Boston College Citizen Seminars: March 30, 2005
sponsored by the chief executives' club of boston
Celebrating 50 Years
The Boston Indicators Report
Thinking Globally, Acting Locally: A Regional Wake Up Call
The Honorable Mayor Menino opens the Boston College Citizen Seminar at the Boston Harbor Hotel.
In a luncheon that drew over 300 of the region's leading business executives, government officials, and service planners, the Boston College Citizen Seminars celebrated its 50th anniversary yesterday. The organization has been a catalyst for many of the major structural and corporate changes in the city of Boston and its surrounding areas.
The Citizen Seminars were established in 1954 by Dean W. Seavey Joyce, S.J., of the Carroll School of Management, who later became the University's 23rd president. The idea for a neutral meeting place for leaders of all areas of the private sector first came to Joyce when he landed at Logan Airport in the mid-1950s and saw his hometown, indistinguishable and drab.
"Fr. Joyce almost never flew," said University Historian Thomas H. O'Connor in an interview with the BC Chronicle, "so when he saw this city, one that he had lived in his entire life, from a different view he realized that there was nothing distinctive about it. He looked out and said, 'Where's Boston?'"
Since then, the seminars aimed to bring together different areas of the community in a collective effort to change Boston's stagnant economic development and divided neighborhoods.
"In those days, Boston was a badly divided city," said O'Connor in his luncheon address. "Yankees and Irish, Republicans and Democrats, politicians and bankers, Protestants and Catholics - there was little to draw them together as a community with mutual interests and shared values."
The seminars were first held on the Chestnut Hill campus, the first of which was the location where then Mayor John B. Haynes proposed his vision for a New Boston with the development of familiar landmarks like the Prudential Center and the surrounding area, Government Center, and the Hynes Convention Center.
This could not have been accomplished, however, if Boston leaders did not put aside their difference and concentrate on a common goal - a better Boston.
"Hynes appreciated the fact that Boston was not - and is not - just another American city," said O'Connor. "He believed it to be a city with a history and a tradition that is both special and distinctive, and felt that those who worked in the city and made their money in the city should appreciate and encourage that distinction."
This collaboration, largely catalyzed by BC's Citizen Seminars, also resulted in the erection of Massachusetts General Hospital, the McLean Asylum for the Insane, Perkins Institute for the Blind, the Boston Public Library, Symphony Hall, and the Lowell Institute.
After reflecting upon the past 50 years, O'Connor turned to the city's future potential and visions of another New Boston.
"Boston has plenty of new people here in the city, and a whole new cluster of powerful financial engines that power our regional economy," he said. "But have they yet developed any mechanisms for thoughtful and collective leadership in a historical city where their institutions are located and from which they draw their labor force?"
He noted that while history never actually repeats itself, Boston's current situation is very similar to that of 50 years ago, but based on different issues.
"Today the issues are much more personal and ideological in nature - new techniques for effective education in a high-tech environment, humane responses to a more diverse work force in the light of current, demographic changes, and creative mechanisms for developing a spirit of collective leadership that will acknowledge and consciously promote the distinctive historical and cultural traditions of the city."
He ended by challenging the audience to think of Boston's future and who might lead the effort.
The welcome and opening remarks were given by University President Rev. William P. Leahy, S.J., and Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino. Former BankBoston CEO Richard D. Hill was presented with a Lifetime Leadership Award for his innumerable contributions to the city.
Boston Foundation President, Paul Grogan used the Boston College Citizen Seminar to introduce their newest biennial report from the Boston Indicators Project, Thinking Globally, Acting Locally: A Regional Wake Up Call. Mr. Grogan then moderated a panel on private sector leadership. The panel participants were: Ranch Kimball, Secretary, MA Executive Office of Economic Development; Paul La Camera, President, WCVB-TV; J. Keith Motley, Chancellor, University of Massachusetts Boston; and Linda Whitlock, President & CEO, Boys & Girls Clubs of Boston. The Master of Ceremonies for the Boston College Citizen Seminars' 50th Anniversary was Frances Rivera, an anchor for 7News WHDH-TV.
Article by Carolyn Mattus, Boston College Heights, Thursday, March 31, 2005