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Louis J. Gallagher, SJ, President's Office records

Collection BC-2004-020: Louis J. Gallagher, SJ, President's Office records


  • Creation: 1920-1945
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1932-1937

Scope and Contents

The Louis J. Gallagher, SJ, President's Office records contain correspondence, contracts, ephemera, memorandums, reports, photographs, drawings, and plans documenting the work of Louis J. Gallagher as the seventeenth president of Boston College. The collection dates from 1920 to 1945, though the bulk of the items date from the years of Gallagher's presidency, 1932 to 1937.

Like many of his predecessors, Gallagher maintained correspondence regarding buildings and grounds of Boston College, including contracts and building schemas. Early in Gallagher's presidency, the Brown family donated an estate in Cohasset that fell under his care; the series contains news about the transfer. Other notable items include a letter and photographs of the Lawrence Farm from William Lawrence, Episcopal Bishop of Boston, whose father Amos sold their estate to Boston College. The second series also includes correspondence about the Saint Francis Xavier letter purchase and the establishment of the School of Social Work, a number of contracts, such as that of football coach Gilmour Dobie, and a plaque showcasing the signature of Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli, the future Pope Pius XII.

The National Youth Administration series contains materials related to financial aid for Boston College students during the Great Depression. Material types include memorandums, correspondence, bulletins, implementation instructions, and forms, and are written by members of federal and state emergency relief administrations, the Works Progress Administration, and Boston College.

Also included in the records are reports from when Gallagher accompanied Edmund A. Walsh, SJ, to Russia. They collected testimony and reports regarding military and government operations as members of the Vatican Relief Mission. The reports document statements from members of the Japanese and Russian military and references to American forces and the Red Cross.

The papers also consist of records of the Museum of Anthropology established during Gallagher's time as president. The majority of these materials are correspondence between Joseph J. Williams, SJ and missionaries abroad concerning the acquisition of artifacts for the museum. Also included are photographs of a few of the items collected, such as coins and shark teeth, as well as a couple of artifacts, like a woven mat of pandanus leaves from Samoa, and a multilingual Ave Maria prayer book from what is now Vanuatu. Photographs and site drawings from the Lebanese archaeological site Ksar Akil are also included.


Language of Materials

Materials in this collection are primarily in English, with some Latin, French, and Spanish.

Restrictions on access

Collection open for research; portion also available digitally. Three items in Series V. have been closed due to fragility.

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.

Biographical note

Louis J. Gallagher, SJ, the seventeenth president of Boston College, was born in Boston on July 22, 1886. He graduated from Boston College High School in 1903 and matriculated to Boston College, where he completed two years and then joined the Society of Jesus. After his ordainment on June 29, 1920, by Cardinal James Gibbons, Gallagher served as headmaster of Xavier High School in New York City before his selection in 1922 for the Vatican Relief Mission to Russia. On the mission he accompanied Edmund A. Walsh, SJ, who later founded Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service. In March 1923, he was named an honorary captain in the 11th division of the Cossack Calvary. When he returned to the United States in 1924, Gallagher became dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. Beginning in 1926, Gallagher spent six years as Socius to the New England Provincial. On January 1, 1932, Gallagher returned to Boston College as its president.

Gallagher's presidency felt the full impact of the Great Depression. Although there was no construction during his administration, Gallagher dealt with maintenance issues concerning existing campus buildings. The Depression greatly affected tuition payments, and financial aid within the college rose a hundred percent from the previous year. The federal government’s implementation of the National Youth Administration greatly assisted students by providing part-time employment associated with the college.

Despite financial constraints, Boston College did undergo positive change during this period as well. In 1935, with Gallagher's support, the Philomatheia Club purchased an original letter signed by St. Francis Xavier for the Boston College Library. Also during Gallagher's administration, Boston College began sponsoring archaeological expeditions. The first explored an area in Colombia and was jointly sponsored by the University of Pennsylvania; the second expedition, to the Middle East in 1937, was solely sponsored by Boston College. Joseph G. Doherty, SJ, traveled to Lebanon with other Jesuits to excavate a prehistoric rock shelter in Ksar Akil. In March 1937, Gallagher opened the Boston College Museum of Anthropology, which was closed and converted into student housing by 1948, after his tenure.

After retiring from the presidency of Boston College, Gallagher served as the religious superior of Saint Andrew’s House in Boston from 1944-1950. He returned to Georgetown University in 1954, where he taught, wrote, and was associated with the School of Foreign Service until 1971. Gallagher died on August 14, 1972 in Weston, Massachusetts; his funeral service was held at Boston College.


"Rev. Louis J. Gallagher, S.J., 87, Headed B.C., Dean at Georgetown," The Washington Post, Aug 17, 1972.

Dunigan, David R. A History of Boston College. Milwaukee, WI: Bruce Publishing Co., 1947.

Birnbaum, Ben, “Oddities and Endings: The Baron,” Boston College magazine, accessed December 12, 2022,


6.5 Linear Feet (7 containers)


The Louis J. Gallagher, SJ, President's Office records contain correspondence, contracts, ephemera, memorandums, reports, photographs, and drawings documenting the work of Louis J. Gallagher as the seventeenth president of Boston College (BC). The collection dates from 1920 to 1945, with the bulk of the materials dating the years of Gallagher's presidency, 1932 to 1937. Included are records related to maintaining the buildings and grounds of Boston College, the aid of National Youth Administration during the Great Depression, reports of the Vatican Relief Mission in Russia, and records of the BC Museum of Anthropology, including photographs of exhibits, correspondence, maps and drawings of archaeological sites, and a few artifacts.


This collection is arranged in five series: I. Buildings and grounds; II. Correspondence, contracts, and ephemera; III. National Youth Administration; IV. Reports; V. Museum of Anthropology. Materials within the series are arranged chronologically.


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. The folder of clippings on Louis J. Gallagher, SJ and Boston College was acquired from the Office of the University Historian. Three pages of a report on Ksar Aqil were discovered elsewhere and returned to Boston College by archeologist Christopher A. Bergman in 2013.

Existence of digital copies

Portions of this collection are available digitally. Links are included in the inventory.

Related Materials

President's Office Records, University Archives, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

Francis Xavier letter, 1552 January 31, Jesuitica Manuscripts, John J. Burns Library, Boston College. Available online at

Separated Materials

Published works associated with this collection have been transferred within the Burns Library and can be found in the Boston College Library catalog.

Content Advisory

Users are advised that some of the correspondence in Series V. contains outdated and potentially harmful language.

Louis J. Gallagher, SJ, President's Office records
1920-1945 (bulk 1932-1937)
unknown; revised by Stephanie Bennett in 2013; revised by Molly Ogrodnik in 2022
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Revision Statements

  • 2022 December: Incorporated new accrual.

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