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Newton College of the Sacred Heart records

Collection BC-1988-031: Newton College of the Sacred Heart records


  • Creation: 1863-2001, undated
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1944 - 1975

Scope and Contents

The Newton College of the Sacred Heart records document the history of the college from its founding in 1946 to its consolidation with Boston College in 1975. It also contains records given to Newton College by affiliated Society of the Sacred Heart institutions and organizations such as the Sodality of the Children of Mary (Enfants des Marie), a lay organization for young women that had strong connections to the Society of the Sacred Heart. Some of these materials date back to the nineteenth century. The collection has research significance for the study of women’s education, Catholic institutions, and mid-century American culture and history, and deals with issues of gender, politics, race, and religion.

The majority of the collection consists of institutional records, which in addition to detailing the college's day-to-day activities contain historical information about its founding and the development of the campus, including the acquisition of property and construction of buildings. There are extensive runs of Newton College and Sacred Heart publications such as newsletters, literary magazines, yearbooks, and circulars. Campus life is well-documented by the student affairs series, by a large series of photographs and audiovisual materials, and by "Who Am I?" student questionnaires. In addition to institutional records, the collection includes personal papers belonging to President James Whalen, including his research and notes on an unfinished book about the Newton College consolidation. Records also include the papers of Margaret Devers, a faculty member at Newton College who later became the director of Women’s Programs at Boston College.

Materials include academic department records, annual reports, audiovisual materials, correspondence, course syllabi, development records, faculty files, financial records, governance materials, library records, memos, meeting minutes, personnel records, photographs, presidents’ records, publications, reports, and subject files. Audiovisual materials include filmstrips, photographs, reel-to-reel films and VHS tapes, slides, and a wire recording. There are also artifacts such as metal plaques from Kenny-Cottle Library, religious medals, and textile and tile samples for Trinity Chapel.


Language of Materials

Materials are primarily in English, with small amounts in French and Latin.

Restrictions on access

Collection is open for research. Materials containing personally identifiable information, financial records, student records, and salary information are closed due to privacy restrictions. Some audiovisual materials are not immediately available due to formatting issues.

Restrictions on use

These materials are made available for use in research, teaching and private study, pursuant to U.S. Copyright Law. The user must assume full responsibility for any use of the materials, including but not limited to, infringement of copyright and publication rights of reproduced materials. Any materials used for academic research or otherwise should be fully credited with the source. The original authors may retain copyright to the materials.

Historical note

The seeds for the development of Newton College of the Sacred Heart were planted in the fall of 1944 when Archbishop Richard Cushing approached Mother Eleanor Kenny, the superior of Newton Country Day School, with the suggestion that the Society of the Sacred Heart start a women’s college on the Schrafft Estate in Newton, Massachusetts. In September 1945, the Schrafft estate was purchased by the Society, and, a few months later, the adjoining property, then known as the Harriman Estate, was also purchased.

On March 19, 1946, Newton College of the Sacred Heart was incorporated, with a board of trustees all drawn from the Society of the Sacred Heart: Mothers Gertrude Bodkin, Eleanor Kenny, Ursula Benziger, Elizabeth Cavanagh, Alice Egan, Ellen Green and Elizabeth Sweeney. The new college’s Advisory Board included Archbishop Cushing and John F. Kennedy, who served on the board for nine years.

On September 23, 1946 the college welcomed its first class of thirty-five students, who were paying $1300 each per year for tuition, room and board. Initially, the college was affiliated with the Catholic University of America, before becoming accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges in 1953.

The college prospered, and by the late 1960s enrollment had reached over 800 students. The campus, designed largely by the firm Magginis and Walsh, also grew, with 12 buildings completed between 1948 and 1969. However, the cultural climate of the late 1960s created a number of social forces that endangered the viability of small liberal arts colleges for women. Between 1960 and 1973, the number of such colleges dropped from 300 to 146. Newton College of the Sacred Heart was not immune to these forces, and in the early 1970s it struggled with rapidly declining applications and a burdensome debt load. In 1973, a drive to raise the $6 million needed to retire the college’s debt was launched, but it only managed to a reach a third of its goal. As a result, the college’s lending institutions decided that would no longer extend unsecured credit to the college. The college could only continue to operate for a further eighteen months on its own finances, and so the college’s leadership began to examine the possibilities for affiliation with another college.

Boston College, with its campus in nearby Chestnut Hill, was considered a prime candidate for such an affiliation, in part because of the strong ties between the Society of Jesus and the Society of the Sacred Heart, and also because of the two colleges’ physical proximity. Additionally, movement between the two campuses was already somewhat commonplace, with Boston College Jesuits serving as Newton College chaplain, and Newton College students attending some science classes at Boston College.

Negotiations between the two boards of trustees and the two presidents took place throughout early 1974, and at a meeting on February 28 the Newton College trustees agreed to a cooperative agreement that would lead to the consolidation of Newton College into Boston College. Boston College trustees ratified the agreement on March 1. The agreement stated that Boston College would assume both the liabilities and assets of Newton College, and stated that, on June 30, 1974, Newton College would transfer its land, buildings and certain equipment and furnishings to Boston College. Newton College students would transfer to Boston College, and a credit transfer system was worked out, exempting them from Boston College’s core curriculum requirements. In early 1975, J. Donald Monan, the President of Boston College, announced plans for the former campus of Newton College to become the base for the Boston College Law School.


Donovan, Charles F., History of Boston College: From the Beginnings to 1990. Chestnut Hill, MA: The University Press of Boston College, 1990.

Heights. “Newton Shocks.” April 1, 1974.

Heights. “Statements by BC and Newton College Officials.” March 11, 1974.

McDonough, John. “Newton College: the Glitter Starts to Fade.” Heights, November 18, 1974.

“Newton College of the Sacred Heart, 1946 – 1975.” Newton Newsnotes. May-June 1975.

Quinlan, Joan. “Monan Announces Final Newton Plans.” Heights, March 10, 1975.

Biographical note: Eleanor Kenny

Eleanor S. Kenny was born in Baltimore in 1887. Kenny earned a master’s and a doctoral degree from Fordham University in New York City, and made her final vows in the Society of the Sacred Heart in 1919. She served in the Society’s Eastern Province, where she was a teacher, headmistress, and a superior at a number of convents.

In the 1940s, she was sent to lead the Sacred Heart Academy in Newton, and in 1946 Cardinal Cushing of the Boston Archdiocese suggested that she help to found a Catholic liberal arts college for women on the Schrafft estate which bordered the campus of the Sacred Heart Academy. Sister Kenny served as the first president of Newton College of the Sacred Heart and during her time there the college expanded from 41 students to 311. Kenny retired in 1956, after which she continued to play an active role in the College’s development as well as maintaining her position as a trustee of the Academy of the Sacred Heart.

Sister Kenny retired to the Convent of the Sacred Heart in Albany, New York, in 1969 and died on February 28, 1970.


Boston Globe. “Sr. Eleanor Kenny, 83, Newton College founder.” March 1, 1970.

Murphy, Jeremiah V. “Newton College Honors its Own Mother Kenny.” Boston Globe, February 13, 1969.

Biographical note: Gabrielle Husson

Gabrielle Husson was born in Albany, New York, on March 10, 1911, and raised in Rochester. Husson received a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Manhattanville College in Purchase, New York, a master’s degree in English from Boston College and a master’s degree in religious education from Providence College. Husson joined the Religious of the Sacred Heart in Kenwood, Albany, New York in 1929 and made her final vows in Rome in 1938.

Sister Husson served as the second president of Newton College of the Sacred Heart from 1956-1969. During her tenure, the college more than doubled its enrollment, and she introduced a scholarship program for disadvantaged high school students supported by the Ford Foundation.

Sister Husson died at the age of 99 on June 30, 2010, at Tiresian House in Albany, New York.


Boston Globe. “Mother Gabrielle Husson.” April 10, 1960.

Society of the Sacred Heart – United States and Canada. “Gabrielle Husson.” Accessed October 27, 2014.

United States Federal Census, 1930, Albany, New York. Microfilm Roll 1404, Page 2A. Accessed November 11, 2014.

Biographical note: James Whalen

James Whalen was born on March 6, 1927, in Pottsville, Pennsylvania. Whalen graduated from Franklin and Marshall College in 1950, before going on to gain both a master’s and doctoral degree in clinical psychology from Pennsylvania State University. Whalen became an assistant professor of psychology at Penn State in 1955. From 1958 to 1964, Whalen worked in Germany as a lecturer in psychology and assistant to the Dean at the University of Maryland’s European Division. In 1964, he moved to Ohio University, where he became the university’s first executive vice president in 1966. In 1969, Whalen was elected president of Newton College of the Sacred Heart, and became the first layman to head a Society of the Sacred Heart college.

Like many single-sex institutions, Newton College suffered enrollment and financial issues in the wake of the cultural and social transformations of the 1960s. As a result, Newton College was integrated into neighboring Boston College and Whalen was its third and last president. After leaving Newton College, Whalen went on to the presidency of Ithaca College in New York, before retiring in 1997. Whalen died on September 6, 2001 in Boston, Massachusetts.


Boston Globe. “First Layman to Head College of Sacred Heart.” May 18, 1969.

Keene, Evelyn. “A Women’s College Finds the Man for the Job.” Boston Globe, January 14, 1973.

New York Times. “Deaths: Whalen, James J.” October 3, 2001.


83.75 Linear Feet (96 containers )


The records of Newton College of the Sacred Heart document the administration of the college from its founding in 1946 to its consolidation with Boston College in 1975. It also includes records of the Society of the Sacred Heart dating back to 1863. Materials include academic department records, annual reports, artifacts, correspondence, course syllabi, development records, faculty files, financial records, governance materials, library records, memos, meeting minutes, personnel records, photographs, presidents’ records, publications, and subject files.


The Newton College of the Sacred Heart records are arranged in thirteen series: I. Governance; II. Presidents; III. Financial vice president and treasurer; IV. Development; V. Academic departments; VI. Faculty; VII. Library; VIII. Personnel and facilities; IX. Student affairs and services; X. Photographs; XI. Publications; XII. Special events and college history; XIII. Society of the Sacred Heart.

Series II., Presidents, is arranged in three sub-series: A. Eleanor Kenny; B. Gabrielle Husson; C. James Whalen. Subseries B. is arranged into two sub-subseries, 1. Subject files; 2. Correspondence.

Series V., Academic departments, is arranged in nine subseries: A. Academic deans; B. Academic departments; C. Admissions; D. Assistant deans; E. Continuing education; F. Education program; G. Summer program; H. Registrar; I. Study abroad.

Series IX., Student affairs and services, is arranged in nine subseries: A. Career planning; B. Dean of students; C. Dramatics; D. Financial aid; E. Housing; F. Medical services; G. Musical clubs; H. Student activities; I. Student government.

Series X., Photographs, is arranged in four subseries: A. Activities and campus life; B. Buildings and Newton College campus; C. Events; D. People.

Series XIII., Society of the Sacred Heart, is arranged in five subseries: A. Affiliated colleges of the Sacred Heart; B. Convents and schools of the Sacred Heart photographs and film; C. Newton Country Day School; D. Publications; E. Sisters of the Sacred Heart. Subseries E., Sisters of the Sacred Heart, contains one sub-subseries, 1. Photographs.


Transfers from Boston College offices, 1988-2007. Also includes gifts of Gillian Whalen, 2001, and Margaret Devers, 1991.

Related Materials

BC.1987.012, Boston College Building and Campus Images, 1880-2012.

Separated Materials

Books and published materials not created by Newton College of the Sacred Heart have been transferred to the John J. Burns Library book collections, and may be found by searching the library catalog for Newton College of the Sacred Heart as the former owner or local collection name.

Processing Information

The received order of series was maintained.

Some materials, including financial records, blank forms, personnel records, and publications readily available elsewhere were deaccessioned according to the University Documents Retention schedule. Material from Elmhurst Academy, previously part of this collection and listed on early inventories, has not been extant in Boston College Archives since at least 2009.

  • Accounting statements, bills, blank audio reels, blank forms, bonds, brochures, bulletins (duplicates), cancellations, checks, computer manuals, contracts, duplicates, empty film canisters, equipment purchase orders and expenditures, faculty publications (duplicates), forms, financial statements, human resources procedures, insurance forms, invoices, journals found elsewhere, manuals, newspapers, newsletters (duplicates), news clippings, part-time contracts, permits, personnel files such as employee benefits, insurance, part-time employee records, payroll, photocopies, copies, and inventories, publications found elsewhere, purchase orders, retirement paperwork, receipts, repair requests, slide carousels, slides (duplicates), staff and nonprofessional employee contracts, telephone records, terminations, tax deed appraisals, tax forms, tax exemptions, unrelated materials, vending bills, workmen’s compensation paperwork, and yearbooks (duplicate).
  • 7 publications
Newton College of the Sacred Heart Records
1863-2001 (bulk 1944-1975)
Xaviera Flores and Annalisa Moretti
April 2015
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the John J. Burns Library Repository

John J. Burns Library
Boston College
140 Commonwealth Avenue
Chestnut Hill MA 02467 United States