Fr. Donovan Remembered for Devotion to Vocation, Alma Mater

(7-21-98) -- Charles F. Donovan, SJ, was remembered by the Boston College community for his long devotion to both vocation and alma mater at a Tuesday funeral Mass held at St. Ignatius Church.

Jesuit and lay colleagues, as well as former students, joined with family members to celebrate the life of Fr. Donovan, who died July 17 at the age of 86 after serving for a half-century as faculty member, administrator and, more recently, University historian.

In his homily, University Chancellor J. Donald Monan, SJ, described Fr. Donovan as "a devoted son" who knew intimately not only the history of his beloved alma mater, "but also its highest aspirations."

Jesuit Community Rector Francis Herrmann, SJ, presided at the service, joined by University President William P. Leahy, SJ, New England Society of Jesus Provincial Robert Levins, SJ, and Prof. Robert Daly, SJ (Theology), who was related to Fr. Donovan through a marriage within their families. Boston Archdiocese Central Region Auxiliary Bishop John P. Boles, for whom Fr. Donovan was a mentor, also concelebrated the Mass.

"By institution and by vow, Jesuits are prepared to go where the greater good is to be accomplished," said Fr. Monan, who became University president while Fr. Donovan was senior vice president and dean of faculties. "Fr. Donovan found this greater good in his native New England and at Boston College."

Fr. Donovan, he continued, "never lost his appreciation" for the education he received at Boston Latin School and BC and brought his unique combination of the Jesuit discipline, humanistic interest and religious motivation to the University, first in 1948 as a faculty member of College of Arts and Sciences' Education Department and then as founding dean of the School of Education in 1952.

During Fr. Donovan's tenure as academic vice president from 1961-68, Fr. Monan noted, the University established 11 new doctoral programs and appointed over 400 new faculty. Just as importantly, he added, as "a pillar of good sense and institutional loyalty," Fr. Donovan helped steer the University through a time of growing unrest in higher education.

"Dean of faculties" was Fr. Donovan's most treasured title, Fr. Monan said, and in that capacity he demonstrated a style "built upon colleagueship and trust." Fr. Monan praised Fr. Donovan's ability to engage administrators and faculty; Fr. Monan added that he has kept correspondence received early in his presidency from Fr. Donovan, who continually volunteered valuable, thoughtful insights and observations.

For all Fr. Donovan's accomplishments as an officer of the University, Fr. Monan said, "what an unfinished symphony his life would have been if he had not been able to serve as University historian" for the past 19 years. The co-author of The History of Boston College: From the Beginnings to 1990, and writer of a series of occasional papers later compiled into the book, Boston College: Glimpses of the Past, Fr. Monan said, Fr. Donovan almost single-handedly preserved, and explained, the legacy of Boston College -- not only for those within the University community, but outside it as well.

From the time Fr. Donovan entered Boston College as a freshman, Fr. Monan said, he "placed his creative talents on every feature of his alma mater."

Shortly before the end of the Mass, Fr. Levins expressed his gratitude to Fr. Donovan's family on behalf of the New England Province.

"He was a special priest and Jesuit, and the gift of his vocation was nurtured and sustained in the Donovan family household," said Fr. Levins. "We will always be grateful for the gift Charlie was to us."

Fr. Donovan was buried in the Jesuit Cemetery in Weston.

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