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

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the heights

An Illustrated History of Boston College, 1863–2013 by ben birnbaum and seth meehan photography by gary wayne gilbert

table of contents

vii introduction Illustrative By Ben Birnbaum xii Narrative guide By Seth Meehan

1 The School: 1863–1906

2 John McElroy, SJ 4 Boston and its Irish 7 The founding 8 Harrison Avenue 12 Joseph Shaw’s library 14 The school opens 16 First students 21 Robert Fulton, SJ 23 The faculty 25 Student lives 26 Required reading 29 First graduates 30 After class 35 The Stylus 36 Opening days 40 Young Men’s Catholic Association 44 Harvard crisis 47 Urban flight

49 The College: 1907–1957

139 The University: 1958–2013

50 Thomas I. Gasson, SJ 52 Promised land 56 The grand plan 61 The Tower 66 Taking possession 69 Sub Turri 70 Br. Schroen’s legacy 73 St. Mary’s Hall 74 Rivalry, 1916 77 World War I 80 Time capsule 83 Fr. O’Brien’s album 84 The Heights 86 The eagle 90 1921 campaign 92 Devlin Hall and Bapst Library 97 Snap-shots 98 Mary Roberts’s Philomatheia Club 103 Women students 104 Professional schools 109 Ed Burke’s reading list 110 The Jubilee year 113 The very brief Frank Leahy era 114 Cardinal William O’Connell ’81 117 World War II 120 John L. Shea ’18 123 Veterans 125 The 1949 hockey team 126 William Keleher, SJ 128 Schools of nursing and education 134 The Citizen Seminars 137 Alumni Stadium

140 144 147 148 150 157 158 161 162 167 168 172 174 178 181 182 187 190 192

Michael P. Walsh, SJ Cardinal Richard Cushing Humanities Series Rise of basketball Centennial Black Talent Program Decline and fall Hard times The Monan era New owners Newton College Doug O’Neill and Burns libraries William P. Leahy, SJ C21 Brighton Campus Light the World The return of Jerry York Sesquicentennial

199 Appendices 200 206 212

The presidents The photographs of Clifton Church Aerial views

220 Acknowledgements 221 Image credits 222 Sources consulted


After class ‘Plays in the tongue of Plautus’


ven in the gymnasium, “behavior should be decorous,” declared the 1877–1878 school catalogue, which Robert Fulton authored anonymously and entirely. “Boisterousness,” he wrote in his teacher’s manual, hurt the College’s mission to boost “powers of intellect and will” and “religious training.” The latter was the foundational extracurricular focus, from the mandatory (for nearby Catholics) morning Mass to elective membership in the St. Cecilia Society, which provided music for religious occasions, and participation in the Sodality of the Immaculate Conception, a 16th-century Jesuit creation, which aimed to increase “devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary.” But the “Catholic gentlemen” Fulton intended to bring into the world had to be persuasive as well, to which end, in 1868, he founded the Debating Society of Boston College (renamed the Fulton Debating Society in 1890).

Following Saturday classes, students practiced ­“ Dramatic Reading, Declamation and Extemporaneous Debate,” pursuing such questions as “Is the Act of Printing productive of more good than evil?” By the late 1880s, students were sufficiently accomplished that their public debates drew large (and paying) crowds to hear young men wrestle for hours over “Which should predominate in the schools, the Study of Science or of Literature?” (It was not lost on ­Fulton—little was—that these public exhibitions were also a means of attracting new, paying students, and gifted ones.) Theater, which like eloquence was embedded in the traditional Jesuit curriculum, was another tool by which the school endeavored to instill discipline, culture, and poise in its students. Female roles were at first omitted, with pertinent remarks or actions reassigned to male characters—including newly created ones, if necessary. (The 1900

performance of The Merchant of Venice, in which one Henry C. Donlon played Portia, is said to be the first College play that had a female character.) In 1869, students offered a play in French, a practice that became a tradition, along with performances in Latin and Greek. When in 1893 Harvard’s Hasty Pudding Club announced that it would produce a Latin play, editors of the Stylus—a student magazine founded in 1883—reflected that “Boston College has often and successfully produced plays in the tongue of Plautus.” As for athletics, there were no appointed sports teams in the school’s first two decades. Students, though, played games on “Boston College’s Common,” an open space alongside the residence and behind the school building on James Street. There, too, they practiced military drills, including a “dressparade” and “sword drill” that attracted spectators to the fence on Harrison Avenue.

above: Program cover for French play (1900). right: Program cover for annual public debate (1899). far right: Debating Society constitution developed by Fulton and students (1868).


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above: Cast of Julius Caesar (1903). left: Selected dramatics programs, including (center) program and tickets related to the production above.


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clockwise from left: Members of the Mandolin and Guitar Club (1899); program for cadet drill; cadet officers of 1871–1872, with future president of Georgetown College J. Havens Richards standing without a hat (all others identified on page 221); program for a music concert; the orchestra (1906); program for a “philosophical symposium” (1903); ticket to a Boston College Athenaeum production; ticket and program for a French play (1902); program cover for a musical concert in downtown Boston.


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clockwise from above: Mary Doherty (l) and Margaret Hayes register for the Intown College in 1940; Mary Mellyn receives an honorary doctorate in 1925; Margaret Ursula Magrath, who in 1926, along with Olivia C. Penell, earned a degree from an education program for teachers; Margaret Daley, who was in 1938 voted “Co-Ed of Boston College” by fellow female students in the Intown College; Student Council President Mary Lyons ’49, surrounded by council members, signs the by-laws that brought student government to the Intown School in 1949. Standing, third from left, is Francis McLaughlin ’54, who taught economics at Boston College from 1960 to 2013.


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Women students ‘Girls are using our laboratory facilities’


ome’s view of coeducation during the early part of the 20th century was unambiguous, with Pius XI declaring in 1929 that the “so-called method of ‘coeducation’” was “false also and harmful to Christian education.” The education of women by Boston College (though not coeducation itself) can be dated to 1910, when the College faculty, at the request of Archbishop O’Connell, participated in a teacher-training program for nuns who worked in local parochial schools. Nine years later, the College organized a school of education led by James Mellyn, SJ, the College treasurer, to train Boston public school teachers—men only, initially, but women soon enough—with tuition paid by the city. Although Mellyn’s cousin Mary, a Boston public school administrator, became the first woman to receive an honorary degree from Boston College—a doctorate in 1925—it was Mellyn’s program that produced the first earned degrees by women, when Margaret Ursula Magrath and Olivia C. Penell were awarded master of arts degrees in 1926. The first bachelor’s degree

was received by Sr. Mary Hoare in 1927. In 1930, Penell and Marion E. Fitzgerald became the first women to earn doctoral degrees at Boston College. This coeducation program, which utilized non-Chestnut Hill facilities, was judged a particular public relations success, with the provincial reporting to Rome in 1928 that it “has widened our influence [in Boston] in a very marked manner.” The following year, with the opening of a part-time undergraduate Extension School (later called the Intown College, among other names), Boston College for the first time invited women to work toward undergraduate degrees, but at facilities in the South End or the Back Bay. It was in the Back Bay, at 126 Newbury Street, that Intown College students first crafted a true coeducational experience, with Christmas parties, sports banquets, dances, and annual excursions to Plymouth, New Hampshire, aboard the “BC Snow Train,” for ice skating, snowshoeing, and skiing. Nearly 400 women received Boston College diplomas from the Intown School from 1926 to 1936. The men on the Heights, however, seemed to have had no particular regard for what transpired at 126 Newbury. In 1938, Paramount Pictures, about to release College Swing, asked the Sub Turri staff if some of the movie’s stars (including George Burns, Betty Grable, Gracie Allen, and Jackie Coogan) might select Boston College’s most beautiful or personable coed from yearbook photographs. The publication’s business manager responded that Boston College was not coeducational but perhaps the panel could select the best-looking male student. Alerted to this exchange, 90 of the Intown College women hosted a dance at the Copley Plaza Hotel on February 25, 1938, and voted Margaret Daley, of Brockton, “Co-Ed of Boston College.” (Paramount Pictures appears not to have noticed.) Nevertheless, with the exception of 230 religious sisters who took part in a teacher-training course in the summer of 1924, no women students would utilize a Boston College classroom until 1947, when women from the School of Nursing, headquartered at 126 Newbury, began to take science courses in Chestnut Hill. Or, as the Heights reported, with what seems a Goldilockslike mixture of awe and chagrin, “girls from the Nursing School are using our laboratory facilities.”


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Hard times ‘Cherish your anger’


f  Fr. Joyce’s first misfortune was that his presi‑ dency rested on floorboards concealing a deep financial hole, his second was that he served during an era of harsh disagreement over war, race, personal freedoms, and common values, a storm system that would topple presidents from Columbia University to UC-Berkeley. The winds were already howling on his inauguration day, in October 1968, soon after 2,650 undergraduates, a third of the student body, had delivered a request that the venerable four-course theology requirement be dropped. November was mild—a few students protesting a public transporta‑ tion fare hike. But January was rough, with students demanding that the University shed its ROTC unit, the second largest in New England and a source of financial aid as well as alumni pride. (The Heights called the program “an acute embarrassment.”) In March, more than 1,500 students staged an outdoor protest of the decision to deny tenure to the feminist theologian Mary Daly—a decision the administration reversed in July. The inimitable 1969–1970 protest season, which would culminate in the tuition and anti-war strikes referred to on the previous pages, began mildly enough for the times, with a “Vietnam Moratorium Day” on October 15. Joyce, who strongly opposed the war, presided over a “Mass for Peace” on the Dustbowl, while 4,000 students in Roberts Center were instructed by Law School Dean Rob‑ ert Drinan, SJ, to “cherish your anger.” In January, internal administrative friction surfaced when Joyce tried, unsuccessfully, to force out his handpicked and stunningly unpopular executive vice president, Francis X. Shea, SJ. (“In God we trust, but what about Shea?” read an alumni magazine cover that year.) In February, black students boycotted classes while demanding, among other things, increases in both financial aid and minority enrollment. In March, the University, which served as publisher of the Heights, cut the paper’s support in response to an article the University claimed was potentially libelous. That same month, black students occupied Gasson Hall for 10 hours in protest of the University’s “reluctance to act on the [earlier] demands.” Then came the tuition strike and the Cambodian invasion strike, along with a student rampage in the ROTC office in the base‑ ment of the Roberts Center that left desks overturned

and papers scattered—“a perfect example of effective political action,” pronounced the Heights. In the fall, arriving students found that they outnumbered, by several hundred, the beds Boston College was able to make available for use. (The University had pumped enrollment in an effort to deal with the deficit.) Modu‑ lar homes were trucked in by flatbed as a stopgap measure (and the first to be unloaded slipped its hoist and splintered on the ground), but students also had to be placed in motels as far away as Dedham. (Two young men attracted particular attention by setting up in a pup tent behind a building on Upper Campus.) In October, black students briefly closed the treasurer’s office in Gasson Hall. In November, students dis‑ rupted Air Force recruiting. In December, the Heights reported that Joyce would be forced out, and the Carnegie Foundation released a study listing Boston College among 11 colleges and universities “in finan‑ cial difficulty.” Students meanwhile took to fasting to raise money for the library—each missed meal yield‑ ing $1.12 worth of books. In March 1971, more than 1,100 students signed a petition protesting inequities in the treatment of women students. Also in March, the Heights published a transcript of a secretly taped meeting of the all-Jesuit Board of Trustees. “Gossipy old ladies with axes to grind,” was the newspaper’s summary of the proceedings. The University, which had reached an accord with the newspaper following their estrangement a year earlier, again cut its support of the Heights and arranged for two of its editors to be arrested; it then arranged for them to be released. In October, students occupied Joyce’s office to protest on-campus military recruitment. Asked what the occupiers intended, Joyce replied, somewhat bewilder‑ ingly, “I honestly don’t know what the students want. They’re a very diversified group.” On January 7, 1972, Seavey Joyce submitted his resignation. A month later, Bridge, the alumni magazine, published an exit inter‑ view, asking Joyce if he would have accepted the presi‑ dency if he had known what he now knew. He replied, “I would not. I’m sorry to say that.”

clockwise from left: Demonstrators protest military recruitment in October 1971; Joyce at a “Peace Mass” on the Dustbowl in October 1969; a Mod that fell from its crane while it was being unloaded in September 1970; alumni counter-protesters in March 1970, during the occupation of Gasson Hall by a group of black students (“Fr. Shea” on one poster is a reference to Francis X. Shea, SJ, the executive vice president); in McGuinn Hall’s auditorium, a meeting called by black students in February 1970 to press for increased minority enrollment and financial aid; a March 1969 protest following the denial of promotion and tenure to the feminist theologian Mary Daly.


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“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! As one who is proud to have been associated with Boston College over the years, and who greatly admires its continuing balance between science and the humanities, I take the book very much to heart. Bravo, Ben Birnbaum, Seth Meehan, and Gary Wayne Gilbert!” —  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. The Heights is fascinating as cultural, political, even religious history, but it is this human element that makes Birnbaum and Meehan’s book so delightful to read. Much as it is the human element—the personality of the place—that has endeared Boston College to so many of us over the years.” —  Alice McDermott, H’99, P ’03, National Book Award–winning novelist and Richard A. Macksey Professor of the Humanities, Johns Hopkins University “This marvelous new book is a real rarity among college histories: a book that is deeply researched, a pleasure to read, and a sumptuous visual feast. 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. The reproduction and arrangement of the images presents them in artistic and deeply evocative ways. 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

the heights

An Illustrated History of Boston College, 1863–2013 by ben birnbaum and seth meehan photography by gary wayne gilbert

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