Through his 24 years at the helm of Boston College, former University President Rev. J. Donald Monan, S.J. saved BC from financial ruin and bolstered the University’s status as a top institution of American higher education.
Now, regardless of its financial interests, the University should honor Monan’s transformative presidency by naming 245 Beacon Street after him.
Monan arrived at BC in 1972 at a time when the University faced financial debt. It was also predominantly male and largely a commuter college.
But from the beginning, Monan saw BC’s potential.
“I would like to ask that all of us not only always pursue excellence and always achieve excellence by others’ standards,” Monan said at a gathering at the start of his presidency. “I want to ask something more, because I think we have the opportunity and the resources for more. I ask that we create new standards of excellence, and that we be the first to achieve those standards. I believe we can do it.”
And by the time he finished his tenure leading BC, the University exceeded those high-reaching standards.
The University’s endowment was among the highest in the nation, application numbers had more than doubled, and the school was ranked in the top 40 among national universities according to the U.S. News & World Report in 1996.
Almost 30 years later, Monan’s legacy is impossible to avoid. During his presidency, Monan facilitated the construction of Robsham Theater, O’Neill Library, Conte Forum, Merkert Chemistry Center, the McMullen Museum of Art, the John J. Burns Library, and Newton Campus’ Law Library. He also oversaw immense renovations to Bapst Library and Alumni Stadium.
But Monan’s impact extends beyond these physical markers of growth. The Jesuit embodied BC’s principles of educational advancement by striving to put students first.
“I will try and give all the time I can to students because after all students are what we are all about,” Monan said in his first interview with The Heights in 1972.
Despite Monan’s immense contributions to the University, he is not honored with any major physical memorial on campus. As of 2023, BC’s tributes to Monan are minimal—chief among them are a visiting professorship title in the theatre department and a general University fundraising tier level.
In 2017, The Heights’ former editorial board advocated for Monan’s recognition by proposing that 90 St. Thomas More Rd. be named after Monan. While this residence hall remains an important part of the sophomore living experience at BC, it does not fully honor Monan’s revolutionary spirit.
But 245 Beacon Street does. The $150 million building, home of the Schiller Institute for Integrated Science and Society, is the single largest investment in the sciences in BC’s history.
It is the new site of BC’s computer science department and the Edmund H. Shea Jr. Center for Entrepreneurship, and it also houses BC’s new human-centered engineering program—an innovative blend of liberal arts and rigorous STEM training.
The sunlight-filled building represents a historic shift toward pioneering experiential learning at BC—a path that perfectly represents Monan’s forward-thinking leadership approach.
BC has often named its buildings after important and influential people in its history. The majority of the dorms on Upper Campus—including Gonzaga, Loyola, and Xavier—are named after Jesuit saints, and a number of academic buildings—including Gasson, Fulton, and Devlin—are named for Jesuits involved in the University’s history.
Although The Heights understands the University is financially incentivized to seek out donations when naming its buildings, it should—for at least a moment—return to this history. And if BC will not honor Monan by putting his name on a building, it can cultivate larger and more intentional ways to remember his legacy.
Alongside Rev. Thomas I. Gasson, S.J. and Rev. William J. Devlin, S.J., Monan was a “man who built BC.” It is time the University properly honors him.