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September 28, 2000   Communication Studies celebrates 35 years




Photo: Prof. Lorna Roth

Communication Studies alumni, professors and staff reminisced during a two-day open house. It culminated in a celebratory dinner at the downtown Parc Renaissance Hotel last Saturday, at which Professor Lorna Roth (above) gave a lively speech.

Photo: Prof. Bill Gilsdorf

Professor Bill Gilsdorf, a former Chair, at the reception.

Photo: Fr. John O'Brien

Founder Fr. John O’Brien with an advertisement from the early days of Communication Arts at Loyola College, which ran in Time Magazine in 1967.

Photo: Carmel Kilkenny

Broadcaster Carmel Kilkenny (BA 86), helped organize the event, along with Assistant to the Chair Sheelah O’Neill, Professor Dennis Murphy and Lecturer
Margaret Gourlay.


by Anna Bratulic

In 1965, Expo 67 was just around the corner. Montreal would be catapulted onto the world’s stage for the first time.

Nine students in the fledgling Communication Arts Department at Loyola College — the first program of its kind in Canada — assigned themselves the task of letting the rest of North America know.

Armed with charts and presentations, they “knocked on doors, bothered secretaries and made 85,000 phone calls,” according to Don Taddeo, now head of the McGill University Health Centre Foundation.

They told the organizers that if they were provided with a few cars (say, from General Motors) and sponsorship for food and accommodation, they were willing to travel the continent to publicize Expo. They would set up TV and radio interviews. They had maps and contact numbers for all the stations.

In the end, the idea was turned down, probably because it was too expensive, but the experience had a deep effect on them. “The nine of us just spent all our time in the office and library preparing this thing,” Dennis Murphy recalled.

“We did professional presentations, we sang Beatles songs in Ottawa, we went to the offices of the Expo Corporation in Place Ville-Marie. It really pulled us all together.”

Murphy was a member of the first graduating class in 1967, and has been teaching in the department ever since. “We never got the job, we didn’t get the cars. But — but — it was a great, cohesive kind of thing, and I think it set the tone for how this department operates.”
It operates in small groups where everybody knows everybody and practical hands-on work is prized as much as the theoretical. This has been a hallmark of the department since it was first started in 1965 by Father Jack O’Brien, S.J.

The beginnings of Communication Arts (later Communication Studies) can be traced back to a Society of Jesus conference in Rome, the holy halls of the Vatican and a papal ecumenical letter that noted the growing importance of media and the need to study it further.

Father O’Brien returned to Canada thinking about that. After all, Marshall McLuhan, who once lectured at Loyola College, was jolting academia with his ideas about the impact mass media would have in the modern age.

The following year, Father O’Brien offered a communications course, which could be taken as a substitute for English. He was told by the dean not to feel bad if only a small number of students enrolled. Six to 10 students would be reasonable.

However, 75 people registered, and the class was held in a basement auditorium in the Vanier Library. The Communication Arts program began the next year in 1965.

Some people thought of it as “nonsense, fluffy and gimmicky,” according to Taddeo. Although he is not a graduate of the department, Taddeo has been deeply involved in it for years, both as a Classics major taking Communications electives in the 1960s, and as a teacher.
The program has always received more applications than it could accommodate. Many of the department’s first graduates have gone on to successful careers. They include journalists and broadcasters Hana Gartner, Natalie Petrowski, Agnès Gruda, Carmel Kilkenny, Bob O’Reilly (Radio-Canada International), Michel-Claude Lavoie (the Canadian version of Sesame Street), Brian McKenna, sex columnist Josey Vogels, and Me, Mom and Morgentaler alumna Kim Bingham.

The Communication Studies Department offers four undergraduate programs: a major and a specialization in Communication Studies, a major in Communication and Cultural Studies, and a specialization in Communications and Journalism. In addition, a one-year graduate diploma, a Master’s and a PhD program are offered jointly with the Université de Montréal and the Université du Québec Montréal.

Scholarships in memory of Denis Diniacopoulos

Future Communication Studies students are getting new funding to help them pursue their studies.

The family of Professor Denis Diniacopoulos, who passed away in 1997, have made a generous gift to the university for scholarships for four undergraduates in Communication Studies, two in Classics/Fine Arts, two in Mathematics, and two in Psychology, reflecting Diniacopoulos’s varied interests.

Diniacopoulos also left 14 years of BBC tapes that even the BBC does not have. CD copies of these reel-to-reel tapes have been given to Concordia’s Centre for Broadcast Studies, and funding will be available for graduate students who want to research the content.









Copyright 2000, Concordia University