Harold Petersen, an associate professor of economics who joined Boston College in 1960 and retires from the University this year, reflects on his time at the Heights.
Boston College was always a beautiful place, graced as it was by Gasson, St. Mary’s Bapst, Lyons, and Devlin. [With the] opening of Stokes Hall we have returned to the Gothic beauty of the initial plan. The Jesuit presence is less visible than it was when I arrived, both because of the lack of numbers and because fewer wear clerical garb, but the Ignatian presence is still here and in my view it is stronger and even more inclusive than it was when I came in.
Role of a Lifetime: Harold Petersen of Fertile, Minnesota (population 842), joined Boston College’s economics faculty in 1960 with a Ph.D. from Brown University. He would spend the next 56 years on the Heights, chairing his department twice (1971–78 and 1984–88) and teaching more than 10,000 undergraduates in courses such as “Capital Markets,” “Statistics,” and “Econometrics.” Petersen spoke with @BC a month before he retired in his prime. (A production of Boston College Magazine's @BC Studio | Producer: Ravi Jain; Video: Miles Benson, Paul Dagnello, Ravi Jain | Photo by Lee Pellegrini)
At Boston College I could entertain the possibility that with God as creator and human beings created in the image of God, that we are in our very nature creative. I would acknowledge that one need not believe in God to see creativity as a virtue. But could I be comfortable having this kind of discussion at another school? I am not so sure. What I do know is how much I valued having it here.
I will miss the interaction with students, particularly those doing a senior honors thesis or independent study, for this was where we learned together and really learned from each other. And of course I will miss my Capital Markets course, where we explored whether it is possible to pick winners in the world of stocks and bonds except by luck or by the use of inside information.
I have been so blessed to be here for these 56 years. I met my wife here – I saw her behind the desk of the library on the day I arrived – and our three children are all BC graduates. I had great colleagues and wonderful students. I got to see Doug Flutie play football, and I had JFK and Ronald Reagan as my presidents. I wouldn’t have traded places with anyone in the world.
Reflection interview by Siobhan Sullivan | News and Public Affairs