One of the many draws of Boston College is the beauty of the campus. For most, that first walk through BC is inspiring, to say the least, as one gazes upon the arches of Fulton or the stone facade of Devlin.
This is not coincidental. When the founders of Boston College began to build, they chose a collegiate, gothic style rich in connections to education, morality, Catholicism, and history. In this atmosphere of erudition and elegance, it can be easy to overlook one common, fundamental aspect of campus—the names on the buildings themselves.
The Bapst Library is named after our first Boston College President, Rev. John Bapst, SJ. Hailing from Switzerland, the Jesuit was first sent to America to minister to Native Americans in Maine. He had great success negotiating treaties between the natives. Unfortunately, the mid-1800s in America were fraught with tension between Catholics and Puritans. The Know Nothing party, dubbed as such because its members claimed to have no knowledge of the inner workings of the party, opposed immigration and Catholicism. Father Bapst, after requesting that Catholic children not read the King James version of the Bible in school, became a target of the Know Nothings. He survived a traumatic tarring and feathering. He continued to preach, however, and went on to play integral roles at The College of the Holy Cross and Boston College.
Campion Hall, an unassuming building facing McGuinn Hall, shares its name with Saint Edmund Campion, SJ. Saint Campion lived and died in the Elizabethan era. He received many scholarships and great favor among the English Protestants, especially Queen Elizabeth I. Saint Campion was ordained a deacon in the Protestant church, but he left England and reverted to Catholicism, joining the Jesuits in 1573 by walking barefoot from Douai, France to Rome. He later joined a mission to return to England, where, despite the publication of Campion’s Brag, a document released to assure the government he was not committing treason, he was captured and imprisoned in the Tower of London. He was tortured, hanged, eviscerated, castrated, quartered, and beheaded before he died.
Shaw House on Upper Campus is home to the leadership Living and Learning Program. It is named in honor of Rev. Joseph Coolidge Shaw, SJ. Rev. Shaw was a native Bostonian whose family ties have an illustrious history in the city. Converting to Catholicism after his schooling at Harvard and travels in Europe, he became Boston College’s first donor upon his deathbed. In 1851, dying of tuberculosis, he willed $4,000 and his expansive 1,700 book collection to the developing Boston College. These donations were an essential contribution which helped to buy the lands and supply the books. He may very well be the first benefactor of Boston College.
Shea Field stands as a memorial to a 1918 BC graduate, Commander John J. Shea. Commander Shea lost his life in World War II when the ship he was aboard, the USS Wasp, was sunk by Japanese torpedoes. His last letter to his five year old son, “Letter to Jackie,” is a touching correspondence that underlies American and Catholic values of dedication, bravery, and love. His son Jack Shea went on to graduate from BC in 1958, and was a professor in the classics department for many years.
In El Salvador in 1989, six Jesuit priests and two coworkers were assassinated during the violent civil war. The US-trained Atlacatl Battalion entered the Jesuit scholars' home on the campus of Universidad Centroamericana José Simeón Cañas and took their lives under the assumption that they were supporting rebel forces. In 1990, BC honored the dead by invoking the name of Saint Ignatius Loyola, founder of the Jesuits, in the naming of Ignacio “Iggy” Hall. The name is meant to honor the heartbreaking loss of the Jesuit priests and their coworkers.
Of course, there are a number of other buildings on BC’s campus. There are many more towers, walls, benches, and memorials dedicated to great people. These names are the names of those who've honored BC with their patronage. Or, they are for those who BC has the honor of recognizing for the great things they accomplished. While it is easy to walk among the buildings in awe of their beauty, the names and stories inscribed upon them are equally awe-inspiring.