BC SealBoston College Magazine Spring 2005
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Story book

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Legends from the Heights

New Legends Press recently published the Legends of Boston College, a collection of sketches devoted to the "hidden history, famous alumni," and other "fun phenomena" and "weird occurrences" at Boston College:


Leonard Nimoy

Photo collage by Gary Wayne Gilbert

Photo collage by Gary Wayne Gilbert

Did Star Trek's Mr. Spock go to BC? Yes, he did, though only briefly. He was born in Boston to parents from far, far away (Russia, not another galaxy). At age eight, Nimoy played Hansel in his first theater appearance, and he continued to act in local children's theater productions. His parents wanted him to be a doctor or a lawyer. He wanted to act. Some of Nimoy's biographical accounts have him attending summer school at Boston College. Others claim he was awarded a scholarship. In any case, the future Vulcan did study drama at BC for a short time before leaving for the West Coast—against his parents' wishes. He had nothing to lose but his Boston accent.


Why an eagle?

The first thing to understand is that no one had anything against cats. It just seemed that Boston College was deserving of a mascot grander—more majestic—than a common tabby.

In 1920, a local newspaper cartoon created a stir when it used a cat to represent the victorious BC track team finishing off a plate of its rivals. That caused alumnus Fr. Edward McLaughlin—writing under a pseudonym—to fire off a letter to the student newspaper demanding that "we adopt a mascot to preside at our pow-wows and triumphant feats." McLaughlin had in mind a powerful creature whose natural habitat was the "heights": "How proud would the BC man feel to see the BC Eagle snatching the trophy of victory from old opponents, their tattered banner clutched in his talons as he flies aloft."

Who could argue with that? Well, some did, and the owl and the antelope came up for consideration. But the eagle prevailed and became BC's mascot. Gifts of two live eagles were sent from the Southwest, which turned out to be a bad idea—one escaped and the other hurt itself trying to get away. For the next 40 years a BC eagle resided in the athletic department—stuffed and mounted. (Remember, this was many years before eagles would be protected by federal law.) In 1961 students clamoring for a live one got their wish: a 10-pound eaglet. She was named Margo for the school colors (MARoon and GOld), and she lived at the Franklin Park Zoo. For five years she attended home games and some away games, tethered to a perch. When Margo died of a virus, she was replaced by a human male in an eagle costume (it wasn't until 1995 that a female suited up). Today, the official mascots are named Baldwin (BALD for eagle, WIN for athletic spirit) and Baldwin, Jr. At six and a half and nine and a half feet tall—Junior is inflated—you can't miss them in a crowd.


What's in a name?

Boston College. BC for short. Sounds perfect, right? Well, for a time there was plenty of discussion about changing the name of the school.

During his term of office (1951–58), BC president Joseph R.N. Maxwell, SJ, began to mull the relative merits of keeping the name or changing it to include the word "university," which, in fact, was a more accurate description. But the name Boston University was already taken. A decade's worth of discussion, motions at Board of Trustees and committee meetings, and letters from alumni followed.

The question was first raised at a 1953 trustees meeting, where a motion was made to empower the president to negotiate a change of the name to Boston Catholic University. Three years later at a board meeting, Botolph University was floated. Fr. Maxwell decided to open the discussion to faculty, alumni, Jesuits, and administrators. The floodgates were loosed. The dean of the College of Business Administration lobbied for Jesuit University of Boston. Alumni weighed in, suggesting St. Robert Bellarmine or St. Thomas More University.

Six months into his presidency, Michael P. Walsh, SJ, appointed a Change of Name Committee, and its first meeting was held in September 1958. After much airing of concerns about potential alumni backlash, the committee unanimously decided to forge on. But consensus on a name was not forthcoming. Some of the recommendations: University of New England, Newman University, Boston College University, Commonwealth University, Chestnut Hill University, Tremont University, Cheverus University (for the first bishop of Boston), Fenwick University (for the second), and Campion University (for the 16th-century Jesuit martyr).

In the end, the president did not act on the report. Alumni opposition had increased. The centenary, which had been the target date for the name change, had passed. Interest waned, and a final, highly negative editorial appeared in the Heights in 1963. The name Boston College has stood the test of time.


Adapted from Legends of Boston College (Copyright © 2004 by One Eighty Legends, LLC), with permission.

 

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