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October 10, 2002 Astrophysicist Hubert Reeves on our surprising, stardust past



Father O'Brien and longtime Concordia supporter Donald McNaughton

Photo by Andrew Dobrowolskyj


John E. O’Brien, S.J., founding chair of Communication Studies Department, was given a royal roasting Oct. 25 at St. James’s 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 world.

Broadcaster Hana Gartner (the fifth estate) was ill, but sent a short video in which she recalled some advice O’Brien gave her during a little crisis in her studies: “What’s your hurry, Hana?” It had taken her 30 years, but she’d finally figured out what he meant.

Television producer Brian McKenna (The Valour and the Horror) talked about his days as a crusading student editor, clashing swords with O’Brien 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 O’Brien, 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.