Boston College: Then and Now

In the final installment of our National Catholic Schools Week series, explores Boston College, which grew from a small Jesuit college into a world class university.

Boston College

From Humble Beginnings to a Modern University

Founded in 1863 by the Society of Jesus, Boston College began holding classes the following year with just three professors and 22 students. Although it was incorporated as a university from the outset, Boston College remained an undergraduate institution for the next seventy years. Located in urban Boston, the college primarily served the Irish working class, specializing in theology, philosophy, classics, English and modern languages.

In the early 20th century, Boston College outgrew its space and moved outside of the city to Chestnut Hill. But it wasn't until the 1920s that the school began to fill out its university charter. The Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, law school and evening college were all founded during this decade. In the 1930s, the college added the business school and school of social work, and the nursing school and school of education came in following decades. In the 1950s, most of the graduate programs began offering doctoral degrees.

Boston College has long attempted to stay current with social change within our society. By 1970, the entire undergraduate college was coeducational, and women now account for over half of the school's population.

In 2005, Boston College launched the 'Church in the 21st Century Initiative' in the middle of the sex abuse scandal in the Catholic church. The program was designed to help students and members of the community engage in critical discourse about issues facing the modern church, and it has since become a permanent campus fixture.

In addition to a tradition of social engagement, Boston College has demonstrated a commitment to academic excellence. U.S. News & World Report consistently places it among the top 50 universities nationwide overall, as well as in the top 50 'great schools for great prices.' Furthermore, Forbes places Boston College in the top 30 American colleges, and the business school ranks in the U.S. News top 40 graduate schools.

John Kerry

Eagle Alumni

Boston College has the largest Catholic alumni association in the world, boasting 156,343 alums at last count. Among them are many notable personalities in politics, entertainment, sports, arts, media, business and other major fields, including:

  • John Kerry, U.S. Senator and former Democratic presidential candidate
  • Scott Brown, U.S. Senator
  • Ed McMahon, TV personality
  • Amy Poehler, comedic actress
  • Tim Hasselbeck, NFL quarterback
  • Elliot Silverstein, film director and president of the Artist Rights Foundation
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