William J. Devlin, SJ, President's Office records
- 1915 - 1935
- Majority of material found within 1919 - 1925
Scope and Contents
William J. Devlin, SJ, President’s Office records contain materials from the administration of William J. Devlin, the fifteenth president of Boston College. The collection spans 1915-1935 with the bulk dating from 1919-1925, and documents Devlin’s attempts to improve the Chestnut Hill campus, particularly through the construction of new buildings and the establishment of new programs, specifically the Schools of Education and Business. The records are composed of correspondence, subject files, a scrapbook from Devlin’s 1921 Building Fund campaign, and a second scrapbook documenting events such as Marshal Foch's visit to Boston College, breaking ground on the new library, the Building Fund campaign, and more. Correspondence consists of letters between Devlin and various individuals, as well as mailings and letters from Catholic and educational organizations. A large amount of correspondence between Devlin and the New England Province of Jesuits is represented. Subject files chronicle Devlin’s administration, especially his fundraising efforts and school improvements. This series also includes some material regarding Devlin’s interest in Catholic issues, and activity in Catholic organizations.
Language of Materials
Materials in this collection are primarily in English, with some German.
Restrictions on access
Collection is open for research; portions are available digitally.
"Father Rector's Office and President of Boston College" scrapbook in Series II is closed due to fragility. A photocopied duplicate of the scrapbook can be accessed in Box 4.
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 J. Devlin, SJ, was born in New York City on December 15, 1875. Though born in the United States, Devlin spent most of his childhood abroad in England and Ireland. He attended Stonyhurst College in England before being accepted to the English Province of the Society of Jesus in 1893. The death of his father in New York led Devlin to return to America and enter the novitiate of the New York-Maryland Province in September of 1893. Beginning in 1901, Devlin taught for four years at Boston College as a professor before beginning his theology courses at Woodstock College in 1905. He was ordained in 1908. In 1910, Devlin returned to Boston College as a professor, and in 1914 was appointed dean. In 1919, he became the fifteenth president of Boston College.
During his presidency, Devlin turned his attention to providing new programs and spaces for the rapidly growing student body on the Chestnut Hill campus. In 1919, the School of Education began to confer advanced degrees to male students and provide improved training to teaching sisters in the Archdiocese of Boston. Similarly, in 1922, a proposal was drafted for what would eventually become the College of Business Administration.
In 1920, Devlin devoted himself to the construction of a new building with expanded laboratory space for the increasingly popular science program. After consulting the New England Provincial, Father Joseph H. Rockwell, an appeal was sent to the alumni as a statement of needs. This approach resulted in only a tepid response from alumni, and did not raise enough for the building project. Over the next year Devlin attempted two other fundraising drives. The second of these was a large-scale, public campaign, known as the Building Fund Campaign, for the addition of not only the science building, but a chapel, gymnasium, and library as well. The campaign’s objective was to raise two million dollars in thirty weeks, with the public drive occurring over ten days. Unfortunately, the goal of two million dollars went unfulfilled as the total barely exceeded one million. However, enough money was raised to continue construction of the science and library buildings, and the publicity gained from the campaign proved invaluable.
Devlin was succeeded by Father James H. Dolan in 1925. He was then appointed minister at St. Andrew-on-Hudson Jesuit seminary, and in 1926 he took the same position at Woodstock College. Devlin returned to St. Andrew as rector in 1927, where he stayed until 1933 when he was appointed rector of St. Ignatius Church in New York City. Devlin’s health began to fail soon after and, after several hospital stays, he was sent to St. Isaac Jogues Novitiate in Wernersville, Pennsylvania, where he died on July 21, 1938.
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.
“Obituary: Father William Devlin, 1875-1938.” The Woodstock Letters: A Record 67 (1938): 293-8.
Schools of Business and Education preliminary circulars of information, box 1, folder 21, William J. Devlin, SJ, President's Office Records, BC.1986.020F, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.
5 Linear Feet (4 containers)
William J. Devlin, SJ, President’s Office records contain materials from the administration of William J. Devlin, the fifteenth president of Boston College. The collection spans 1915-1935 with the bulk dating from 1919-1925, and documents Devlin’s attempts to improve the Chestnut Hill campus, particularly through the construction of new buildings and the establishment of new programs. The records are composed of correspondence, subject files, and scrapbooks, and also include some material regarding Devlin’s interest in Catholic issues and activity in Catholic organizations.
The William J. Devlin, SJ, President's Office records are arranged in two series: I. Correspondence; II. Subject files. Correspondence and subject files are 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.
Existence of Digital Copies
Portions of this collection are available digitally.
- William J. Devlin, SJ, President's Office Records
- 1915-1935 (bulk 1919-1925)
- unknown; revised by Alexandra Bisio in 2013; revised by Molly Aleshire
- Description rules
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
- Language of description
- Script of description
- 2023 March: Reassociated a scrapbook.