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Perspectives on the Heights

A Conversation with One of BC's Oldest Living Alumni

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Bill Hogan during his days as a BC hockey player.

By Reid Oslin | Chronicle Correspondent

Published: Sept. 20, 2012

At age 100, William M. Hogan, Jr. ’33 is one of Boston College’s oldest living alumni. He was born on April 14, 1912 – the same week as two other notable events occurred: the opening of Boston’s famed Fenway Park and the sinking of the ocean liner Titanic.

Hogan celebrated his 100th birthday by throwing out the ceremonial first pitch at the Boston Red Sox game against the Tampa Rays at Fenway. His entire family – including 18 great-grandchildren – was on hand to witness the event.

Hogan enrolled at Boston College in 1929, joining a student body made up almost entirely of commuting students, most of whom travelled to the Chestnut Hill campus by streetcar each class day. A heralded hockey player at Cambridge Latin High School, Hogan had aspirations of playing the sport on the varsity level at Boston College. But financial pressures of the Great Depression forced BC’s administrators to drop the sport the year he arrived on campus.

Elected class president in the spring semester prior to his senior year, Hogan undertook the task of persuading school officials to reinstitute BC’s hockey team. He was successful in his quest, and was selected by his teammates to serve as captain of BC’s revived hockey squad in 1933.

Several weeks ago, over a lunch of sandwiches, onion rings and ice cream served at his residence in Lexington — his 1933 BC degree hangs on the wall above his home computer — Hogan shared his memories of those long-ago undergraduate days at Boston College with Chronicle correspondent Reid Oslin.

What made you decide to attend Boston College?

I went to Cambridge Latin School, where they had a lot of college preparatory courses. Some of my teachers were BC graduates and I also had some friends and neighbors who were just ahead of me in school who went off to BC.

One of those neighbors was [John A.] “Snooks” Kelley [BC Class of 1928], who was the manager of the BC hockey team when he was there, so we were all fans of BC hockey. The BC team used to practice at the old Boston Arena, where the Boston Bruins played their games before the Garden was even built. When BC would practice and the Bruins were playing that night, before Snooks closed up the BC locker room three or four of us would go in and stay in there until they opened the doors for the Bruins’ game. Then we would go out and see the game. Those were fun days.

BC was the only school I applied to. I just expected I was going to get in – I don’t think they had the “back-up line” that they have today. BC’s tuition was only a couple of hundred dollars in those days.

You didn’t have much choice in courses back then. You had to take theology, philosophy, English, Latin, math and a foreign language. We studied what they called the Jesuit Ratio Studiorum. I had had three pretty good years of French and two of Latin at Cambridge Latin, so for the first year or two [at BC], half of the courses I had already been through before we got into the heavy ones later. You finally got to take some electives in the third and fourth years. All the classes were in the Tower Building and the first floor of the library.”

How did you get involved in Boston College hockey?

I went to BC expecting to play hockey. Of course, there were no athletic scholarships in those days. To my recollection, BC and Harvard were about the only local colleges that had hockey teams at that time, and they both had an arrangement to play at the Boston Arena. There was no indoor ice except for the Arena.

The weather was entirely different in those days. There were really cold winters and when the cold came in it was there for the year. Cities that had high school hockey teams used to flood wooden rinks in the parks and make outdoor ice. There was a lot of it. We even practiced a few times right on the Charles River – right near the Mount Auburn Hospital. It’s hard to believe. I don’t think it even freezes over any more. A lot of high school hockey players back then actually wanted to go to Dartmouth, because they had ice all the time up there [laughter].

C almost went out of business in the Great Depression. That’s what happened to the hockey team. I was very disappointed when they dropped it.

I was elected class president at the end of my junior year. There were quite a few hockey fans and former high school players at BC, so as president of the class, I went to see [Athletics Director] John Curley and asked what he might be able to do. He told me “We can’t do anything about ice, we don’t have any money, but why don’t you see what you can do at the Arena?”

I went to see Walter Brown, who owned and operated the Arena. He gave us some practice ice, but he had to be there at half past seven in the morning. When I told Mr. Curley that we had gotten some ice, he came up with some old uniforms – jerseys and hockey pants – but we had to get our own skates. It turned out that the jerseys he gave us were the football team’s old ones, but we didn’t care. They were uniforms.

I got ahold of Snooks and told him how far we had gone. I asked him, “How would you like to coach us?” I told him that if this thing developed, he just might have himself a job. He used to pick me up in Cambridge on his way to practice. That’s how I got to the Arena. Well, Snooks became the coach and stayed there until the 1970s.

e night we were playing our first game, I got elected captain right in the locker room. A defenseman, Owen Mullaney, popped up all of a sudden and said, “We ought to have a captain. Bill put this whole thing together, so he should be our captain.” We had some fun and it went on from there.

Is Boston College still a part of your life?

I’m still our class correspondent, but the last time any of us saw one another there were only three of us left. I was also secretary of the BC Alumni Association at one point. I still follow BC today. My son Billy [Class of 1963] and his wife Jane, and his daughter Katheryn [Class of 1993] and her husband Mark Ascione, have established a hockey scholarship in my name. It should have been in Billy’s name – he was an All-America hockey player and the Beanpot MVP when he was there!

But, first of all – and I have thought about this a lot as I have watched my own family grow – the four years of college are the most important years of a youngster’s life. That’s when they settle down, and a lot, in my experience anyway, meet the people that they are eventually going to marry. The influence of Boston College in my life has been tremendous. The morality that coats itself to everything you do, affects your whole life. I brought the children up that way, and they, in turn, have done the same thing with their families.

My son Billy went to BC and my daughter Kathy went to Newton College of the Sacred Heart. Physically, of course, it is a far different place now than when I went there. But the influence that BC has had on my family – and I think everyone who goes there – is very, very important.