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Fr. Larkin remembered as a driving force in BC theater

(6-21-2000) A funeral Mass was celebrated yesterday in St. Mary's Chapel for Rev. Joseph M. Larkin, SJ, a key architect of Boston College's arts and theater programs, who died Saturday at St. Elizabeth's Medical Center in Brighton. He was 84.

When Fr. Larkin arrived at the University as an associate professor in 1955, BC had few adequate arts-related facilities. But Fr. Larkin drew praise for the consistent quality, diversity and professionalism of the productions he supervised -- they would eventually number almost 40 -- as director of the Boston College Dramatic Society.

Fr. Larkin also was credited with strengthening the academic offerings in theater, which was once a division of the Communications Department. The University began offering a theater major in the early 1970s and in 1993 established an independent theater department.

"Whatever success we've had here was built on his groundwork -- and he built well," said Theater Department Chairman Assoc. Prof. Stuart Hecht. "Fr. Larkin loved to coax great performances out of his kids and he did it with such a sense of warmth and sharing. He literally practiced his priesthood in the rehearsal hall. I think that's his legacy."

When BC dedicated its Robsham Theatre in 1981, a room in the facility was named for Fr. Larkin.

"I remember how thrilled he was when the theater was opened," said Vice President and Assistant to the President William B. Neenan, SJ. "Fr. Larkin was one of the key creative spirits behind our modern Theater Department."

A graduation award was named in his honor which is given annually to a senior member of the Boston College Dramatic Society who "has exhibited the qualities of dedication and integrity exemplified by the life and career of Rev. Joseph M. Larkin, SJ."

At the University Arts Festival in April, Fr. Larkin was given a citation from the Arts Council recognizing his contribution to the arts at Boston College.

Hecht said that the 2000-2001 Robsham Theater season will be dedicated in memory of Fr. Larkin.

A 1934 graduate of Medford High School, he attended BC for two years before entering the Jesuit novitiate in Lenox, Mass. He completed his seminary training at Weston College and was ordained in 1952. Fr. Larkin did his graduate work in theater at Catholic University in Washington, DC.

A member of many professional associations, he was also the recipient of a US Army citation for the work he did with the United Service Organizations and was given an honorary membership in the Jesuit honor society Alpha Sigma Nu.

Fr. Larkin is survived by a brother, John E. of Melrose, and several nieces and nephews.

He was buried in the Jesuit Cemetery at the Campion Center in Weston.

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