Photo: John J. Burns Library | Boston College
It is the defining image of the Boston College centennial celebration: the nation’s first Catholic president, attired in academic regalia, addressing those gathered in Alumni Stadium to mark the occasion on April 20, 1963.
Boston College's anniversary convocation capped five weeks of lectures, performances, panel discussions, and receptions. University President Michael P. Walsh, S.J., introduced Kennedy to an audience that included elected officials, church leaders, and representatives from 294 colleges and universities. Harvard president Nathan Pusey, Georgetown president Edward B. Bunn, S.J., and British economist Barbara Ward Jackson were present to receive honorary degrees. Kennedy himself had received honorary degree when, as a U.S. senator from Massachusetts, he addressed the Class of 1956 at Boston College Commencement.
"This university, or college, as Father Walsh has described, was founded in the darkest days of the Civil War, when this Nation was engaged in a climactic struggle to determine whether it would be half slave and half free or all free," said Kennedy. "And now, 100 years later, after the most intense century perhaps in human history, we are faced with the great question of whether this world will be half slave and half free, or whether it will be all one or the other. And on this occasion, as in 1863, the services of Boston College are still greatly needed.
"Boston College for 100 years has been of the Nation and so it will be for the next hundred."
View Kennedy's Boston College Centennial address in its entirety in the video below. For information about the year-long celebration of the centennial of John F. Kennedy's birth, visit the JFK Library website.
April 20, 1963: Boston College President Michael Walsh, S.J., greets President Kennedy at the centennial celebration in Alumni Stadium. To their right is Richard Cardinal Cushing, Archbishop of Boston. (Photo: John J. Burns Library | Boston College)