Concordia continues to celebrate John O’Brien’s life and contributions, most recently at a memorial event that brought together members of his family and many colleagues and friends.
O’Brien’s academic career was defined by his accomplishments and connections to Concordia. While principal of Sir George Williams University in 1974, he was instrumental in facilitating the merger with Loyola College to create Concordia University. He served as the institution’s first rector for a decade and continued his association with the university, even after retirement, as speaker of Senate. In 2004, he received an honorary doctorate from Concordia. He passed away December 16, 2011.
On January 20, faculty members, administrators and alumni from Concordia, and its two founding institutions, crowded into the 11th floor atrium of the Engineering, Computer Science and Visual Arts Integrated Complex to remember the man they considered both a dedicated leader and a trusted friend.
Jack Bordan, founder of the Faculty of Engineering, helped O’Brien negotiate the merger and worked alongside him as vice-rector, academic. He remembered his friend as “a man who thought of the future with every present action.” At the event, Bordan also emphasized O’Brien’s commitment to education across the province.
President Frederick Lowy recalled O’Brien’s seminal role in defining Concordia’s mission, vision and values. “Privately, he was shy, even humble,” said Lowy. “In office, he was able to command any situation with his booming voice.”
It was O’Brien’s authority and commitment to the university that led Lowy to invite him to serve as speaker of Senate in 1995. O’Brien embraced the role and remained speaker for 11 years.
O’Brien’s daughters Catherine and Anne and granddaughter Shannon attended the memorial. Anne acknowledged her father’s commitment to academia and spoke about his life outside of Concordia; his childhood and his dedication to his family. She remembered her father as a consummate educator, at home and at work.
Serge Losique, founder and president of the Montreal World Film Festival, recalled O’Brien’s support in establishing the first credited cinema classes in Canada, and for Losique’s Conservatoire d’Art Cinématographique. Losique announced that, on behalf of the festival, he will be establishing a cinema scholarship in O’Brien’s name.
• “A lifetime of service” — NOW, January 11, 2011
• “Eulogy for John O’Brien – December 21, 2011” — NOW, December 22, 2011
• “Remembering John O’Brien, Concordia’s First Rector” — NOW, December 21, 2011