History & Mission

History of the Woods College

Woods College is the fourth-oldest school at this university. Boston College began offering undergraduate classes at alternative times—late afternoon or evening--in 1929, through what was then known as Boston College Intown, and later as the Evening College. 

Over time, the scope of the offerings grew, and in 1996, the school's name was changed from Evening College to the College of Advancing Studies, to reflect our evolving mission and our expanded academic program, which by then included both bachelor's and master's degrees.  

The name was changed yet again in May 2002, when Katharine B. and Robert M. Devlin contributed a generous gift in honor of long-time dean Fr. James A. Woods, S.J.’s service both to Boston College students and to the greater society.

Intown School facade

Intown School exterior at 126 Newbury Street, University Archives


The Woods College of Advancing Studies at Boston College provides flexible, academically rigorous, ethics-focused undergraduate, graduate, and certificate programs for a wide range of students. In keeping with the Jesuit educational tradition of Boston College, the Woods College prepares students for citizenship, service, and leadership in a global society.

Main entrance to the Woods College of Advancing Studies housed in a section of St. Mary's Hall on the main campus.

St. Mary's Hall

Fr. James A. Woods, S.J.

For 44 years, Fr. James A. Woods, S.J., led our school as dean, shaping the foundation of personalized care, mentoring, and encouragement that to this day defines our culture.

The namesake of Woods College was Boston College’s longest-serving dean—beginning his tenure in April 1968 and retiring in the spring of 2012. During that time Fr. Woods directed comprehensive curriculum changes, designed and introduced a graduate degree program for part-time students, established numerous scholarship and endowment funds, and had an immeasurable impact on thousands of students, faculty members, and staff.

A native of Dorchester’s Neponset neighborhood, Fr. Woods attended Boston College High School before earning his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Boston College. He later acquired a doctorate in education from Boston University and taught at the former Jesuit-run Cranwell School in Lenox, Massachusetts.

Fr. Woods entered the Society of Jesus in 1948 and was ordained to the priesthood in 1961; he served as provincial secretary of the New England Province of the Society of Jesus from 1962 to 1968.

Rev. James A. Woods, S.J., died on November 20 at the Campion Center in Weston. He was 90. 

James A. Woods, S.J.

James A. Woods, S.J.

About the Devlin Family

Inspired by Fr. Woods’s outstanding leadership and the educational opportunities that Woods College makes possible, Katharine B. and Robert M. Devlin made a generous gift in April 2002 that formally renamed the college.

Fr. Woods served as a mentor to two generations of the Devlin family. Bob Devlin—chairman of Curragh Capital Partners and former chairman, president, and CEO of American General Corporation—first met Fr. Woods in the 1950s as a student at the Cranwell School in Lenox, Massachusetts, where Fr. Woods taught.

Kate and Bob’s sons, Michael and Matt, each graduated from Boston College. Michael received a communications degree from the Evening College (the Woods College’s previous name) under the direction of Fr. Woods.

Katharine B. and Robert M. Devlin

Katharine B. and Robert M. Devlin

Our Vision

The Woods College seeks to provides students from a wide range of backgrounds with access to an esteemed Boston College education within a flexible, innovative, and singularly supportive community. At the Woods College, students discern their passions, advance their careers, and prepare for service and ethical leadership in a global society.

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