William P. Leahy

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
The Reverend
William P. Leahy
25th President of Boston College
Assumed office
July 31, 1996
Preceded by J. Donald Monan
Personal details
Born Omaha, Nebraska
Alma mater

William P. Leahy S.J. (born 1948) is the 25th President of Boston College, a post he has held since 1996. He was born in Omaha, Nebraska and raised in Imogene, Iowa. He joined the Society of Jesus in 1967, and is a member of the Jesuits' Wisconsin province. Leahy earned a bachelor's degree in philosophy and a master's degree in United States history at Saint Louis University in 1972 and 1975, respectively. He then began studies at the Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley in Berkeley, California, where he earned degrees in theology (1978) and historical theology (1980). He was ordained a priest in 1978. He received a doctoral degree in U.S. history from Stanford University in 1986.

He began his academic career as a teacher at Campion High School in Wisconsin from 1973 to 1975. He served as a teaching assistant at Stanford in 1981 before joining the Marquette University faculty as an instructor of history in 1985. He became an associate professor with tenure in 1991, and in that same year became Marquette's executive vice president.[1]

Leahy's memberships include the American Catholic Historical Association, the American Historical Association, the History of Education Society, and the Organization of American Historians.

Boston College presidency[edit]


Since becoming Boston College president, Leahy has accelerated the growth and development of the university initiated by his predecessor J. Donald Monan. Boston College's endowment has continued to increase rapidly to more than $2 billion, making BC one of the 50 wealthiest universities in the nation. During the years after the global recession of 2008, Leahy's effective fiscal governance has enabled BC to emerge in a position of strength. BC had the fastest growing endowment of many high-ranking universities.[2] During Leahy's presidency, the campus has expanded by almost 150 acres (607,000 m²), and undergraduate applications have surpassed 30,000. At the same time, its students, faculty and athletic teams have seen unprecedented success — winning record numbers of Truman, Marshall, Fulbright, Rhodes scholarships as well as other academic awards and research grants.

In 2006, after a two-year self-study involving more than 200 BC faculty, administrators, students and alumni, Leahy announced a $1.6-billion strategic plan that called for hiring 100 new faculty, adding a dozen new academic centers and spending $1 billion in construction and renovation projects to elevate Boston College to the highest echelon of premier national universities. The Plan set seven strategic directions for the University: To become a national leader in liberal arts education and student formation; to enhance its research initiatives in select natural sciences and in areas that address urgent society problems; to support leadership initiatives in BC’s graduate and professional schools; to expand international programs and partnerships. Leahy's stated goal was to establish Boston College as "the world's leading Catholic university."[3]

In line with this direction, the Weston Jesuit School of Theology re-affiliated with Boston College in 2008 to form the new School of Theology and Ministry. During the same year, Leahy started the construction of Stokes Hall, a 183,000-square-foot (17,000 m2) administrative and classroom building for BC's humanities departments, which opened in 2012. Already in 2002, Leahy initiated the Church in the 21st Century program to examine issues facing the Roman Catholic Church in light of the clergy sexual abuse scandal.[4]

In athletics, Boston College won conference and national titles during Leahy's presidency: for example four national men's ice hockey championships. In 2005, it left the Big East Conference and joined the Atlantic Coast Conference.


Condoleezza Rice receiving her honorary degree in 2006

Leahy's presidency has not been without controversy. He has fallen under much criticism for his inconsistent coherence to Boston College's Jesuit mission.

His Dean of Students declined to permit a dance sponsored by the BC gay and lesbian group, an event sponsored by the Boston College Woman's Health Initiative (pro-choice organization that is currently unrecognized by the university), and he has remained stalwart in his resistance to substantive changes to the university's policy toward groups that are contrary to Catholic teachings.

The move from the Big East to the Atlantic Coast Conference resulted in a lawsuit and editorializing by some Boston sports writers, though eventually BC won the lawsuits and membership in the ACC resulted in greater financial reward and national exposure for the athletic department. (ACC schools received an average of USD 10.85 million for the tax year ending June 30, 2006, Big East full members averaged a little more than half that at US $5,842,599.)[5]

The invitation of U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to receive an honorary degree and deliver the 2006 Commencement Address evoked protest from a small number of the faculty members. While Rice received a standing ovation accompanied by extended applause at the 2006 Commencement Exercises, a small subset of faculty did turn their backs toward the stage as she was presented an honorary degree.

Published works[edit]


  • Adapting to America: Catholics, Jesuits and Higher Education in the Twentieth Century (Georgetown University Press, 1991)


Leahy has written a number of articles on Catholic higher education in the United States, including, among others:

  • "The Rise of Laity in American Catholic Higher Education," Records of the American Catholic Historical Society (1991)
  • "Academic Professionalism and American Catholic Higher Education," Assembly 1989: Jesuit Ministry in Higher Education (1990)

In addition, Leahy has authored numerous articles in the Dictionary of Christianity in America and book reviews in History, Journal of American History and History of Education Quarterly.


  1. ^ Boston College "Father William P. Leahy, S.J. twenty-fifth president of boston college"
  2. ^ "The 100 Richest Universities: Their Generosity and Commitment to Research". Retrieved 18 March 2017. 
  3. ^ "Boston College unveils 10-year, $1.6B expansion plan". SouthCoast Today. 4 December 2007. Retrieved 18 March 2017. 
  4. ^ Lehigh, Scot (19 June 2002). "BC is leading the way on Church reform". Boston Globe Archives. Retrieved 18 March 2017. 
  5. ^ Vingle, Mitch (27 May 2007). "Big East finances reveal rocky times of late". The Charleston Gazette. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 27 September 2007. Retrieved 2007-05-29.