Finding Father Boland

Father Frank Boland. Legend or myth?

Growing up, my mother frequently implored me to follow the wisdom of Frank Boland and his tips on effective academic study habits. I, of course, did my part and nodded unconvincingly and ignored the said study habits.

But I always wondered about this Frank Boland person whose wisdom was being force fed to me. Somehow he was connected to my family, specifically my mother’s O’Neill-Foley relations. To my recollection, his connection was not explained to me and the few older relatives that I have spoken to about him were unable to provide details on my relationship to him.

It took some sleuthing but finally I have come to know my first cousin, twice removed Father Francis John ‘Frank’ Boland, CSB, Ph.D.

boland-frank-john-st-mikes-grad-photo-1938

Fr. Frank Boland – 1938 University of Toronto (St. Michael’s College) graduation photo

Francis John Boland was born 30 June 1916, the second son of John Boland and Alice Caroline Fitzgerald. The couple’s first son, whom they named John Lewis Boland, had been stillborn four years earlier. No doubt, the birth a healthy baby was a delight for John and Alice. They had married when both were in their mid-30s and finally with both of them in their early-40s, they were a family.

John Boland, a printer, had been born in Ireland and immigrated with his parents when he was in his early teens. Alice however had been born into an Irish Catholic family in Toronto, the youngest of nine children born to Lewis Fitzgerald and his wife Ellen Daley. One of Alice’s older sisters was Mary Jane Fitzgerald who had married John Foley and was the mother of my maternal grandmother Gertrude Ellen Foley. Finally, the family connection was making some sense. Even though my maternal grandmother was about eighteen years older than him, Frank Boland was her first cousin.

But why I wondered was Frank Boland presented to me as some sort of ‘study guru’?

While my mother knew that I seemed to have an easy aptitude for math and sciences, I really loved history. Although she never said so, she called on the name of Father Boland, our cousin, because he was an historian.

Frank Boland graduated from St. Michael’s College School (a Toronto high school under the direction of the Basilian order) and then in 1938 from St. Michael’s College at the University of Toronto. Following university graduation, Frank entered St. Basil’s Seminary for theological studies and was ordained to the priesthood on 15 August 1942 as a Basilian.

In 1941, Frank received a specialist’s certificate in history from the Ontario College of Education. He was subsequently assigned to teach high school history in Houston, Texas, Calgary, Alberta and at his high school alma mater St. Mike’s in Toronto. In 1948, Frank received his Master of Arts degree in history from the University of Detroit before heading back home to St. Mike’s high school where the 1949 yearbook records that he was Head of the History department.

Eventually, Frank Boland presented a dissertation on the ‘Early Basilian Fathers in America 1850-1860’ and was granted a doctorate in history from the University of Ottawa. Frank then joined the faculty of Assumption University in Windsor, Ontario where he founded the renowned Seminar on Canadian American Relations in 1959. Father Frank Boland held the rank of professor from 1967, just around the time my mother began urging that I follow his study tips.

In 1969, Father Boland was on sabbatical, working on his next project, a monograph of former Governor-General for Canada, Lord Stanley, and conducting research in The Netherlands. On 6 April 1969, Father Frank Boland suffered a stroke and died in Utrecht, The Netherlands at the young age of 52. His body was returned to Windsor, Ontario where a funeral mass was held on the 12th of April at Assumption Roman Catholic Church followed by internment in Assumption Cemetery.

Following his death, the December 1969 edition of the Canadian Historical Review published an obituary about Father Boland that stated “Though his contributions were many and on several levels, he always remained what he fundamentally was, an excellent teacher” who “… had a talent for making history live.”

I can only hope that I got some of those family genes.

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