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William J. Murphy, SJ, President's Office records

Collection BC-2004-078: William J. Murphy, SJ, President's Office records


  • Creation: 1929 - 1948
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1939 - 1945

Scope and Contents

The William J. Murphy, SJ, President’s Office records contain correspondence, memos, student applications, contracts, notes, brochures, pamphlets, architectural drawings, and maps documenting Murphy's term as the nineteenth president of Boston College. Murphy's presidency coincided with World War II, and these records document the war's effects on campus military programs and funding. The collection spans from 1911 through 1945, although the bulk of the material dates from Murphy's presidential years, 1939 to 1945.

Series I. Boston College schools consists of records regarding the College of Business Administration; the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences; the Graduate School of Social Work, which had campuses in Boston and Providence, Rhode Island; the Intown College; and the Law School. This series contains students' applications for special tuition arrangements, whether financial aid or extended payment plans. Law School materials include an oversized 1929 map of Boston's Back Bay neighborhood and an architectural drawing of one floor in the 441 Stuart Street building.

Series II. General office files include correspondence on a variety of topics as well as a folder of exchanges with William Cardinal O'Connell. Subject files cover Murphy's interaction with government-related issues, such as taxation changes and the challenges of religious educational institutions. Murphy held a seat on an advisory committee for the House of Representatives Committee on Education's Study of Higher Education, also reflected in these materials.

Series III. Military programs depicts the effects of World War II training on Boston College. Included in this series are materials concerning the Army Specialized Training Corps, a wartime program, and the College's attempts to secure a Navy training program on campus. Also included is a brochure detailing the abbreviated war degree and a letter soliciting donations to the College's War Fund.


Language of Materials

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

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.

Biographical note

William J. Murphy, SJ, was born in Lawrence, Massachusetts, in 1895. He attended Boston College for two years, from 1912 to 1914, before entering the Society of Jesus. Murphy completed coursework at Woodstock College and then spent four years teaching the classics at Fordham University and Holy Cross College. He was ordained in 1927. Between 1927 and 1934, when he was named general director of studies of the Jesuit Schools of New England, Murphy spent a total of three years in theological and literary studies and three years lecturing in literature at Boston College and Boston College Graduate School.

Murphy was appointed as the nineteenth president on August 15, 1939, sixteen days before Hitler invaded Poland, and ceased his tenure six years later, five days after Japanese surrender ended the war. Although the war dominated Murphy’s presidency, other important events occurred at Boston College as well.

In 1941, Murphy oversaw two important events: the donation of the Liggett Estate by Cardinal William O'Connell to house the College of Business Administration in July, and the first celebration in Massachusetts of the Solemn Votive Mass of the Holy Spirit, also known as the Red Mass, on October 4. The Red Mass denotes the beginning of the judicial year in a religious ceremony, and as such was sponsored by the Law School and Cardinal O'Connell. Attendees at the ceremony, held at Immaculate Conception Church, included such notable political figures as Governor Leverett Saltonstall, Mayor Maurice J. Tobin, the entire Massachusetts Supreme Court, the state attorney general, and the United States attorney general. The mass was said by Murphy, and the homily was delivered by William J. Kenealy, SJ, dean of the Law School.

Murphy coordinated a number of war-related changes at the College. As a result of the Selective Training and Service Act of September 1940, Boston College formed the Counseling Board and the Placement Bureau to aid students in their relations with both their local draft boards and recruiting services. On December 12, 1941, Boston College simultaneously celebrated Bill of Rights Day and announced the acceleration of the college’s curricula, its "war program." In March 1943, the War Department launched the Army Specialized Training Program (ASTP); Boston College became a training center for 432 soldiers, although these numbers later decreased. In 1944, the College began a War Fund Drive to help it through the financially challenging period.

In the closing months of his presidency, Murphy announced the establishment of a Bachelor of Arts degree in business administration with a major in marketing that was offered at the Intown College and required six years of evening attendance. An Institute of Adult Education, which was not degree-granting, also opened at the Intown College in fall 1945. After leaving Boston College in August 1945, Murphy served in a variety of roles including dean of Shadow Brook Novitiate in Lenox, Massachusetts; instructor of tertian priests at St. Robert's Hall in Pomfret, Connecticut; and director of retreats at Campion Retreat House. He died on April 28, 1973, in Methuen, Massachusetts.


Donovan, Charles F., David R. Dunigan, and Paul A. FitzGerald. History of Boston College: From the Beginnings to 1990. Chestnut Hill, MA: The University Press of Boston College, 1990.

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

"Obituaries: Rev. W. J. Murphy, former BC president." Boston Globe, April 29, 1973.


3.5 Linear Feet (5 containers)


The William J. Murphy, SJ, President’s Office Records contain correspondence, memos, student applications, contracts, notes, brochures, and pamphlets documenting Murphy's term as the nineteenth president of Boston College. Murphy's presidency coincided with World War II, and these records also document the war's effects on campus military programs and funding.


The collection is arranged into three series: I. Boston College schools; II. General office files; III. Military programs. Materials within the series are arranged in alphabetical order.


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.

Related Materials

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

William J. Kenealy Papers, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

William J. Murphy, SJ, President's Office Records
1929-1948 (bulk 1939-1945)
unknown; revised by Stephanie Bennett
June 2013
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