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Fr. Leahy Provides Annual Update on University Affairs

04/11/13
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Since 2009, President William P. Leahy, SJ, has provided an annual update about Boston College to admininistrators, faculty, staff, students, alumni and friends of the University. The following letter was sent to the University community on April 11.

Dear Members of the Boston College Community:

As we mark the 150th anniversary of Boston College’s founding in April, 1863, I write to provide an update on Sesquicentennial events as well as note some significant advances in the areas of facilities, personnel, finances, academics, and fundraising.  

The Sesquicentennial

We launched our Sesquicentennial celebration in September with a Mass at Fenway Park attended by approximately 20,000 alumni, students, parents, and friends. In his homily, Fr. Michael Himes, professor of theology, suggested that what unites us with God is our humanity, and what makes us more human and more like God is helping others to become more human. That conviction, he proposed, lies at the heart of Jesuit education, which he described as a gift only fully realized when given away to others. 

In the fall semester, the University hosted two Sesquicentennial symposia:  “Education and its Role in Democratic Societies,” and “Religion and the Liberal Aims of Higher Education.”  It also presented the first Sesquicentennial Medal to Harvard University President Drew Faust, in recognition of her commitment to scholarship and the liberal arts.

On March 21-22, the University convened an academic gathering focused on “Migration: Past, Present and Future,” which included a naturalization ceremony and resulting citizenship for 94 immigrants from 42 countries. One of these new American citizens was a Boston College freshman originally from Bhutan whose family now lives in Concord, NH.  It was a momentous day not only for those who were granted citizenship, but also for Boston College, whose own history is rooted in the immigrant experience.

Another well-received event was the Sesquicentennial Concert on March 23 at Symphony Hall in Boston, which featured performances by the University Chorale, the Boston College Symphony Orchestra, BC bOp!, and the University Wind Ensemble, as well as narration of Aaron Copland’s “A Lincoln Portrait” by actor Chris O’Donnell ’92. 

On April 2, retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor participated in a panel discussion at the Boston College Law School symposium, “Law Schools and the Education of Democratic Citizens,” in which she encouraged students to become more engaged in the civic process.

Particularly impressive among our 150th anniversary activities has been the willingness of Boston College students to volunteer 150 minutes of community service through the Eagle Volunteers program, and the response of our alumni to the goal of preparing 150,000 meals for distribution by Catholic Relief Services in Africa. At our seven-city “150 On the Road” events in Los Angeles and Miami, BC alumni and parent volunteers packed more than 65,000 meals to be shipped to Burkina Faso in West Africa. Similar programs will be held in Boston (April 13), San Francisco (April 20), New York (April 27), Dublin (May 4), and Chicago (June 15).

Facilities

Stokes Hall, featuring 36 new classrooms and offices for faculty in the departments of classics, English, history, philosophy, and theology, opened on schedule in January and has been a powerful affirmation of Boston College’s longstanding commitment to liberal arts education.

Renovation of St. Mary’s Hall began in January with the move of the Boston College Jesuit Community to 2000 Commonwealth Avenue, an apartment building owned by Boston College. When completed in December, 2014, this project will result in remodeled living quarters for the Jesuit Community and 24,000 square feet of academic space for the Computer Science and Communication departments and the Woods College of Advancing Studies.

Personnel

Brad Bates, named director of athletics in October, has hosted a series of meetings and listening sessions with fans and alumni around the country as he familiarizes himself with our athletics program and sets his goals for the future. In addition, the announcement of a new vice president for student affairs should be made before the end of the academic year.

Finances

At its March meeting, the Board of Trustees set tuition at $44,870, part of an overall increase in tuition, room, board and fees of 3.6 percent.  The board also increased need-based financial aid for undergraduates by 7.9 percent, to $97 million, with overall student aid reaching $152 million.

Boston College is one of only 21 private institutions of higher education in the United States with a policy of accepting undergraduate applicants on a need-blind basis and also meeting their full demonstrated financial need. While we are proud of this distinction, maintaining this commitment in the future will require a major increase in support for financial aid the endowment.

The University continues to pursue operational efficiencies to reduce costs and redirect savings to fund strategic academic initiatives, an effort led by Executive Vice President Pat Keating, Financial Vice President and Treasurer Peter McKenzie, Provost and Dean of Faculties Bert Garza, and Vice President for Human Resources Leo Sullivan.  Since 2009, the University has achieved approximately $20 million in budget reductions and savings through focused attention on health care, energy, printing, and use of facilities.

Academics

This year Boston College added a supplemental essay to the undergraduate admission process in an effort to attract the most serious and committed students.  The result has been not only a smaller applicant pool (25,000 applicants, which is more in line with our principal competitors) but also what Admission Director John Mahoney calls the best-suited and most academically talented group of potential BC freshmen in our history.

The undergraduate core curriculum, last reviewed in 1991, has been the subject of comprehensive study this academic year. A team of faculty and academic administrators, led by Institute for the Liberal Arts Director Mary Crane, College of Arts and Sciences Dean David Quigley, Carroll School of Management Dean Andy Boynton, and Biology Chairman Tom Chiles, continues to work with the consulting firm Continuum on core renewal. They have sought and obtained extensive comments from members of the campus community, and hope to present results from their consultation and deliberations in the next six to eight weeks.

Again this year Boston College faculty and students have excelled in and out of the classroom, and I offer the following as examples:

•Assistant Professors of Mathematics Joshua Greene and David Treumann won prestigious 2013 Sloan Research Fellowships, bringing to six the number of Sloan Fellowships won by BC faculty in the past two years.

•Lynch School of Education Associate Professor Michael Barnett was named the 2012 Massachusetts Professor of the Year by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and the Council for Advancement and Support of Education.

•Economics Professor Uzi Segal was elected a Fellow of the Econometric Society, the world’s leading learned society for economists.

•Professor Lawrence Scott, holder of the Vanderslice Family Chair in Chemistry, was named a Fellow of the American Chemical Society.

•McCarthy Professor of Systematic Theology Richard Gaillardetz was named president-elect of the Catholic Theological Society of America.

•Assistant Professor of Mathematics J. Elisenda Grigsby received a CAREER award, the National Science Foundation’s most distinguished prize for junior faculty, in support of her work in low-dimensional topology.

•Professor of Russian, English and Jewish Studies Maxim D. Shrayer was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship to support research on Holocaust studies.

•Aditya Ashok ’12, who won a Truman Scholarship for public service as a junior, was named a recipient of the prestigious George C. Marshall Scholarship for graduate study in the United Kingdom.

•Sophomore Maria Asdourian, who conducts Alzheimer’s research in the lab of Professor Dan Kirschner, was awarded a Goldwater Scholarship, considered the premier undergraduate award in the sciences.  

•BC junior and Presidential Scholar Brooke Loughrin was named the first-ever US Youth Observer to the United Nations by the US State Department and the United Nations Association.

•Graduate students Jennifer Patey of the Connell School of Nursing and Caitlin Partyka of the Graduate School of Social Work were named 2012-13 Albert Schweitzer Fellows, to address global health issues.

•Boston College student-athletes ranked second in the Atlantic Coast Conference Academic Honor Roll, behind Duke University, with 369 BC students registering a GPA of 3.0 or better.

•Boston College students received 18 Fulbright Scholarships in 2012, the 13th highest among colleges and universities in the United States.

•Boston College ranked sixth among medium-sized schools with 36 undergraduate alumni serving in the Peace Corps this year. A total of 752 BC graduates have volunteered their service since the agency was founded in 1961.

•In 2012, 47 Boston College graduates also served in the Jesuit Volunteer Corps.

Fundraising

All of the activities and accomplishments I have cited in this letter have benefitted from funds raised through our “Light the World” campaign. I am pleased to report that in January we reached the $1 billion mark, a record-setting accomplishment for the University. Nonetheless, we realize we have much work to do, and need the help of all alumni and friends of Boston College to reach our campaign goal of $1.5 billion and continue striving to enhance our mission and meet our institutional goals.

The Jesuits who established our University had great vision and faith. As we celebrate our Sesquicentennial, I am frequently reminded how immensely Boston College has benefited and continues to benefit from the dedication, talent, and commitment of faculty, staff, students, alumni, and friends. Because of such efforts and generosity, our University is able to advance in academic excellence and reputation, remain faithful to its Jesuit, Catholic heritage and values, and stand as a beacon of light and hope in our day.

May God continue to bless and guide us in our work as stewards of this noble endeavor.

Sincerely,
William P. Leahy, SJ
President