Jack's Hitting the Road

Jack's Hitting the Road

After 34 years of serving the needs of countless students, BC's 'role player' moves on

By Stephen Gawlik
Staff Writer

How do you sum up 34 years of service? If you're a former basketball player like Jack Hennessy, you can't resist a good old-fashioned sports metaphor.

Jack Hennessy, who recently retired as a staff psychologist with University Counseling Services. (Photo by Lee Pellegrini)
Hennessy, recently retired as a staff psychologist in University Counseling Services, was a star hoopster for Boston College High School but became something else when he suited up for Holy Cross in the early 1960s. He was the "role player," the guy who did the less spectacular but critical tasks on the court: playing tight defense on the opponents' top scorer, for example, or focusing on passing and rebounding.

As he did for the Crusaders, Hennessy served Boston College in a variety of roles during his more than three decades, all of them geared toward the needs of students. Besides staff psychologist, Hennessy's jobs included pre-law advisor and counselor to BC student-athletes. During his last 11 years at the University, he also worked as an advocate and advisor to physically challenged students.

On Jan. 14 Hennessy's friends and former coworkers from across the University turned out for a fete held in his honor in Gasson 100. In his remarks Hennessy shared a few of the lessons learned after a decade of Jesuit education and a career spent in service to a Jesuit university.
"You've got to have a second job," quipped Hennessy, who during his time at BC also worked for 26 years at the Norfolk County House of Corrections in a variety of jobs, including director of psychological services.

He added, "Of course, I'm kidding. Coming to Boston College was the best thing I ever did."

His friends say BC is the better for having had Hennessy on its team for more than three decades.

"Jack was one of those who contributed to the building of Boston College," said Prof. George Ladd (LSOE). "He helped create the legacy of this place."

If Hennessy cultivated a reputation as having a flamboyant personality, colleagues say he also possessed the right qualities to be a mentor and counselor to students.

"My take on the guy was that he has a lot of flair and a façade of being very outspoken," said Vice President for Human Resources Leo Sullivan. "But not far below the surface is an extremely sensitive person with the ability to empathize with anyone."

Alumni Association Administrative Secretary Carol Quintiliani, a childhood friend, agrees.

"As a kid he always had a devilish side," she said, "but as soon as people got to know him they realized he is a very caring, devoted person. He just seems to have that wild side in order to appeal to people."

A Cambridge native, Hennessy first arrived at BC in 1968, following graduation from Holy Cross and a stint in the US Marine Corps, to pursue a master's degree in counseling. After receiving the degree in 1969, he decided to join the BC staff and began his service to the University.

Hennessy is particularly grateful for the opportunity to work with physically challenged students. "That was by far the nicest experience I had here," said Hennessy. "Those kids gave more to me than I gave to them."

Hennessy recalls some apprehension about accepting the responsibility at first.

"I didn't know very much about counseling blind students," recalled Hennessy. "So when my first blind student came to visit me I sat through the interview with my eyes closed trying to see things the way he had to.

"Looking back I think I did some of my best work that way," he laughed.

Brian McLaughlin Jr. '04, who uses a wheelchair to get around campus, praised Hennessy's efforts on his behalf.

"Jack was always on the students' side, suggesting excellent professors and helping you in any possible way. I've always respected Jack's honesty and candor."

Hennessy's departure from Boston College comes in part due to a condition known as spinal stenosis, a painful back ailment that may soon require surgery. Hennessy says his years working with physically challenged students have taught him how to deal with the problem.

"You have to be able to know your limitations and work within them," said Hennessy. "That's harder to do than it sounds."

His colleagues, meanwhile, say the real difficulty will be in finding a successor to Hennessy. McLaughlin, who is serving on a search committee for his replacement, said, "All I can say is that it seems like an impossible task. We have some big shoes to fill."


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