Boston College High School has a distinguished, if not unrivaled history of serving the boys and young men of Boston, particularly the sons of the waves of newcomers to our city over the many past decades. My father was one of its beneficiaries some 90 years ago and I a generation later.
However, the school’s traditional base has transitioned in the intervening years. Catholic families, which are smaller than in generations past, now look beyond the traditional parochial schools for their children’s education. In addition, as generous as BC High might be with its student aid, tuition has reached a breaking point for most families. These forces, and others, seemingly have conspired as is increasingly apparent in the declining applications to the school in recent years.
The trend has even found its way onto the front pages of the Boston Globe and resulted in a massive realignment of the school’s board of trustees, including the resignation of its chairman. The latter was presumably precipitated by the suggestion of some trustees that the school consider admitting girls, which obviously became to some the proverbial nuclear option.
Cardinal Sean O’Malley quickly spoke out against such a path, as did many predictable members of the alumni group. The cardinal expressed understandable concern about how the archdiocese’s existing all-girl high schools would be impacted, while many older alumni and others want BC High to remain true to its historic and noble mission of educating the boys of Boston.
These situations and considerations and the resulting trauma are not firsts. One only has to look back some 40 years ago to Boston College itself and the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, both once stalwart Catholic and Jesuit institutions exclusively for men. As a graduate of the latter, I remember well the doomsday predictions of what would happen to Holy Cross — its mission, its standing, its very academics — if women were admitted.
On the contrary, thanks to the addition and contributions of young women, the outcome for both colleges has been the opposite. Boston College has evolved from a commuter school to a prestigious national university, and Holy Cross to a preeminent liberal arts college. And I would argue that young, bright, accomplished women have been at the very heart of why these two colleges are thriving today.
I worry too that by not seriously considering the coed option, Boston College High School may very well be denying opportunity to the girls and young women of Boston, whether consciously or not. BC High is extraordinary in its history and in the exceptional educational opportunity it provides today. It is finally time, though, to have a full-fledged discussion and open-minded consideration of offering this opportunity to girls as well as boys. I am convinced, as in the Boston College and Holy Cross experiences, the beneficiaries will be both the girls of Boston and the school itself.
Paul La Camera is a 1960 graduate of Boston College High School.