“She was no great friend of universities,” Keeley says understatedly. But he persisted, with more letters from Chestnut Hill scattered across a decade. Finally, in 1986, he asked if he could see her in Toronto (where the Jacobs family had moved), and she agreed. There they spoke for hours about urban issues and Boston neighborhoods as well as Boston College.
“She began to get a sense that if she were to come here, she would get a very enthusiastic hearing, and not the academic snobbery that she often got elsewhere,” Keeley recalls of the July 4 visit. Less than a year later she was at Boston College for a symposium on ethics and economics—an event that, she later said, ushered in a new phase of her thinking and writing that centered on ecology and economics. Jacobs acknowledged Keeley's role and that of others at Boston College in a couple of her books published afterward.
The University’s relationship with Jacobs continued, with more trips to campus for at least four more programs. And so, when asked by Burns librarian Robert O’Neill during a 1993 visit to the Heights if she’d consider making Boston College the repository of her papers, Jacobs replied, by every account, “I can’t think of a place I’d rather have them.” After the collection arrived, Keeley had the privilege of pulling out some items for his own use, including a few original manuscript pages for her 1984 book Cities and the Wealth of Nations.
Today the trove is the most visited research collection at Burns and has been tapped as a prime source for several books about Jacobs and her ideas.