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Rev. John E. (Jack) O'Brien receives Loyola Medal

Prestigious honour recognizes founder of Concordia's communication studies program
October 19, 2011
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Source: University Communications Services

Friends, colleagues and alumni gathered on October 18 to pay tribute to Distinguished Professor Emeritus Reverend John E. (Jack) O’Brien, S.J. — the pioneering founder of Concordia’s renowned Department of Communication Studies.

The evening featured the presentation of the 2011 Loyola Medal to Rev. O’Brien, one of the highest honours awarded by Concordia University.

Left to right: Acting Vice-President, Advancement and Alumni Relations Dominique McCaughey; Concordia President and Vice-Chancellor Frederick Lowy; Distinguished Professor Emeritus Fr. John (Jack) E. O’Brien, SJ, BA 45 (Loyola) and President of the Loyola Alumni Association Donal Ryan, B Comm 67 (Loyola). | Photo by PBL Photography
Left to right: Acting Vice-President, Advancement and Alumni Relations Dominique McCaughey; Concordia President and Vice-Chancellor Frederick Lowy; Distinguished Professor Emeritus Rev. John E. (Jack) O’Brien, S.J., BA 45 (Loyola) and President of the Loyola Alumni Association Donal Ryan, B Comm 67 (Loyola).

An accomplished teacher, author, speaker and administrator, Rev. O’Brien founded the Department of Communication Arts in 1965. It was Canada’s first department dedicated to the study of communications. He graduated from Loyola College in 1945, and joined the Society of Jesus and was ordained in 1957. He returned to Loyola College after earning a doctorate in communication from the University of Southern California.

In his acceptance speech, Rev. O’Brien reflected upon the highlights of his career, emphasizing it was about “being at the right time and at the right place” and being “supported by people who were with me and enjoyed what they were doing.”

Reflecting upon the 1960s, he asked, “Do you remember the excitement of the times? We were about to get our own flag … have a world fair … The NFB was coming into its own and even CBC started colour television.” It was against this backdrop that Rev. O’Brien arrived back at Loyola College and pitched the idea of teaching a class on media and society.

He was told that if six to seven people registered, the class would be offered; however, he was also warned not to get his hopes up. In the end, 57 people registered (although Rev. O’Brien recalls there were actually 75) and this sent “an electronic shock through the campus.”

The program evolved to become Concordia’s acclaimed Department of Communication Studies. Many of its graduates, such as filmmaker Kevin Tierney, CBC journalist Hanna Gartner, television producer René Balcer (Law and Order) and film producer Don Carmody (Chicago), have gone on to great success in media and other creative fields.

“Rev. O’Brien has had a remarkable career and is a true pioneer at our university and in Canadian academia,” said Concordia President and Vice-Chancellor Frederick Lowy. “This is merely the latest recognition of his achievements. In 1987, Rev. O’Brien was named Concordia’s first Distinguished Professor Emeritus for his enduring contributions to Loyola, Concordia and the field of communication studies.”

The Loyola Medal was conceived in 1961 by the Loyola Alumni Association and the administration of Loyola College, one of Concordia’s founding institutions, as a tribute to outstanding leadership and contribution to society, and is one of the highest honours awarded by university.

Rev. O’Brien joins a distinguished group of past recipients that includes Canadian astronaut Roberta Bondar (2009), Sen. and LtGen Roméo Dallaire (ret) (2006), the late Oscar Peterson (1997), fellow Jesuit the late Rev. Bernard Lonergan (1971) and the late Governor General of Canada, Georges P. Vanier (1963).

Related links:
•    Prestigious Loyola Medal goes to Fr. John (Jack) O'Brien   
•    Department of Communication Studies
•    List of distinguished professors emeriti
 



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