Father J. Donald Monan is being laid to rest today following a service at Boston College, and the university is in mourning. The 92-year-old Jesuit priest is credited with turning the school into a world class institution of higher learning. Walking across the campus today amidst Gothic towers and new construction it may be difficult for some to imagine this was once a three-building commuter college. But Jack Dunn, BC’s communications director who was once a student here, says it was that for many years into the 1960s. In 1972, Father Monan made it something much bigger.
"He came to Boston College at a crucial time in its history when the university was cash-strapped and really struggling and put together a winning team — people with financial knowledge, people with a sense of economics, people with a sense of planning," said Dunn. "And in the process he took a school from the verge of insolvency into one of the nation's best universities."
Like most of Boston in the early 1970s, BC was racially and ethnically demarcated and the campus was roiled by conflicts over diversity, which Dunn says Monan sought to address. "Well, I mean it was just a tumultuous time," Dunn said. "There was student unrest. The reality of Boston College then was that it was a regional commuter school, and it needed to attract students from a wider geographical area, particularly with a national focus."
BC in the 1970s and 80s was absent of significant numbers of black and brown students says Joe Quinn, the former dean of arts and sciences and a professor of economics for 42 years.
Today, Quinn says, BC is a far cry from the school that Father Monan took over in the early 1970s. "If you had injected folks with truth serum in the 1970s the optimistic ones would say, 'We will pull out of our current straights, we will become a great university,' but I doubt many of them would say that in 40 years we'll be ranked in the top 30 universities in America."
Father Monan’s vision was for not only a larger school physically, but for a level of academic achievement that would catapult BC into the ranks of the most esteemed higher institutions of learning nationally. Quinn says he succeeded. Monan also stressed the importance of sports in campus life and lived to celebrate winning hockey, football and basketball teams over the years.
Father Monan's service is s expected to draw hundreds of well-wishers to his side to say take care and so long.