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The first graduating class
In June 1877, around the time they completed the seventh and final year of studies at Boston College to receive the school’s first diplomas, nine young men gathered in the South End for a photograph on what the Stylus termed a “vacant lot bordering the . . . college grounds.” Ages 19 to 24, they stood, hands on shoulders, a close-knit fraternity.
Two were destined for the medical profession. Michael Glennon (third student from right), of Stoughton, earned an MD at New York’s Bellevue Hospital in 1883 and practiced in his hometown. South Boston’s William MacDonald (third from left) graduated from Harvard Medical School in 1885. He became Suffolk County’s medical examiner, and his words endure as a consequence. A June 12, 1906, Boston Globe report, for instance, carried MacDonald’s account of a condemned man who went to his end “without the slightest suggestion of bravado.”
The other seven were headed for the priesthood, which for a quarter century remained the school’s primary post-graduate vocation, trailed by law, civil service, and journalism. They were, from left, Nicholas Walsh, of Cambridge; John Broderick, of Chelsea; Dorchester native Stephen Hart, who delivered the valedictory address at Commencement; William Millerick, of Boston’s North End; Daniel Collins, of Arlington; John Donovan, of Lexington; and Patrick Callanan, a native of New York City. (At far right is Peter Fitzpatrick, SJ, professor of the philosophy class, as the seventh-year curriculum was called despite its inclusion of courses on chemistry, physics, and engineering.) All but one would serve in Boston-area parishes. Hart, the valedictorian, died two months after graduation, of peritonitis.
“Pat” Callanan gained fame as host of an annual Labor Day picnic in Newton Lower Falls, where he was a pastor for 22 years; it attracted thousands for potato-sack races, pig wrestling, and other activities, the Globe noted. On at least one occassion, Callanan’s former classmate Broderick came from his Foxboro parish to judge the day’s declamation contest.
In 1927, the University conferred an honorary doctorate of laws on the 72-year-old Callanan, by then a pastor in Cambridge and the lone surviving member of his class. When he died six years later, a phalanx of Boston College seniors served as pallbearers.
Seth Meehan is coauthor of the forthcoming illustrated history of Boston College.
Read more by Seth Meehan