New civic mechanism launched at Boston College Citizen Seminar: John P. LaWare Leadership Forum gathers to review regional issues

June 7, 2006

Boston – Greater Boston’s civic and business leaders came together at a Boston College Citizen Seminar on Wednesday, June 7, to take part in the launch of the  John LaWare Leadership Forum , a new civic mechanism designed to focus on the region’s opportunities and challenges in an increasingly competitive global economy.

The John LaWare Leadership Forum has concentrated on regional challenges involving high housing costs, innovation economy jobs, education reform and leadership concerns growing out of recent corporate consolidation and the loss of local headquarters. It was formed under the leadership of Cathy Minehan, President and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, John Hamill, Chairman of Sovereign Bank New England, and Paul Grogan, President and CEO of the Boston Foundation.

“By offering an inclusive forum for business and civic leaders to learn about what is happening and how they can contribute, we hope to increase the effectiveness of the many efforts already underway and to build a stronger and more vibrant economic and social community,” said Minehan. 

The keynote speaker at today’s Forum was Richard H. Gilman, Publisher of the Boston Globe, who talked about the role of the media as a civic leader. Each person at the Forum was invited to sign up to sponsor or host a briefing on key challenges and opportunities, or to join a working group focused on key areas, including: education, housing, and strategies to grow, attract and retain a diverse new generation of civic and business leaders.

Today’s gathering was opened by the Rev. J. Donald Monan, SJ, Chancellor of Boston College, who connected the current Forum to the founding of the Boston College Citizen Seminar in 1954, at a time when deep concerns about economic stagnation in the city and the region inspired the creation of the Seminar as a way to bring together leaders from across all sectors to begin to set a regional agenda for growth.

“In those days, Boston was a deeply divided city,” said Thomas H. O’Connor, University Professor of History at Boston College, referring to the Citizen Seminars. “Boston College created a series of what were called Citizens Seminars, initiated by the Rev. W. Seavey Joyce, SJ, Dean of the Business School, where labor leaders and corporate presidents, lobbyists, journalists and politicians could meet on neutral turf.”

That initial Citizen Seminar is now seen as a turning point in the life of the city because it reached across established barriers of interest, ethnicity and habit to seed a new and more collaborative culture that helped prepare the way for the extraordinary revival of Greater Boston in the second half of the last century.

“This new Forum is designed to become an extension of that great tradition—the ability to renew our common civic culture,” said Paul Grogan. “Each age has posed fresh challenges, and time and time again, we have come together to create a new Boston that continues to thrive. The energy and talent gathered in the John LaWare Leadership Forum can inspire all of us with the seriousness of this generation’s challenge and with the extraordinary resources of talent, experience and commitment we have to face that challenge.”

The Forum was named to honor John LaWare, a civic and business leader who served as a Governor of the Federal Reserve System after his appointment by President Ronald Reagan in 1988. Earlier, he served as Chairman of and CEO of Shawmut Bank in Boston for ten years, becoming a major force in civic life. LaWare served as Chairman of Children’s Hospital and Chairman of the Alliance for the Commonwealth (now known as the Massachusetts Alliance for International Business), and as Chairman of the Coordinating Committee, an organization of civic and business leaders.

“John LaWare’s gracious and effective civic leadership was a critical factor in the renewal of Boston in the past generation,” said John Hamill, Chairman of Sovereign Bank New England and a former colleague and friend of LaWare’s. “His visionary example inspired the creation of this new Forum because it is time to refresh the culture of collaboration that he helped make happen.”

The LaWare Leadership Forum is cosponsored by a growing number of area business and civic groups, including the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce, the New England Council, the National Association of Industrial and Office Properties, Associated Industries of Massachusetts, MassInsight, The New England Healthcare Institute, Mass. Technology Leadership Council, Initiative for a New Economy, the Massachusetts Biotechnology Council, the Initiative for a Competitive Inner City, the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative and the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, among others.

Three preliminary meetings leading up to day’s gathering were held at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston over the past six months to explore strategies and invite feedback from a wide range of stakeholders in the region’s civic, business and nonprofit communities. They included:

  •     A kick-off session in November of 2005, with research that explored a core set of regional competitiveness challenges, including the high cost of housing, the lack of an integrated education strategy, a lack of positive regional branding and a weakened corporate leadership.    
  •  A second meeting in January 2006 focused on initiatives already underway, such as new zoning legislation to spark production of new housing (40R/S); strategies in motion that need greater cohesion, such as an integrated educational system from preschool through college or university; and areas identified as potential opportunities, such as the creation of a clear, consistent, branding strategy for the region.
  • The third meeting in May highlighted best practices currently being used by North Carolina, a major competitor of Massachusetts, where a seamless education system closely connected to regional economic goals has been put into place.

These earlier sessions drew heavily on recent local research by the Boston Indicator’s Project, a regional collaboration sponsored by the Boston Foundation, the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston’s new center for New England Policy, Northeastern University’s Center for Urban and Regional Policy, MassINC and the New England Council.


For more information about the John LaWare Leadership Forum , or to contact representatives of organizations that are serving as cosponsors of the Forum, please contact David Trueblood at the Boston Foundation, 617 338-3890.

For more information about the Boston College Citizen Seminar, please contact Reid Oslin at 617 552-3630.