- Steve Addazio's inaugural press conference as Boston College head football coach (pg. 9)
- Wake Forest University president Nathan Hatch's keynote address at the Sesquicentennial symposium "Religion and the Liberal Aims of Higher Education" (pg. 34)
- David B. Couturier, OFM Cap., on "New Evangelization for Today's Parish" (pg. 42)
- Guerilla Orchestra: the Callithumpian Consort and student musicians rehearse John Zorn's Cobra (pg. 10)
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“History revisited,” “Parallel players?” “Math works,” “In the mix”
I was astonished to see the BCM cover and story dedicated to the Black Talent Program (“Power of the People,” by William Bole, Spring 2009). The article is a long time coming. As an alumna of the Black Talent Program I am proud to see a part of our story told. It is not only an account of the black students on Boston College’s campus, it is the story of the changing face of Boston College.
Precursor to the Office of AHANA Student Programs, the Black Talent Program provided both opportunity—educational, cultural, and social—and a model for what a multicultural education program should look like on a college campus. (Courses in black studies and black theology were among the fruits of the Black Talent Program.)
Leadership skills and core values—namely, responsibility for our brothers and sisters and communities—were integral to the mission of the Black Talent Program. Many of us alumni are nurses, lawyers, educators, business administrators, civic leaders, media specialists, ministers, the list goes on.
The individuals interviewed in the magazine—Julianne Malveaux and Othello Mahome, among them—were instrumental in the successes that have come out of the program. Yet one unsung hero needs to be acknowledged and that is Hezekiah Ben Israel. As the last student director, he, with the assistance of Donna Burton ’77, provided us with the vision of what the Black Talent Program was meant to be and what was expected from us as we returned to our communities.
I hope that you will run future stories highlighting the accomplishments of individuals who came out of the Black Talent Program. There has been a misconception among some Boston College administrators and faculty that the program was a failure. Trust and believe, it was a success beyond many folks’ wildest dreams.
Valerie Lewis-Mosley ’79
West Orange, New Jersey
I lived on the first floor of Keyes North during my freshman year in 1978. For reasons I didn’t know until I read your story on the Black Talent Program, the University had painted the walls red, black, and green, the colors of the black liberation movement. There were about six of us African Americans on the floor, and we couldn’t believe it. The majority students never noticed.
Michael Bullock ’81
Florida, New York
The article on the Black Talent Program was extremely informative and brought back many memories. I realize now that I was rather unknowing of the details of the program, especially in the early years. That was probably for the best.
My challenge in that era was to articulate to confused and concerned alumni what was happening to their college; their bewilderment was compounded by the fact that they were still processing the outcomes of Vatican II and thus changes were coming fast and furious.
I am most proud of how the movement and its eventual course affected Boston College, and I note with pleasure that three of the Black Talent founders in later years served with distinction as elected or appointed members of the Alumni Association Board of Directors.
John F. Wissler ’57, MBA’72
Londonderry, New Hampshire
The writer was executive director of the Alumni Association, 1967–98.
I found William Bole’s oral history of the Black Talent experiment during the strike years at Boston College a carefully balanced and utterly absorbing account. There is one point, however, that I fear may have been overlooked. Carl Lewis ’72 expressed surprise that the University’s president, W. Seavey Joyce, SJ, did not resort to the “normal tactic” of bringing in the police to dispel student demonstrators or oust striking students from administrative offices. They “never came on campus,” he remarked, although they were waiting just outside the gates.
Through those tense times, Fr. Joyce was determined to preserve free speech on University grounds, and steadfastly refused to bring in the constabulary as long as the lines of communication were open. He was often criticized for “giving in” to the students; in actuality he was trying to safeguard the rights of students and maintain the integrity of the University.
Thomas H. O’Connor ’49, H’93
From 1970 to 1972 the writer served as faculty advisor to the University president.
Re David Reich’s Spring 2009 article on the compatibility of science and religion (“Odd Couple”): Science employs a method of discovery that religion, when pushed, ultimately must disregard. Tenets of Catholicism such as Christ’s resurrection, the Trinity, and transubstantiation, when scientifically scrutinized, are problematic (at best) because ultimately, they depend on faith to be “true”—and faith, by definition, is a belief in something for which there is no proof.
The scientific method relies on observable, measurable evidence; religion relies on faith. Let’s not pretend they are the same thing. (By the way, I wrote a paper on this topic in a Perspectives class. Ironically, I defended the position I now oppose.)
Albert de Plazaola ’95
While the positing of religion against science is ultimately a false choice, we cannot ignore the historical fact that these two systems have articulated conflicting versions of “truth” along the way and that religious explanations of why often cede to science when the relevant how is answered. Example: The same Bible that explains why the earth was created (God’s grace) also implies that the earth is about 6,000 years old, a belief still held by many Christians. Science has largely answered the question of how the earth was created, however, and informs us that it is billions of years old. Religion is simply wrong on the subject.
Notwithstanding popular depictions of the Catholic Church as superstitious and regressive, the Church did acknowledge, before other denominations and religions, that the biblical explanation of how man was created (God formed him out of clay, instantaneously) may not be literally true in light of the scientific answer—Darwin’s theory of evolution. We know that the Church, and Darwin himself, considered the theory consonant with a belief in God and creationism in its most general sense, but the point is that specific religious beliefs succumbed to scientific conclusions, not the other way around.
That being said, religion has refused to bend to scientific knowledge on certain core elements of faith. Virgin birth and resurrection do not accord with science, yet the faithful believe in Jesus’s virgin birth and resurrection. And therein lies the source of protestation that religion and science are incompatible: Certain religious dogma cannot be squared with science.
Yet the fundamental ends of science and religion are not inherently conflictive. That is because science, by definition, claims only to discover what can be tested objectively by direct observation or mathematical abstraction. It does not appropriate to itself the ultimate why question that is the domain of religious inquiry—why is there anything at all?
Interestingly, that question would not be asked but for a conscious being to formulate it. And so this suggests a tautology: Could it be that in essence God is the absurdity of existence itself?
Time for a martini.
Anthony A. DeLuca ’82
Re “Chalk Talk,” by Ken Gordon (Spring 2009): Whenever I tell friends or family that I was a math major at BC, I respond to their confused looks with another statement. I tell them that my favorite class as an undergraduate was “Intro to Abstract Algebra” with Professor Solomon Friedberg. He was a master at making, well, the abstract seem concrete and familiar. His explanations were easy to understand, yet never oversimplified as we learned about group theory and other amazing properties of the integers.
Thanks to the BC website and BCM, I have been able to follow, from afar, the activities of the math department and Professor Friedberg, including his effort to improve the image of mathematics in secondary education. I was delighted to read about the BC-MIT Seminar and to see once again Professor Friedberg doing his part, as the article states, to fix math’s “PR problem.”
Alexander H. Lee ’97
I just finished my first year in the master’s program in mathematics at BC. Although I was not present at the meeting of the BC-MIT Number Theory Seminar reported in Mr. Gordon’s story, I can say that the series overall was exciting and engaging. I am a number theorist in training, and I found the talks valuable even when I didn’t understand them—which was at most 15 minutes after the introduction, usually.
Thank you for sharing a part of our world with the rest of the BC community.
In the mix
Re Mark Oppenheimer’s “World Fare” (Spring 2009): I was thrilled to read of the large-scale interdisciplinary effort taking place at Boston College. The Guestbook Project, as part of the new Institute for Liberal Arts, not only brings together the best of different academic disciplines, it combines this scholarship in a real world context and invites “outsiders” to participate. The project’s goals seem ambitious indeed. They are no less important than experiments done in a science lab.
Katherine Cannella ’08
Bayonne, New Jersey
Correction: In “Business by the Caseload” (Spring 2009), the photo shows John Clavin ’84, not Peter Bell ’86 as captioned. Also, Mr. Bell ran a data storage technology firm, not a software firm as stated; Mr. Clavin joined the investment management firm Merganser Capital Management; he did not found it.
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