John E. OBrien, S.J., founding chair of Communication Studies Department,
was given a royal roasting Oct. 25 at St. Jamess Club.
In 1965, the establishment at Loyola College of Communication Arts, as
it was then called, became an academic trailblazer. When the influence
of Canadian communications guru Marshall McLuhan was just reaching its
peak, the unit became the first in Canada to teach undergraduate students
about modern communications and their effect on society.
They were exciting times, and many of the early graduates who went on
to productive careers in the media came to the dinner to reminisce.
Among them were a whole family. Patricia Barter, Michel Lavoie and their
two daughters all graduated from the program, and now work in the media.
Barter read a mock film script about how a naïve little girl from
western Ontario came to Loyola in the 60s and learned about the
Broadcaster Hana Gartner (the fifth estate) was ill, but sent a
short video in which she recalled some advice OBrien gave her during
a little crisis in her studies: Whats your hurry, Hana?
It had taken her 30 years, but shed finally figured out what he
Television producer Brian McKenna (The Valour and the Horror) talked
about his days as a crusading student editor, clashing swords with OBrien
over various issues. Later, when he felt nervous about dealing with Fidel
Castro and Pierre Trudeau, he reminded himself that they were just Jesuit-trained
lawyers, and his experience with OBrien, himself a Jesuit, would
stand him in good stead.
Other speakers included film producer Pierre Gendron (Jésus
de Montréal) and film critic and professor Marc Gervais, S.J.
The rollicking event was emceed by Don Taddeo, longtime professor in the
department and now a fundraiser for the MUHC, who presided in disguise.
Colleague Dennis Murphy, who supplied this account, speculates that he
was impersonating the classic post-modern communications academic.