William L. Keleher, SJ, President's Office records
- Creation: 1937-1975
- Creation: Majority of material found within 1945-1951
Scope and Contents
The William L. Keleher, SJ, President’s office records contain administrative materials documenting the expansion of Boston College under the administration of William L. Keleher, the twentieth president of Boston College. Principally consisting of correspondence and official documents, the records describe the management and development of the college as a whole, as well as that of individual schools, and departments. Documents detailing the construction and upkeep of Boston College buildings during Keleher’s presidency are also included. Of particular interest are four scrapbooks relating to the controversy surrounding Father Leonard Feeney and the Boston Heresy Case. Three of these volumes, specifically the “Father Feeney Heresy” scrapbooks, were assembled by the President’s Office. A series of administrative subject files concerning college governance and management, the Father Feeney controversy, and some biographical information are also found in this collection.
Language of Materials
Materials in this collection are primarily in English, with some Spanish.
Restrictions on access
Collection is open for research.
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.
William L. Keleher, SJ was born in Woburn, Massachusetts, on January 27, 1906. He attended Boston College High School and graduated from Holy Cross College in 1926. Following his graduation, Keleher entered the Jesuit order at Shadowbrook Seminary in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. In 1932, he was appointed a teaching fellow in Chemistry at the College of the Holy Cross and received his Masters the following spring. He completed his theological training at the Boston College School of Theology and Ministry in Weston, Massachusetts, and was ordained in 1937.
Keleher served for three years as assistant to the Provincial of the New England Province of Jesuits and as master of novices for the novitiate at Shadowbrook before becoming president of Boston College in 1945. Keleher presided over the College’s rapid expansion in the years immediately following World War II, including the influx of thousands of veterans returning from service. To accommodate the growing student body, Keleher launched a $1 million capital fund campaign in the spring of 1946 to pay for the construction of a new building for the College of Business Administration, Fulton Hall. Keleher also oversaw the founding of the School of Nursing in 1947, and the development of the School of Education, which opened soon after his presidency.
During his tenure, Keleher was involved in an incident that became known as the Boston Heresy Case, or the Father Feeney Controversy. In 1949, then-Jesuit priest Leonard Feeney began to preach a strict interpretation of extra ecclesiam nulla salus, a doctrine not held by the modern Church, which states that salvation is only achieved through baptism in the Roman Catholic Church. Keleher became a target of Feeney’s criticism when three professors from Boston College and one teacher from Boston College High School, all adherents of Feeney’s interpretation, were dismissed from their posts for teaching what Keleher considered “contrary to the traditional teachings of the Catholic Church and ideas leading to bigotry and hatred.”
Following his term as president, Keleher returned to the College of the Holy Cross serving as a professor, administrator, and trustee. He was also a noted retreat master. Following an extended illness, Keleher died at Saint Elizabeth’s Hospital, in Brighton, Massachusetts in 1975. His funeral mass was celebrated at St. Ignatius’ Parish, and he was buried at the Campion Center in Weston.
Dunigan, David R. A History of Boston College. Milwaukee, WI: Bruce Publishing Co., 1947.
Obituary clipping, Box 2, Folder 15, William L. Keleher, SJ, President’s Office Records, BC.2002.016, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.
10.25 Linear Feet (12 containers)
The William L. Keleher, SJ, President’s Office records contain materials from the administration of William L. Keleher, SJ, the twentieth president of Boston College. The collection documents the expansion of Boston College in the years immediately following World War II. Correspondence and official documents relate to the management and development of the college, its buildings, schools, and departments. Personal materials include clippings, scrapbooks, and some correspondence. Of particular note are items relating to the controversy surrounding Father Leonard Feeney and the Boston Heresy Case.
The William L. Keleher, SJ, President’s Office records are arranged in four series: I. Academic departments and schools; II. Buildings; III. Father Leonard Feeney controversy scrapbooks; IV. Subject files. All materials are arranged alphabetically.
Because the current accessioning system was not used until January 1986, it is not possible to know exactly the dates of acquisition of materials received before that time.
- William L. Keleher, SJ, President’s Office Records
- 1937-1975, (bulk 1945-1951)
- unknown; revised by AnneMarie Anderson, Spring 2010; further revision by Alexandra Bisio, 2013; revised by Molly Aleshire
- Description rules
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
- Language of description
- Script of description
- 2023 October: Added James J. Byrnes Memorial Library accrual.