Strengthened by more than a century and a half of dedication to academic excellence, Boston College commits itself to the highest standards of teaching and research in undergraduate, graduate and professional programs and to the pursuit of a just society through its own accomplishments, the work of its faculty and staff, and the achievements of its graduates. It seeks both to advance its place among the nation's finest universities and to bring to the company of its distinguished peers and to contemporary society the richness of the Catholic intellectual ideal of a mutually illuminating relationship between religious faith and free intellectual inquiry.
Boston College draws inspiration for its academic societal mission from its distinctive religious tradition. As a Catholic and Jesuit university, it is rooted in a world view that encounters God in all creation and through all human activity, especially in the search for truth in every discipline, in the desire to learn, and in the call to live justly together. In this spirit, the University regards the contribution of different religious traditions and value systems as essential to the fullness of its intellectual life and to the continuous development of its distinctive intellectual heritage.
Boston College was founded by the Society of Jesus in 1863 and, with 3 teachers and 22 students, opened its doors on September 5, 1864. Through its first seven decades, it remained a small undergraduate institution, serving the sons of the Irish working class, and teaching theology and philosophy, Greek and Latin classics, and English and modern languages.
Originally located on Harrison Avenue in Boston's South End, the College outgrew its urban setting early in the 20th century and moved to the former Lawrence Farm in then-rural Chestnut Hill, where ground was broken on June 19, 1909 for the construction of a central Recitation Building, later named Gasson Hall in honor of President Thomas I. Gasson, S.J., who led the relocation. The Recitation Building opened in March 1913. The three other buildings that still shape the core of the campus—St. Mary's Hall, Devlin Hall, and Bapst Library—opened in 1917, 1924, and 1928, respectively.
Though incorporated as a university from its beginning, Boston College did not begin to fill out the dimensions of its University charter until the 1920s, with the inauguration of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, the Law School, and the Evening College, today the James A. Woods, S.J., College of Advancing Studies. The 1930s saw the introduction of the Graduate School of Social Work and the College of Business Administration—today the Wallace E. Carroll School of Management. The School of Nursing—named in honor of William F. Connell in 2003—and the School of Education—today named for Carolyn A. and Peter S. Lynch—followed in 1947 and 1952. The Graduate School of Arts and Sciences first offered doctoral programs in 1952, followed by the graduate schools of Education, Nursing, Management, and Social Work. By 1970 all undergraduate programs had become coeducational, and today women comprise more than half of the University's enrollment.
In 1974, Boston College acquired a 40-acre site, 1.5 miles from the Chestnut Hill Campus, which had been owned by Newton College of the Sacred Heart. The land is the present site of the Boston College Law School and of residence halls housing some 800 freshmen. Thirty years later, the University acquired a 65-acre parcel from the Boston Archdiocese, just across Commonwealth Avenue in Brighton. The Brighton Campus now hosts the School of Theology and Ministry, which was established in 2008, after the re-affiliation of the Weston Jesuit School of Theology with Boston College and its Institute of Religious Education and Pastoral Ministry.
In 2005, the Church in the 21st Century Initiative, which was founded in the midst of the sex abuse scandal as a catalyst and resource for engaging critical issues facing the Catholic Church, became a permanent center at Boston College.
In October 2008, the University launched “Light the World: the 150th Anniversary Campaign for Boston College,” setting a goal of $1.5 billion to support a strategic plan that advances academic program development, faculty expansion and research, and endows undergraduate financial aid, student formation programs, capital projects, and efforts to advance Boston College as the world's leading Catholic university.
Boston College's main campus in Chestnut Hill, 6 miles (9.7 km) west of downtown Boston, is 175-acre (710,000 m2) and includes over 120 buildings set on a hilltop overlooking the Chestnut Hill Reservoir.
A "Boston College" streetcar station on metro Boston's "T", or public transit system, is located at St. Ignatius Gate; it is the western terminus of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) Green Line's B-branch (also known as the "Boston College" line) and connects the school to Boston's city center and to destinations in the Boston metropolitan area.
Due largely to its location and presence of buildings featuring gothic towers reaching into the sky, the Boston College campus is known generally as the "Heights" and to some as the "Crowned Hilltop".