Morrissey College Honors Program to end with Class of 2021 cohort

Boston College will no longer accept students into the Morrissey College of Arts and Sciences Honors Program beginning in 2018, after a strategic assessment conducted by school leadership, Morrissey College Dean Gregory Kalscheur, S.J., announced today.

In a letter to the Morrissey College community, Fr. Kalscheur said the decision, made in consultation with Provost and Dean of Faculties David Quigley, was based on several factors, including the high caliber of all of today’s BC students, which lessened the need for a separate honors program, and the commitment to rigorous interdisciplinary Core Curriculum experiences that is part of the ongoing Core renewal process.

Fr. Kalscheur said that all current Honors Program students will have the opportunity to complete the program during the course of the next three years, and that it is his intention that all full-time Honors Program faculty members will have the opportunity to continue teaching in comparable full-time positions in the Morrissey College after the program ends. Students interested in a four-year integrated liberal arts program can choose to enroll in Perspectives, an interdisciplinary Core program grounded in the great books of the Western intellectual tradition.

The Morrissey College Honors Program currently serves 380 of the University’s 9,300 undergraduates, including 90 first-year students.

Founded in 1958, the Honors Program was envisioned as an opportunity for students with “exceptional native intelligence or atypical previous training to absorb an enriched curriculum and proceed at a faster pace in required subjects.”

In establishing the Honors Program, Boston College joined more than 100 universities that launched similar ventures in postwar America as a means to attract stronger students nationwide. At the urging of then University President Michael P. Walsh, S.J., English Professor P. Albert Duhamel and Academic Vice President William Casey, S.J., proposed a curriculum for students “blessed by heredity or early training with more talents than the average,” according to research conducted by Zachary Jason in BC’s Office of University Communications.

At its high point, the program grew to more than 500 undergraduates, with approximately 125 students annually entering each year.   

In his letter, Fr. Kalscheur said that unlike today, an Honors Program was needed in 1958 as part of an overall effort to recruit superior students to Boston College.  

“In 2017, Boston College is a highly selective university with a challenging undergraduate academic program,” he said. "The Scholar of the College and departmental honors programs provide students with the opportunity to do thesis projects with outstanding faculty scholars, and the Core Renewal process has committed the University to making available rigorous integrative interdisciplinary core experiences to all of our undergraduates. The pressing needs that led to the creation of the Honors Program nearly 60 years ago no longer exist today.”   

The Perspectives Program, a rigorous interdisciplinary course of study that seeks to integrate the humanities and natural sciences, attracts some 650 of the University’s freshmen from all four schools and colleges. According to Perspectives Program Director Brian Braman, it provides students with the opportunity to seek answers to enduring questions by bringing faculty and students into conversation with the ancient, modern and contemporary thinkers who have shaped Western intellectual and spiritual heritage.

All four of the Perspectives courses are yearlong, double credit courses with an evening class component involving extensive discussion and interaction among faculty and students.  Each Perspectives course fulfills Core Curriculum requirements.

Perspectives I: Perspectives on Western Culture immerses students in the works of the Greek philosophers, The Bible, Augustine, Machiavelli, Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Calvin, Ignatius, Freud and Marx. In addition to classroom lectures and extensive readings, freshmen meet weekly with their instructors to discuss the assigned material and explore ways in which the course can help to shape their lives.

During Perspectives II: Modernism and the Arts, students grapple with the contradictions of modernism through the novels of Flaubert, Tolstoy and James Joyce; the music of Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington; and the contributions of artists ranging from Monet and Picasso to architects such as Walter Gropius and Frank Lloyd Wright.   

Perspectives III: Horizon of the New Social Sciences investigates secularism and the new social sciences through the writings of Montesquieu, Adam Smith, Jefferson, Edmund Burke, John Stuart Mill, John Maynard Keynes, Louis Brandeis and Max Weber, while Perspectives IV: New Scientific Visions explores contemporary thinking in science and math through the classic texts of visionaries including Euclid, Newton, Galileo, Darwin and Einstein.

Founded in 1971 by the late Philosophy Department Chairman Joseph Flanagan, S.J., and former Lonergan Center Director Frederick Lawrence, the Perspectives Program has been directed since 1998 by Braman, a professor of the practice in philosophy.

In the letter, Fr. Kalscheur said that in the 2018-2019 academic year, Associate Professor of the Practice of Humanities Christopher Constas will assume the role of associate director of Perspectives and will succeed Braman in advance of the 2019 semester.

In addition, Fr. Kalscheur said, during the coming spring semester he would lead a faculty conversation on how best to bring Perspectives into dialogue with the experience gained through the past several years of renewed Core courses.

“The decisions announced in this letter reflect my conviction that, in many ways, the Boston College of 2017 has become the institution that the founders of the Arts and Sciences Honors Program dreamed of bringing into being,” said Fr. Kalscheur.

“All of us who study, teach, and work today at this great university – an institution recognized as one of the most distinguished in the nation – owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to the program’s leaders over the years, including the late Professor Albert Folkard, Fr. David Gill, S.J., Fr. Joseph Appleyard, S.J., and Professor Mark O’Connor, as well as to all the faculty members whose dedicated teaching and commitment to caring for their students have made studying in the Honors Program a transformative experience for so many.”   

–Jack Dunn | University Communications