Rev. Michael C. McFarland, S.J., a computer scientist with extensive liberal arts teaching experience and a special interest in the intersection of technology and ethics, served as the 31st president of the College of the Holy Cross from July 2000 to January 2012.
Immediately before coming to Holy Cross, Fr. McFarland was the dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Gonzaga University in Spokane, Wash. He was at Gonzaga for four years, where he was also a professor of computer science.
Born in Boston in 1948, Fr. McFarland grew up in Waltham, Mass., after living for a time in California, and later graduated from Xavier High School (now closed) in Concord, Mass. He earned a bachelor’s degree in physics at Cornell University in 1969, and a master’s degree (1978) and Ph.D. (1981) in electrical engineering (computer engineering) at Carnegie Mellon University.
Fr. McFarland entered the Society of Jesus in 1975, and studied at the Weston School of Theology where he earned a master’s degree in divinity and a Th.M. in social ethics. He was ordained in St. Joseph Memorial Chapel at Holy Cross in 1984.
Subsequently, he worked as a consultant for a year at the AT&T Bell Laboratories, doing research in computer-aided design of digital systems. He continued his research while teaching at Boston College for 10 years as an associate professor of computer science, serving as chair of the department for three years. In addition to creating new courses in ethics and computers, computer architecture and digital systems, he created a laboratory for digital electronics and developed tutorial materials for a course on computers in management. Fr. McFarland has published articles in the Proceedings of the IEEE (the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers), the IEEE Transactions on Computers, the IEEE Transactions on Computer-Aided Design of Integrated Circuits and Systems, Formal Methods for System Design, the Journal of Systems and Software, Computer, and Technology and Society. He was an associate editor of the IEEE Transactions on Computer-Aided Design of Integrated Circuits and Systems for three years and has been on numerous program committees for conferences such as the Design Automation Conference, the International Conference on Computer Design, the International Conference on Computer-Aided Design and the High-Level Synthesis Workshop.
At Holy Cross, he oversaw the record-setting Lift High the Cross Campaign, which concluded in 2006 and raised $216 million for strategic priorities, ranging from securing additional resources for financial aid to establishing new faculty positions. Under his leadership, the landscape of the College changed dramatically, most notably with the March 2010 completion of the most ambitious building project in Holy Cross history: the $64 million integrated science complex. In addition, two apartment-style residence halls opened during his tenure; and among the new athletics facilities are a soccer stadium, turf/practice fields, and renovated tennis courts. In 2011, the Center for Religion, Ethics and Culture at the College was named in his honor.
Fr. McFarland was instrumental in shepherding critical partnerships in the City of Worcester, including the establishment of the Nativity School of Worcester; collaboration with the City and the Worcester Tornadoes professional baseball team to use the College’s Fitton Field as the team’s summer home; and facilitating affordable housing and other initiatives of the South Worcester Neighborhood Improvement Corporation.
In addition to his duties as Holy Cross president, Fr. McFarland was a member of the board of the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities of Massachusetts (AICUM), Massachusetts Biomedical Initiatives, Worcester Catholic Charities, and Worcester Municipal Research Bureau. He was chair and member of the executive committee of the Colleges of Worcester Consortium. He was a member of the Advisory Council of PricewaterhouseCoopers USA.
A visible presence on the Holy Cross campus, Fr. McFarland regularly met with students and attended many athletic games, concerts, lectures and theatre productions. He enjoyed running six days each week in his free time.