Distant spires

Published: April 2004

The year is 1956. No O’Neill, McGuinn, Carney, McElroy, Cushing, Higgins, or stadium. No lower campus at all, but a reservoir at the bottom of the hill. A student body of almost entirely commuters, with the only dormitories, CLX, just a year old. Women’s enrollment limited to the colleges of nursing and education. A curriculum that included 36 credits of theology and philosophy. Sports practice on the Dustbowl. Evening classes at the Intown College. Jesuits in cassocks.

That world, now lost, was captured in a 16 millimeter film commissioned by then President Joseph Maxwell, SJ, and produced by BC employees on a $2,500 budget. Aimed at influencing prospective students and prospective alumni donors, it was edited to 28 minutes, standard television length for the time, though it never aired on TV. A camera purchased for the project was wielded by all the collaborators in turn: producer Francis Murphy, an education professor and audiovisual department head; English professor John Sullivan, who wrote the script; student narrator Bernard Senick ’58; and John Foley ’56 and music professor Barbara Bennett, who worked together on the audio.

Filming and editing took a year, and eight copies were distributed to alumni chapters, which hosted viewings for members and at local high schools.

For years, two copies survived in canisters in the AV department’s archives. And in the late 1980s, Foley, who had become a member of the department’s staff, made a comment to a colleague that led to the rediscovery of Towers on the Heights. The film was transferred to video, and from video to digitized format for this Web presentation of a world that includes typing class, archery for co-eds, a Jesuit demonstrating the laws of physics on the football field, the BC-Holy Cross game at Fenway Park, the spring prom, and Alumni Day “hijinks.”

This feature was posted on Thursday, April 15, 2004 and is filed under Videos.
Writer: Nicole Estvanik
Producer: Noah Kuhn
Research: Dave Corkum