Curiosity Leads to Unique Find Hidden in Fenwick for Decades

A munitions box found in Fenwick 421 revealed long-lost letters and scholarship from the late classics professor Rev. Robert Healey, S.J.

You"d think that everything hidden in Fenwick Hall would have been found by now.

But that's the thing about 175-year-old buildings: There's always something else to discover.

Such was the case in May when Avanell Brock, the College's multimedia producer, was using Fenwick 421 as a quiet location for filming video interviews. Currently the Rev. William Fitzgerald, S.J., Library for the classics department, the room sports bookshelves, a desk, a table and easy chairs, and is used by students for reading and collaborative research.

As Brock surveyed the room, she spied what looked like a small door directly above the closet. Curious, she stood on a chair, opened the door and found, of all things, a heavy munitions box.

As it was too high and heavy to remove by herself, Brock popped the box's lid and took photos with her phone to see what was in it. They revealed a stack of papers with an envelope on top addressed to: "RJ Healey, Boston College, Chestnut Hill, Boston, Mass." She closed the box and shut the door, then sent the photos to Stephen Albano, Holy Cross Magazine art director, knowing he is always on the lookout for College history.

Brock was the first person to lay eyes on the box in years.

The box contained personal letters, as well as notebooks and research believed to be from Fr. Healey’s graduate study, including a pressed flower from the Temple of Demeter in Greece, picked during a 1960 excavation. Photo by Avanell Brock

Fenwick 421 was the former office of Rev. Robert Healey, S.J., a classics professor at the College from 1968 until his death in 1987. "He probably put those letters in there and forgot about them," says Sarah Campbell, assistant archivist for College Archives and Special Collections.

After Fr. Healey passed, knowledge of the box and its contents were lost and the niche — a closet designed to hold a clothes trunk — was left untouched for decades. Campbell believes the notation on the lid (opposite page, bottom left) refers to the Newbury Street Jesuit novitiate, where Healey lived while in formation and graduate school.

The box, which has since been removed and transferred to College Archives, contains personal correspondence from that period of his life, dozens of notebooks full of his writings and research thought to correspond to his time studying at Boston College, as well as a pressed flower picked at the Temple of Demeter in Greece during a 1960 excavation.

Knowing the box belonged to Fr. Healey, it's no surprise it was filled with scholarship, as he earned a licentiate in philosophy from Weston College, a master's in philosophy from Boston College, a bachelor's degree and a master's in classics from Oxford University and a Ph.D. in classics from Harvard. He was an expert in Homer, Virgil and Cicero, and loved to travel, visiting Russia to study the religious practices of people living under communism and retracing the steps of Alexander the Great through Europe and Asia Minor.

Written by Melissa Shaw for the Fall 2019 issue of Holy Cross Magazine.

About Holy Cross Magazine Holy Cross Magazine (HCM) is the quarterly alumni publication of the College of the Holy Cross. The award-winning publication is mailed to alumni and friends of the College and includes intriguing profiles, make-you-think features, alumni news, exclusive photos and more. Visit to contact HCM, submit alumni class notes, milestones, or letters to the editor.