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the birthwrite
photo of Charles F. Donovan, with SOE students
Soe's founding moment

It all began with a one-page memo. Dated February 18, 1951, it was from Charles F. Donovan, SJ, then chairman of the education department in the College of Arts & Sciences, to William Keleher, SJ, then president of BC. "There is need for a Catholic teachers college" in the Boston area, Fr. Donovan said, and every reason why Boston College should create "a good and flourishing school of education to exercise a beneficial influence." A mere year and a half later, the new school opened its doors with Donovan at its head--in spite of a change in BC's presidency during that period and a requirement to secure approval from officials in Rome.

Action had stalled momentarily when the head of the New England Jesuit province, Donovan's memo in hand, requested details. But within two weeks of taking office on June 20, 1951, the new University president, Joseph R. N. Maxwell, SJ, dispatched a six-page response. Approval from the Superior General in Rome followed two weeks later.

Click to enlarge


One issue raised by the provincial head referred to a term mentioned only once in the original memo from Donovan: "coeducational." As Fr. Donovan put it many years later, "the suggestion of coeducation was far more radical in 1951 than the proposal to start a professional school."

For a number of years, women had been enrolled in the graduate schools, the Intown College (now Advancing Studies), the Law School, and the School of Nursing. But these were all located in downtown Boston. A coeducational school of education at Chestnut Hill would require special facilities, added administration, and, for many, a new attitude. Yet, when the Boston Traveler asked him whether it would ultimately lead to opening all of Boston College to women, Fr. Donovan said, it "definitely will not."

Fr. Donovan was intelligent, but he was not prescient.

William M. McDonald '68

William M. McDonald is the Lynch School's director of communications. The school will celebrate its 50th anniversary with a symposium on October 24.

Photo: Charles F. Donovan, SJ, with School of Education students in the early 1950s

John J. Burns library archive

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