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Academia's Golden AgeUniversities in Massachusetts, 1945-1970$
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Richard M. Freeland

Print publication date: 1992

Print ISBN-13: 9780195054644

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780195054644.001.0001

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Transformation of the Urban University: Boston University, Boston College, and Northeastern, 1945-1972

Transformation of the Urban University: Boston University, Boston College, and Northeastern, 1945-1972

(p.234) Chapter Five Transformation of the Urban University: Boston University, Boston College, and Northeastern, 1945-1972
Academia's Golden Age

Richard M. Freeland

Oxford University Press

Boston’s three local, private, teaching and service-oriented, commuter universities—Boston University, Boston College, and Northeastern, classic urban universities in the years before World War II—undertook to change themselves in fundamental ways during the golden age. B.U., reaching back to its nineteenth-century origins, sought to re-create itself as a comprehensive regional and national university. Boston College, drawing on the ancient academic traditions of the Society of Jesus, worked to become the nation’s top Jesuit university and a leading force in Catholic intellectual and professional life. Northeastern, with its philosophical roots in service to the low-income population and business community of Boston, tried to balance its historic concerns with a new impulse toward national prominence in cooperative education. All three invested heavily in graduate education and research, and B.U. and B.C., in upgrading their undergraduate student bodies, shed their identities as local, service-oriented campuses. At the end of the period, only N.U. remained centrally committed to the functions of an urban university, though it, too, had taken steps to reduce its emphasis on local service. Boston’s three nonelite, private universities were hit hard by World War II, but campus leaders were conscious of predictions that the return of peace would bring a new period of expansion. By the middle of the war, Presidents Marsh of B.U. and Ell of Northeastern and the provincial Jesuit hierarchy that governed B.C., frustrated by fifteen difficult years, were turning their attention to postwar opportunities. Throughout the war, Marsh later wrote, “we kept getting ready” to “jump quickly” after the fighting stopped. Ell was equally eager. “When the war is over,” he wrote in 1943, “Northeastern will be prepared.” The senior president among the universities of Massachusetts, B.U.’s Marsh was in his middle sixties during World War II and was determined to make concrete progress toward his institutional goals in the short period in office remaining to him. Since his appointment in 1926, he had emphasized three aspects of B.U.: its religious heritage as a non-sectarian, Methodist university with a strong School of Theology; its public-service role as a diversified educational resource for the Boston area; and its academic possibilities as one of the nation’s largest universities with a full range of graduate and professional programs.

Keywords:   Black students, Boston College: academic personnel policies, Enrollments: Massachusetts patterns, Protestants and higher education, Public service function of universities, Public-private relations among universities: in Massachusetts, World War I, World War II: activities of universities during

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