated the Student Army Training Corps (SATC) to provide for the needs of the Armed Services for highly trained men as officers, chemists, engineers, doctors, and administrators. Following the war, Boston College applied for a voluntary ROTC unit, which began in February 1919 with 137 students. The program went into decline between the wars.

Student Army Training Corps in 1918
Student Army Training Corps (SATC) in Brighton, 1918
Student Army Training Corps in Brighton in 1918
Student Army Training Corps, 1918
Student Army Training Corps Instructors in 1918
Student Army Training Corps Instructors, 1918


Army ROTC was instituted at Boston College in July 1947 under Colonel James M. Lewis. Boston College was originally branch affiliated with the Field Artillery. By 1950, there were 438 cadets in the program. In 1959, the program commissioned 159 cadets—the largest number in a single year--and in the 1960s, the program enjoyed an enrollment of over 1200 Cadets and became known as the Boston College ROTC Brigade. The Lewis Drill Team also performed in local and regional parades as a “goodwill emissary of the university.”

Lewis Rifle Team in 1961
Lewis Rifle Team, 1961


On December 10, 1969, in the face of growing dissent toward the Vietnam War, the University Academic Senate voted to reduce ROTC to the status of an extracurricular activity. On October 2, 1970, the Board of Directors voted to sever Boston College’s ties to ROTC. In the 1970 Sub Turri, the entry next to the photo below reads: “the rather odd position of ROTC between university standards and army regulations has always been a precarious one.”

ROTC Cadet on campus in 1970
ROTC Cadet in 1970


On September 11, 1984, a cross-enrollment agreement between Boston College and Northeastern University re-established the program at the school. Since the inception of the program, more than 1,700 officers have received their commissions from the Boston College Army ROTC program.