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1996 NFF Distinguished American Rev. J. Donald Monan Passes Away
Fr. Monan, the 24th president of Boston College, passed away March 18 at the age of 92.
Published: 3/20/2017 12:07:00 PM

Rev. J. Donald Monan, S.J., the 1996 recipient of the NFF Distinguished American Award and 24th president of Boston College, passed away March 18 in Weston, Mass. Born Dec. 31, 1924, in Blasdell, N.Y., he was 92.

During 24 years as president of Boston College from 1972-96, Fr. Monan steered the school from financial turmoil to a period of unprecedented growth that saw remarkable gains in everything from endowment to academic stature to football ranking.

Fr. Monan served longer than any Boston College president, but his tenure will be remembered for far more than its longevity. Under his leadership, Boston College successfully completed the transition from a financially strapped, predominantly male commuter college to a prosperous, coeducational and nationally renowned university. In July 1996, upon stepping down from the presidency, Fr. Monan became Boston College's first chancellor.

Fr. Monan's effectiveness as president touched numerous facets of Boston College – finances, academics, enrollment, student life, the campus physical plant and community involvement. He presided over two successful capital campaigns, including The Campaign for Boston College from 1987-91, which raised $136 million and helped to boost the University's endowment to among the 40 largest in the nation. In addition, applications for admission rose dramatically during Fr. Monan's years as president – from 7,000 in 1972 to more than 16,500 in 1996.

When Fr. Monan was presented with an honorary Doctor of Laws degree at Boston College's 1996 Commencement Exercises, the University announced the establishment of three professorships in his name.

During his tenure at Boston College, the school embarked on a program of building new academic and athletic facilities, including Robsham Theater in 1981, the Thomas P. O'Neill, Jr. research library in 1984, the refurbishment of Bapst Library and the establishment of the Burns Library of Rare Books and Special Collections in 1986, the  Silvio O. Conte Forum in 1988, the Eugene F. Merkert Chemistry Center in 1991, the McMullen Museum of Art in 1993, an expansion of Alumni Stadium in 1994, and a law library, which opened in 1996.

Fr. Monan's second decade at BC saw the University enjoy increased national visibility, thanks in part to the success of its football team and its Heisman Trophy winner Doug Flutie during the mid-1980s. But it was BC's academic strength that continued to attract students from across America and the world, coinciding with the University's efforts to diversify the ethnic and cultural backgrounds in its student body. By the time he stepped down, some 20 percent of the full-time undergraduate population was African-American, Asian, Hispanic or Native American students, a marked change from past decades.

In addition, Fr. Monan placed a heavy emphasis on academics for the University's student-athletes. Boston College has long been among the 10 best Division I-A colleges and universities in the nation in graduating its varsity athletes, who succeed under the same demanding curriculum as the rest of the student body. In 1996, the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame presented Fr. Monan with its Distinguished American Award, recognizing Boston College's commitment to helping student-athletes complete their education.

At the time of his retirement as president in 1996, U.S. News & World Report ranked Boston College 40th among national universities in the U.S. and 16th in commitment to teaching; BC also was included in Barron's Top 50: An Inside Look at America's Best Colleges.

Fr. Monan made his presence known outside of Boston College as well, staying active nationally on a number of educational and social issues, especially Catholic higher education. He served as a delegate to the Vatican Congregation for Catholic Education meetings with Pope John Paul II to prepare the 1990 papal document on Roman Catholic higher education. Fr. Monan served on the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' committee charged with implementing that document—Ex Corde Ecclesiae—to American Catholic colleges and universities.

In 1996, the National Catholic Educational Association honored Fr. Monan with its Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton Award, which is presented to individuals whose contributions have significantly advanced the education and well-being of America's children.

A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at St. Ignatius Church on Wednesday, March 22, at 10 a.m.; burial will follow at the Jesuit Cemetery at Campion Center. Visitation hours will be held on Tuesday, March 21, from 2-4 p.m. and 7-9 p.m., also at St. Ignatius Church.

Click here to read the in-depth profile on Boston College’s website for much more on the incredible life of Fr. Monan.

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