Concordia's Thursday Report

Vol. 30, No.2

September 29, 2005


Communication Studies at 40

University program was the first in Canada

By Allison Martens

Concordia’s Department of Communication Studies, which celebrated its 40th anniversary last weekend, is Canada’s oldest communications school.

It was originally called Communications Arts. The department was founded by the Rev. John O’Brien in 1965 at Loyola College.

Six years earlier, the Jesuits had sent O’Brien to the University of Southern California to earn his doctorate, with an eye to having him found the department at their school.

At the time, the discipline was just emerging, but their gamble paid off.

Dennis Murphy was in the department’s first graduating class in 1967 and has taught there for 35 years.

“They wanted to get in a burgeoning field, and they did it,” Murphy said. Occasionally, visiting alumni sit in on classes. “It’s very rejuvenating to see that. You get a sense that you’re doing something right when it stands the test of time.”

Communication Studies is seen as a fertile breeding ground for documentary filmmakers, sound technicians and other production specialists.

Theory and practice

However, one of Murphy’s fellow classmates from the class of ’67 says what sets Concordia’s program apart from the pack is the balance it strikes between theory and practice.

Donat Taddeo taught in the department and oversaw it as Dean of Humanities from 1979 to 1985.

He says the reason students were required to complete two-thirds of their coursework in production and one-third in theory is obvious.

“We wanted people who would work in the media in a meaningful fashion. If they had hands-on experience, this would make them better equipped to work in the media industry.”

Both Murphy and Taddeo said their favourite memory is of the frenetic energy that has always swirled around the program, and continues today.

Taddeo recalled struggling through the basement and lobby of the Bryan Building between classes.

“There would be so many students sitting, talking, and creating. It was an extremely stimulating environment to be in.”

Murphy still recalls a chance meeting 15 years ago in the Bryan Building with someone who graduated in the 1970s. “He told me, ‘Man, it still feels the same.’”

“That has made the department what it is.

“ It’s the drive and determination that has always been there, regardless of what course you take or who is teaching it.”