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Fr. Leahy: Celebrate BC's Past by Building Its Future

09/06/12

By Sean Smith | Chronicle Editor

Published: Sept. 6, 2012

Boston College’s 150th anniversary, University President William P. Leahy, SJ, told the audience at last night’s annual University Convocation, is an opportunity to celebrate BC’s past but also its present — and to look at its future with confidence.

“We go forward with a compelling educational and religious heritage, talented students, faculty, and staff, solid financial foundations, and dedicated, enthusiastic alumni,” said Fr. Leahy. “For more than 40 years, we have been guided by a two-fold approach in planning: Build on proven strengths and move BC to the next level of excellence and distinction in areas appropriate to its heritage and mission and where the University has a clear path to be among the best.”

The University’s Sesquicentennial Celebration, which begins Sept. 15 with a Mass at Fenway Park, provided the main theme for Fr. Leahy’s talk.

Also speaking at the event, which was held in Robsham Theater, were Executive Vice President Patrick Keating, who discussed construction, budget and finance matters, and Provost and Dean of Faculties Cutberto Garza, who spoke on the quality of faculty-student interaction at the University. Campus Ministry Director Fr. Tony Penna gave the benediction and offered a tribute to faculty, administrators, staff and students who had died during the previous year.

Fr. Leahy noted the appointment of Kelli Armstrong as vice president for planning and assessment, and the imminent retirements of Athletics Director Gene DeFilippo and Vice President and University Secretary Mary Lou Delong — who will be succeeded by Terrence Devino, SJ.

The University’s Sesquicentennial Celebration, Fr. Leahy said, is an invitation to “give thanks for the vision, people, and decisions that have shaped Boston College over the decades; deepen knowledge and commitment to our institutional history and mission; and dream and reach into the future in ways that are consistent with BC’s intellectual and religious roots and that respond appropriately to new realities and needs.”

Fr. Leahy’s address highlighted some of people who contributed to the establishment and growth of BC over the years. They included Jesuits founder St. Ignatius Loyola; early BC leaders John McElroy, SJ, Robert Fulton, SJ, and Thomas Gasson, SJ; benefactors and supporters like Andrew Carney, Mary Werner Roberts, Cardinal Richard Cushing ’13 and Wallace Carroll ’28; key academic and administrative figures of the past several decades such as Adele Dalsimer, Jeong-Long Lin, Thomas O’Connor, John Smith, Charles Donovan, SJ, Rita Kelleher, Robert Drinan, SJ, and Alice Bourneuf.

The University’s desire to build on the work done by these individuals and others and stay true to its Jesuit, Catholic heritage, Fr. Leahy said, is reflected in its Strategic Plan as well as its other institutional goals and aspirations.

“Let us celebrate our sesquicentennial with gratitude, joy and hope, remembering God’s blessings and those who came before us, and resolving as members of this community today to continue working to raise Boston College to even greater heights.”  

Keating remarked on the scope of construction taking place around campus, especially during the summer, singling out the work on Plaza at O’Neill Library, Alumni Stadium, College Road and Stokes Hall, among other projects. He praised BC Facilities Management personnel and contractors involved in the projects, and the patience and cooperation that is “emblematic of the BC community.”

Future projects will include renovations and the transfer of some academic offices to Maloney Hall, landscaping in the Quad between Gasson, Lyons, Fulton and Devlin Halls and a long-awaited pedestrian crossing at the Beacon Street-Lawrence Avenue intersection. The University also will continue to hold discussions with the City of Boston on the construction of a new residence hall at Lake Street and Commonwealth Avenue, and evaluate a renovation project for St. Mary’s Hall.

Reviewing finance-related trends, Keating noted that, despite challenges, the University’s health care expenses were lower than forecast, utility programs were aided by conservation initiatives and a relatively warm winter, and the financial aid budget “was on target.”

Keating announced the debut of a new program later this semester, “Our BC,” that will provide information about initiatives, opportunities and resources that aid BC’s financial management goals while advancing its other objectives — including that of maintaining a desirable workplace for employees.

“Our financial management is, in a sense, living our mission, respecting our heritage, being good stewards, and colleagues — being part of this community,” he said. 

Garza described faculty-student interaction as a crucial part of BC’s mission and character, and in how the University “transmits its Jesuit, Catholic values to students.” He cited the Institute of the Liberal Arts, the Clough Center for the Study of Institutional Democracy and the Undergraduate Research Fellowships and the Carroll School of Management’s “Take Home Prof” program as among the examples of BC’s commitment to faculty-student interaction, whether in classroom, research or informal settings.

Other current and upcoming efforts include the introduction of a new advisory evaluation form this coming spring, a collaboration between the Biology and Chemistry departments with the University’s McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Program to improve retention of first-generation college students, and the establishment of a Center for Teaching Excellence and Innovation.

Garza touched on the issue of technology’s impact on faculty-student rapport, notably in the area of online learning. BC’s path, he said, is “not to embrace uncritically nor to ignore” such trends, but to focus on “cultivating lasting habits of scholarship.” Accordingly, he said, his office will seek to promote a university-wide conversation on the role of the Internet in higher education.