Brooklyn College Presidents

Since its founding in 1930, there have been 9 Brooklyn College Presidents.  Below is a list of all the BC Presidents, which also includes Acting Presidents:

1932-1938                   WILLIAM A. BOYLAN                     PRESIDENT

1938-1939                   MARIO E. COSENZA                     ACTING PRESIDENT

1939-1966                   HARRY D. GIDEONSE                  PRESIDENT

1966-1967                   FRANCIS P. KILCOYNE                PRESIDENT

1968-1969                   HAROLD C. SYRETT                     PRESIDENT

1969                            GEORGE A. PECK                         ACTING PRESIDENT

1970-1979                   JOHN W. KNELLER                        PRESIDENT

1979-1991                   ROBERT L. HESS                           PRESIDENT

1992                            JAMES N. LOUGHRAN                  ACTING PRESIDENT

1992-2000                   VERNON LATTIN                            PRESIDENT

2000-2009                   CHRISTOPH KIMMICH                  PRESIDENT

2009-2016                   KAREN L. GOULD                          PRESIDENT

2016-                           MICHELLE ANDERSON                 PRESIDENT

A Look at William A. Boylan, The First BC President

William Boylan, the first President of Brooklyn College

William Boylan, the first President of Brooklyn College.


“His manner seemed austere, and his blue eyes appeared stern behind his rimless pince nez glasses until one caught their Irish twinkle. He was a bachelor, proper and neat as a pin in dress and formal of speech; but he spent many a pleasant evening at cards with Borough President Raymond Ingersoll and other cronies.” 1





No one is more responsible for our beautiful Midwood Campus than our first President William Aloysius Boylan (1869-1940).  An educator, Boylan moved up the ranks in the New York City Public School system from teacher to district superintendent. He also wrote textbooks on reading, writing, and mathematics, many of which can be found in the Brooklyn College Library.

Boylan ably led BC through those hectic early years in Downtown Brooklyn before the College had its own campus, and he was committed to finding BC a home of its own. Although many faculty members initially grumbled at the Board of Higher Education’s choice of a municipal administrator as the President of Brooklyn College, Boylan’s many city connections and his years of experience with NYC school construction benefited this nascent institution. The Midwood Campus opened in October 1937. Almost one year later in September 1938, Boylan resigned due to ill health. He died in 1940.

“The Union Between Democracy and Education”: Boylan at the Cornerstone Laying Ceremony in 1936.

The Ceremony for the laying of the Midwood Campus Cornerstone took place on October 28, 1936.  Many dignitaries spoke and the New York City Sanitation Department Band played celebratory music while the crowd awaited the arrival of President Roosevelt. FDR would lay the cornerstone for the gymnasium building, later known as Roosevelt Hall. Before FDR’s motorcade turned down Bedford Avenue, Boylan addressed the crowd:

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This reception, celebrating the inauguration of Boylan, followed the first Commencement Exercises at Brooklyn College in 1932.

This reception, celebrating the inauguration of Boylan, followed the first Commencement Exercises at Brooklyn College in 1932.

“We strive to develop a college with a keen sense of the needs of the present and the aims of the future. From its early experiences in the midst of the busy activity of downtown Brooklyn, the new college will carry away to its permanent home a living consciousness of contemporary demands and problems, determination to share in that type of higher education which is eager to be an integral part of the community in which it functions. Yesterday’s traditions shall not bind us to today’s questionings and to the world’s anxious hope for a better tomorrow. Above all, we shall strive to inculcate the lesson that in order to attain that richer, more inspiring tomorrow, the community must enlist its best intelligence, its highest ideals, its most practical and realistic talents.”  — From William A. Boylan’s Inaugural Address at the first Commencement Exercises, June 11, 1932.



      1 Thomas Evans Coulton, A City College In Action (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1955) 64-65.

2 thoughts on “Brooklyn College Presidents

  1. Dear Mr. Rizo-Patron,

    According to Boylan’s NY Municipal Archive Death Record and passport documents, Boylan was born on January 6, 1869. Please email and I will send you copies of the documents that we found. Also, we cannot thank you enough for the wonderful information that you have provided about President Boylan and his relatives. All the best, Marianne LaBatto, BC Archives.

  2. My grand uncle William Aloysius Boylan (January 1869 – July 8, 1940; I have not been able to find his baptism entry nor do I know the exact date of his birth) was the third child of Arthur Boylan (County Monaghan, Ireland, ca. 1832 – New York, 1894) and of the former Anna McKenna (Cranbury, New Jersey, 1838 – New York, 1920). A couple fo New York census when he was young mentions him as Edward and as William E. (meaning he was originally named William Edward). His father (the son of Bernard and Catharina Boylan) had migrated from Ireland in ca. 1850. Initially together with his brother John (and apparently with another brother called Edward) Arthur Boylan ran a plumbing business, for the pipes, furnaces and stoves of the growing city of New York. He later went on his own into the roofing business. After briefly fighting in the US Civil War, Arthur Boylan married on October 15, 1864, at the parish of Saint Francis Xavier, New York, to Anna McKenna (the daughter of William McKenna -who owned land were he raised sheep in Cranbury, New Jersey; and of the former Anne Sherry). William seems to have been educated in the school of the said Parish, where he was instilled with Jesuits discipline and sense of duty (and from where comes the middle name he adopted on confirmation: Aloysius, from the Jesuit Saint Aloysius Gonzaga). His siblings included Mary (Mrs. John McGuckin), Bernard, Emma (Mrs. Robert W. Fuller), Anne (the wife of noted New York Illustrator George W. Wright), Arthur Aloysius (1879-1957; who was President of George Washington High School from 1920 to 1950, and a President of New Yorks´ High School Principals Association. This Arthur married Anna Cecilia Taaffe and had six children, of whom the youngest, Jane Rosemarie, married Peruvian Engineer Alfonso Rizo-Patrón, of whom I am the seventh and youngest child) and Francis Boylan (who married Annette Brady, the daughter of New York builder John Thomas Brady). Aside from his professional activities in the New York City public system and in the foundation and Presidence of Brooklyn College, William A. Boylan traveled abroad several times in his life, since about 1904. He was in Rome in 1914 when First World War broke out and went as far away as China in the 1920’s (I have a couple of Chinese silk robes he bought during that trip). At his death in 1940 he left legacies to his several nephews and nieces, being his main beneficiary his oldest niece Mabel McGurkin (later Mrs. John P. Farrelly). His remains are buried in the Boylan family plot at Calvary Cemetery, New York (sector 16, range 15, plot F, grave 213, with capacity for six, in which lie his mother, sister Mary, her husband John McGurkin, their daughter Mabel and the latter´s husband).

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