At the National September 11 Memorial in New York, a red bandanna left in tribute to Welles Remy Crowther's heroism.

Lessons in character, calling, and courage are on the syllabus in seven courses at the Woods College of Advancing Studies this semester, as undergraduates collectively read the story of Boston College alumnus Welles Remy Crowther ’99, who lost his life leading others to safety on September 11, 2001.

The shared reading is part of the inaugural Woods College Manresa Experience, an initiative launched this fall to encourage and support students in their professional, personal, and spiritual discernment.The program was developed by the Woods College Student Life and Formation committee, in consultation with the Boston College Office of Student Formation.

Named for the small town in Spain where Society of Jesus founder Ignatius Loyola spent nearly a year engaged in the prayer and penance that would illuminate him and guide his life, the Manresa Experience reflects the Woods College’s commitment to Boston College’s Jesuit educational tradition, which invites students to reflect on their own life experiences to determine how best they can use their talents to respond to the world’s needs.

The Woods College team at this year's Welles Remy Crowther 5K Red Bandanna Run.
The Woods College team at this year's Welles Remy Crowther 5K Red Bandanna Run.

The first group of Manresa Experience participants are reading The Red Bandanna: A Life, A Choice, A Legacy, the New York Times best seller by ESPN national correspondent Tom Rinaldi, which tells the story of Welles Crowther, a volunteer firefighter and equity trader at Sandler O’Neill & Partners, who died rescuing more than a dozen people in the south tower of the World Trade Center following the 9/11 attacks.

The book’s title refers to the item Crowther wore as a mask to protect him from the smoke and haze as he repeatedly reentered the tower to seek people in need of help. Many of those he led to safety would identify their rescuer as “the man in the red bandanna.”

The Red Bandanna’s inspirational themes of selflessness, compassion, and the difference one person can make in the lives of others are integrated into the content and discussions of the seven courses participating in the Woods Manresa Experience, which range from writing, literature, and public speaking to history, Christian theology, and the psychology of health and healing. Though each course approaches the material through the lens of its particular discipline, all students are asked to explore their own calling and purpose, and to reflect on what it means to be Boston College students, preparing to be leaders who are a force for good in the world.

"In a course in which the transition from medieval certainty to modern ambiguity is an important focus, reading The Red Bandanna is a useful reminder of the power of the human individual grounded in the surety of faith," said Martin Menke, whose course in modern history is participating in the program.

The Woods College Manresa Experience included a guest appearance by ESPN national correspondent Tom Rinaldi, author of 'The Red Bandanna.'
Tom Rinaldi, author of 'The Red Bandanna.' (Frank Curran)

So far this semester, the Manresa Experience has included a book discussion and dinner for participants with Woods College Dean James Burns, I.V.D; invitations to the Welles Remy Crowther 5K Red Bandanna Run, a signature BC event held annually to raise funds for the Welles Remy Crowther Charitable Trust; and an evening with The Red Bandanna’s author, Tom Rinaldi, that also was attended by Welles' mother, Alison Crowther.

In addition, two students from each class are designated by faculty and staff as Woods College Manresa Scholars, with selection based on their academic and professional backgrounds. They receive a small financial scholarship, take part in a scholar/mentor dinner with Dean Burns and other Boston College staff, and will have the opportunity to join a retreat during the spring semester that will include a visit to the 9/11 Memorial and Museum in New York City.

Woods College alumni also are invited to take part in the Manresa Experience through a related book discussion.

Woods College Manresa Scholars
Two students from each class are designated by faculty and staff as Woods College Manresa Scholars. The inaugural cohort assembled for a group photo prior to 'The Red Bandanna' author Tom Rinaldi's campus appearance. L-R standing: Woods College Associate Dean for Enrollment Claudia Pouravelis, Tom Rinaldi, Katelyn Whalen, Muhammad Hassan, Brenna Woolf, Anna Asaridis, Sarah Harvey, Judithe Depina, Gabby Hoxsie, Shanshan Li, Michael Savarese, Woods College Dean James Burns, I.V.D. L-R, seated: Justin Mascioli, Jason Wallace, Xuhuantao Bei. (Not pictured: West Price-Ashby, Tyler Sullivan-Prada). (Frank Curran)

Administrators envision the initiative becoming central to the life of the school's 400 degree and non-degree undergraduate students.

"The Woods College wants all its undergraduates, even if they are only on campus for a single course, to feel connected to the University's mission and community,” said Fr. Burns.

“I am so happy and grateful to be part of the Woods community, which has been so welcoming from day one,” said Manresa Scholar Shanshan Li. “As a student, the community guides me to find my passion; as a Manresa scholar, it inspires me to explore my vocation and helps me to understand what it means to be a BC student.”

The planning committee is currently reviewing potential reading selections and events for next year.

—Patricia Delaney | University Communications

Woods Manresa Experience 'Red Bandanna' Evening - Photographs by Frank Curran

  • ESPN National Correspondent Tom Rinaldi, author of 'The Red Bandanna.'
  • Woods College Dean James Burns, I.V.D. welcomed the attendees.
  • Tom Rinaldi greets Woods College Manresa Scholars Judithe Depina, Gabby Hoxsie and Shanshan Li.
  • Woods College Manresa Scholar West Price-Ashby has his copy of 'The Red Bandanna' signed by the author.
  • Welles' mother, Alison Crowther, was recognized at the event.