McGarry, William James, 1894-1941

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William J. McGarry, SJ, was the eighteenth president of Boston College, leading the College from 1937 to 1939. McGarry was born in Hamilton, Massachusetts, on March 14, 1894, and began his association with Boston College as a pupil of Boston College High School. Upon graduation in 1911, he entered the Society of Jesus. As a student, he focused on biblical scholarship at Fordham University and later earned his degree as a Doctor of Sacred Theology from Woodstock College. After being ordained in 1925, McGarry attended the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome from 1928 to 1930 to earn his degree as Licentiate in Sacred Scriptures with Honors. Prior to his appointment as Boston College president, McGarry was the assistant editor of Thought starting in 1934 and taught at Boston College’s Graduate School during the 1936-1937 academic year. He was also dean at Weston College and taught sacred scriptures and dogmatic theology there from 1930 to 1937.

Although a brief two years, McGarry’s presidency included significant accomplishments for Boston College. McGarry founded the College of Business Administration. Also under McGarry’s administration, the Boston College community celebrated the seventy-fifth anniversary of its foundation with a week of symposiums, debates, plays, and a Papal Benediction from Rome. The school also published a pictorial history of the College and held an ode-writing contest.

McGarry inherited the sponsorship of an archaeological expedition in the Middle East from his predecessor, president Louis Gallagher. Early in 1937, Joseph G. Doherty, SJ, went to Lebanon to excavate a prehistoric rock shelter in Ksar Akil, near Beirut, Lebanon. The site proved to be unexpectedly rich in its archaeological yield and was approved for a second season. In 1938, the Paleolithic skeletons of two young people were uncovered; the age of the skeletons was estimated at 30,000 B.C. The excavation was slowed by its placement in the rock deposits, and their removal was postponed until 1939. The expedition’s third season in 1939 was abruptly interrupted by World War II.

McGarry’s tenure as president of Boston College ended in the summer of 1939 as his editorial experience was needed for the governance of a new journal, Theological Studies. McGarry died suddenly on September 23, 1941, in New York, New York.

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
leaderOf Boston college corporateBody
leaderOf Boston College. Office of the President. corporateBody
sucessorOf Gallagher, Louis J. (Louis Joseph), 1885- person
Place Name Admin Code Country
Boston MA US
New York NY US
Massachusetts MA US
College President


Birth 1894-03-14

Death 1941-09-23




Ark ID: w6kw87ft

SNAC ID: 49221467