Concordia University

Passing the torch to the next generation

Tragedy yields bursary to encourage budding journalists
December 7, 2018
By Ken Ernhofer, BA 74

Forty-four years after a car crash killed six students, the tragedy has yielded something that can be source of pride for members of the Concordia community.

In its inaugural autumn semester in 1974, celebrating the merger of Loyola College and Sir George Williams University, Concordia plunged into mourning. 

Michael O’Hearn Michael O’Hearn, c. 1973
Martin O’Connor Martin O’Connor, c. 1973

The collision on November 23 killed two high schoolers and four Concordians, including a pair of budding journalism stars on the Loyola Campus. Michael O’Hearn and Martin O’Connor spent their extracurricular time working on the Loyola News, Michael as editor-in-chief and Martin as news editor.

O’Connor is remembered for his cheerfulness and optimism. O’Hearn was so multi-faceted, it was reported at the time that he had just won a Rhodes Scholarship. News was in his blood; his father had edited The Montreal Star.

By the time O’Hearn and O’Connor joined the News, it already had a sterling history. It helped shape the careers of such eminent Canadian reporters as Tony Burman, the CBC’s former chief news editor, award-winning documentary filmmaker Brian McKenna and The Toronto Star’s former national editor and editorial writer Gordon Barthos, among many others. Concordia’s former public relations director, Ken Whittingham, is a Loyola News alumnus.

At the Loyola News — and certainly at The Georgian and The Link — budding hacks learned the value of journalism and its goals of humanity, accuracy and the truth. This imperfect profession has always striven to achieve those objectives, yet now they seem more important than ever. In this era of charges of fake news — the antidote is always the truth.

Honouring the memory of colleagues

The car accident devastated the families and friends of the victims, but also the entire university. O’Hearn and O’Connor’s passing has remained a sad, indelible memory for those who worked with them at the Loyola News.

Friends and former colleagues recall them at Homecomings, where a service is often held for them at the Loyola Chapel. Speeches are made and tears are shed.

Several years ago, David Moorcroft, a former Loyola News editor, decided to honour his former colleagues in a more tangible way. Thus was born the Michael O’Hearn and Martin O’Connor Student Journalism Bursary.

Its three recipients so far — James Betz-Gray, Elisabeth Labelle and Andrea Fonticella — were grateful for the award and have said it would help them achieve their journalistic goals.

Matching donations

The bursary’s annual cash award is now being increased from $750 to $1,000. But times are tough, the passage of years has dimmed memories and contributions are down. To encourage donations, Moorcroft, the bursary’s founder, has generously decided to match gifts up to a cumulative total of $2,000 until April.

At a time when journalism and even the truth are under attack, it has never been more important to encourage good journalism and people committed to its goals.

O’Hearn and O’Connor would certainly have agreed.

Ken Ernhofer, BA 74 Ken Ernhofer, c. 1973

Ken Ernhofer, BA 74, was editor of the Loyola News in 1972-73.

He is a senior copy editor at CNN International, worked as national, parliamentary and foreign correspondent and bureau chief for CTV News, and was a reporter for the Montreal Gazette.

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