Leahy delivers a five-year analysis
the completion of five years as president, William P. Leahy, SJ,
took the occasion of Faculty Convocation on September 5 to assess
progress, identify areas for development, and outline a plan for
increasing fund-raising for the University. He touched on areas
of achievement and several areas of challenge, saying that Boston
College must continue to pursue excellence in academics and research
while devoting equal attention to its financial resources and deepening
its commitment to a Jesuit, Catholic mission.
In a review of the University's financial progress since 1996, Fr.
Leahy noted that the endowment has grown from $590 million to $1.1
billion. Annual gifts received have more than doubled, from $24.6
million to $50 million.
During this time, the University has taken on major construction
projects, among them: the upgrading and expansion of Higgins Hall
classrooms and laboratories for physics and biology; the renovation
of the upper-campus dorms; and a new office building below O'Neill
In the area of academic progress, Leahy touched on gains among students,
faculty, and programs. Undergraduate applications, he noted, have
risen from 16,501 to 19,059--and the acceptance rate has gone from
41 percent to 33.5 percent. The average SAT score has climbed from
1,248 to 1,300; the representation of AHANA students on campus has
increased from 18 to nearly 22 percent. Similarly, in BC's graduate
and professional schools, Leahy said, applications from graduates
of the more selective colleges are on the rise, as are test scores.
In the past five years, he reported, the University has benefited
from 59 new faculty positions: "26 to increase the number of full-time
teachers of undergraduates, and 33 in departments and programs selected
for special emphasis." Annual external research support coming to
the faculty has more than doubled, from $18 million to $36.5 million.
Boston College, said Leahy, has also made "significant progress
toward our goal of becoming a more international university." The
number of students studying abroad has grown, from 350 to 685, and
international partnerships have multiplied, from ties with 13 universities
in 13 nations to 66 programs in 31 countries.
Leahy noted the substantial transition in leadership at Boston College
during the past five years, with the University hiring an executive
vice president, academic vice president, vice president for student
affairs, and deans of Law, Management, Social Work, and the College
of Arts and Sciences. He praised the individuals who had been "at
the heart" of prior progress. "Those who have taken their places,"
he said, "face the significant challenge of continuing and building
on the legacy of their predecessors, who did so much to help make
Boston College the distinctive place it is today."
In defining that challenge, Leahy cited the intense competition
within higher education today. "I am convinced," he said, "that
we must continue to sharpen and refine our academic planning and
make it the driving force in BC's development." He called for examining
"more explicitly" the relationship between teaching and research
and the balance between undergraduate and graduate or professional
education. And he spoke of the need to involve more full-time faculty
in undergraduate instruction, advisement, and non-classroom activities.
Leahy said that in the realm of academic research, "We cannot do
everything. . . . Excellence will be achieved by emphasizing those
areas that are consistent with our mission and capabilities." The
University, he said, must pursue "targeted, well-funded, realistic
"We have major aspirations for Boston College," Leahy told the audience
in Robsham Theater. "To achieve them, we must obtain additional
financial resources." Accordingly, he announced that the University
will increase the size and scope of its fund-raising operations.
As part of this expansion, vice president for University relations
Mary Lou DeLong will become senior vice president, and a vice president
for development will be hired.
"We are first and foremost a university," said Leahy, "but we are
also an institution with distinct religious and educational roots
that must be nourished and made more vibrant." He described the
duty of faculty and staff to sustain a "dialogue between faith and
con- temporary culture." Some, he said, will do this "implicitly.
. . when they teach students to be critically reflective about knowledge
and its uses." Others will do so more directly, "from [within] Catholic
intellectual tradition and other religious traditions."
"I have met many impressive people since July 1996," said Leahy.
"I realize more than I did five years ago how much good is being
accomplished at Boston College and what a distinctive, caring culture
"The history of Boston College shows that there have always been
issues and struggles," he observed. "And we have worked through
them. I am more confident than ever that we will live up to our
motto, 'Ever to Excel,' and keep making a unique contribution to
American intellectual and religious culture."
Sean Smith is editor of the Boston College Chronicle.
Photo: University President William P. Leahy, SJ, greets Cheryl
Presley, vice president for student affairs (right), and Judith
Vessey, the Lelia Holden Carroll Professor of Nursing, following
his address to the full faculty. Photo by Lee Pellegrini