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The Heights: An Illustrated History of Boston College, 1863-2013

The Heights: An Illustrated History of Boston College, 1863-2013

© 2014 Boston College
240 pages | $50.00

A treasure trove of engaging essays and archival images—many in print for the first time—The Heights: An Illustrated History of Boston College, 1863–2013 offers a singular look at the individuals, challenges, and historic currents that shaped the first 150 years of Boston College.

By Ben Birnbaum and Seth Meehan
Photographs Gary Wayne Gilbert

Exhaustively researched and exquisitely illustrated, The Heights tells a story of Boston College through well-chosen essays, profiles, and seldom-seen images drawn from archives in Boston, Washington, D.C., Rome, and elsewhere.

Coauthors Ben Birnbaum and Seth Meehan bring to life historic figures such as the University’s founding fathers—starting with “opinionated, obdurate, wily, inexhaustible” John McElroy, S.J.—as well as “individuals who entered the scene innocently, bit players, extras, never imagining they were making memory, much less history,” as Birnbaum writes in his introduction.

Advance praise for The Heights:

“Our leading American colleges and universities are major American achievements of the highest order, essential expressions of our highest ambitions, and so while this magnificent, hugely welcome chronicle is the story of Boston College, it is also a great and important American story expertly researched and superbly written. And, yes, what a feast of photographs!”

—David McCullough, H’08


“This is a beautifully illustrated history that limns not only the founding and the growth of a great Catholic university, but that brings to life as well the many personalities—Jesuits, teachers, students, supporters—who have shaped Boston College over the past century and a half.”

—Alice McDermott, H’99, P’03, National Book Award–winning novelist and Richard A. Macksey Professor of the Humanities, Johns Hopkins University


“The Heights is a magnificent tribute to the rich history of Boston College, and all Eagles—past, present, and future—will want to make room on their bookshelves for this celebration of one of the world’s most storied institutions of higher learning.”

—James Martin, SJ, M.Div.’98, Th.M.’99, author of Jesus: A Pilgrimage


“The Heights offers many images that have not been seen before, gathered through an ambitious research effort that began in Chestnut Hill but extended as far as Rome. And the accompanying texts, for which a great deal of new research was also done, entertainingly present the stories that frame the photographs.”

—James M. O’Toole, ’72, Ph.D.’87, Clough Millennium Chair in History and author of The Faithful: A History of Catholics in America and a forthcoming history of Boston College

About the Authors

Ben Birnbaum is editor of Boston College Magazine, special assistant to the president of Boston College, and executive director of the University’s Office of Marketing Communications. His essays have appeared in the Atlantic, Harvard Divinity Review, and the Jewish Review of Books, among other publications, and have been anthologized in Best American Essays, Best Spiritual Writing, and Best Catholic Writing. He is the author or editor of several books on Boston College history, and editor of the essay collection Take Heart: Catholic Writers on Hope in Our Time (Crossroad, 2007).

Seth Meehan, MA’09, Ph.D.’14, is assistant director of the Institute for Advanced Jesuit Studies at Boston College. His work has previously appeared in the New York Times, the Catholic Historical Review, Archivum Historicum Societatis Iesu, and Boston College Magazine.  He received a bachelor of arts in theology from Georgetown University and formerly was a graduate fellow and coordinator of student programs at the Clough Center for the Study of Constitutional Democracy at Boston College.

Gary Wayne Gilbert, an award-winning fine art and commercial photographer, is director of photography in the Office of Marketing Communications at Boston College and photo editor of Boston College Magazine. He graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design. His clients include corporations, universities, museums, and magazines. His photographs have been recognized with Awards of Excellence by the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education and featured in Communication Arts magazine.