The New Game in Town
Despite the chill of autumn in the air, there was a feeling of warmth as the Boston College community gathered to celebrate the dedication of the Margot Connell Recreation Center. Family, friends, and guests sported “Thank you, Margot” stickers on their lapels and smiles on their faces.
Under a tent outside the facility, Margot Connell, H’09, took her seat in the front row. Connell, a Trustee Associate, honorary degree recipient, mother of six—all of whom are BC graduates—and grandmother of 17, including four alumni grandchildren, has been described by University President William P. Leahy, S.J., as a “matriarch of the BC community.” Her $50 million leadership gift—one of the largest in University history—made dreams of a new recreation center come true.
“We are here to dedicate this important building not just to our campus but to history,” began Jim Husson, vice president for university advancement. “This building embodies the very best qualities of Boston College’s mission and values. It fosters camaraderie, collaboration, and teamwork through BC’s 25 club sports, nearly 1,000 intramural teams, and diverse collection of fitness programming. Most importantly, it offers a safe, inclusive gathering place that honors the Jesuit, Catholic commitment to formation.”
Martin Jarmond, William V. Campbell Athletics Director, remarked, “This facility is a game-changer, and I don’t throw that word around lightly.” He then addressed Margot Connell directly, saying, “The impact that this facility will have on our campus community and on our students is going to be far-reaching for generations to come, and that’s because of your love and your longtime commitment to Boston College.”
Jarmond reported that Campus Recreation experienced 40 percent more activity in the first week of classes this year than in the previous year. The Margot Connell Recreation Center is already impacting student life.
Fr. Leahy shared the story of the late Bill Connell’s mother, who successfully advocated for her son’s admission to Boston College in a meeting with Fr. Edmond Walsh in 1955. Leahy quipped that the irony of the Margot Connell Recreation Center’s location—on the same site where Edmond’s Hall once stood—was either a testament to strong women getting the last word, or, that inspiration, commitment, and dedication always pay off, since “Boston College is the beneficiary of decades of the Connell family’s commitment, dedication, and loyalty.”
Leahy thanked Connell for her steadfastness in keeping BC students’ interests at heart, whether in her roles as a wife, mother, trustee, or philanthropist, as “someone who leads by example, who builds bridges, who challenges when needed, and who always provides support.”
Jim Husson summarized Margot and Bill Connell’s philanthropy at the Heights and beyond. He commented, “How fitting that Margot’s and Bill’s love is now etched in the permanent landscape of the Heights, where the William F. Connell School of Nursing now casts its gaze from across the way at the Margot Connell Recreation Center.”
Margot Connell took the podium and thanked all who helped make the facility a reality, from her supportive family members, to her colleagues on the Board of Trustees, to the work crews who spent the winter months raising the building itself.
“I know how important a place to gather and play can be—a place that offers something for everyone,” she said, describing her vision. “A place where all students can come to exercise and participate in all kinds of activities… A place to release [stress] that usually results from the grind of studies, a physical outlet, so to speak. That was the beginning, and this beautiful facility is the result.”
Connell thanked University leadership for their collaboration and closed with encouraging words: “Please come out and play. Believe me, you will be better for it.”
Jack Butler, S.J., Haub Vice President for Mission and Ministry, closed in prayer, saying, “May this building offer health and well-being to all who enter it. Like a mom, may this building help reduce anxiety for those who come to release their tension and their stress. In mom-like fashion, may this space help inspire laughing, fun, and enjoyment. Most of all, may this recreation center be a place of growth physically, emotionally, spiritually, [giving the same support] as Margot has provided to her family, her friends, and Boston College.”
The speaking program adjourned, and Margot Connell made her way to the front of the building with her children and grandchildren. Together, they pulled the ceremonial cord and the red velvet banner dropped, revealing the Margot Connell Recreation Center. The Screaming Eagles Marching Band strode around the corner, playing “For Boston” while Baldwin danced along, wearing his special Margot Connell Recreation Center T-shirt. As the audience clapped and cheered, Margot Connell beamed with pride.
Guests were invited to enjoy refreshments and tour the new facility. Student workers cheerfully explained all the new amenities. Some visited the pool, others watched demonstrations at the climbing wall or took swings at the golf simulator. Beneath festive jazz music piped in through the speakers, guests remarked on the future of Boston College with enthusiasm.
This special evening was an opportunity for the Boston College community to reflect on the history of hard work, dedication, and commitment that made the present celebration possible. With Margot Connell’s encouragement, BC continues to look forward with energy, joy, and hope.