BC Mourns Passing of Gerson, Wysocki and Fr. Talbot

BC Mourns Passing of Gerson, Wysocki and Fr. Talbot

The Boston College community this summer mourned the deaths of a former University trustee and benefactor, an athlete turned priest and theologian, and a faculty member who penned an account of his ordeal in a concentration camp.


Samuel Gerson and his wife Geri
Samuel J. Gerson '63, the driving force behind Filene's Basement department store and a long-time supporter of Boston College, died on July 12 of a brain tumor. He was 61.

Mr. Gerson headed Filene's Basement for 16 years, and became a local celebrity through the firm's TV commercials as well as his practice of touring his stores and chatting with - and sometimes advising - customers. He left the company in 2000 after it was bought by an Ohio retail chain.

Mr. Gerson joined the University's Board of Trustees in 1986 and had been a trustee associate since 1995. He also served as a Reunion Gift chairman several times.

During the recently concluded Ever to Excel Campaign, Mr. Gerson made a $200,000 gift to the Center for Christian-Jewish Learning at Boston College, dedicated to the growth of new and mutually enriching relationships between Christians and Jews.

In 1992, Mr. Gerson made a $250,000 gift to Boston College and named a laboratory in the new chemistry building after his late father, a 1935 graduate. "I believe we represent the first Jewish legacy at Boston College, and that makes me proud," he said.

Rev. Felix F. Talbot, SJ, who taught in the Theology Department for 36 years, died on June 26 at the age of 92 in the Campion Renewal Center in Weston.

Fr. Talbot was a four-sport star athlete at Boston Latin High School and after his graduation in 1928, he received spring training invitations from the Boston Red Sox and Boston Braves. He instead accepted a baseball scholarship from the College of Holy Cross but transferred to Boston College shortly afterwards.

After leaving school and working in a brokerage firm, in 1934 Fr. Talbot entered the Jesuit novitiate and enrolled at Weston College in 1938. Ordained as a priest in 1945, Fr. Talbot served in the New England Jesuits' Mission in Jamaica for a year and went on to complete his studies and pastoral work at Jesuit centers in Wales. From 1947-1963, he conducted retreats at Jesuit centers in Boston, North Andover, Gloucester, and Western Massachusetts.

During the final 36 years of his life, Fr. Talbot taught theology at Boston College. He also worked to build up the scholarship fund for the University's Philomatheia Association, which later became the Roberts Society.

Retired part-time faculty member Boleslaw Wysocki (Psychology), a World War II concentration camp survivor and memoirist, died on July 14. He was 91.

Mr. Wysocki joined the Boston College Psychology Department in 1975, having taught for the previous 13 years at Newton College of the Sacred Heart. He stayed on the BC faculty until his retirement in 1998.

Born in Poland, Mr. Wysocki was a second lieutenant in the Polish army when World War II began. Seeking to regroup in France following the Nazi conquest of their country, the Poles were stranded when the French surrendered in the spring of 1940. Mr. Wysocki and some of his fellow Poles attempted to escape through Spain but were captured by Fascist troops and sent to the Miranda de Ebro concentration camp.

Mr. Wysocki spent nearly three years at the camp, an experience he recounted in his 1988 book Urge to Live. He described Miranda de Ebro as a place where inmates were regularly beaten, threatened, starved and subjected to other forms of maltreatment by the Fascist guards.

In January of 1943, he helped organize a hunger strike that drew the attention of the international diplomatic community and the press. The Spanish government eventually agreed to free the Polish prisoners and Mr. Wysocki was released in March of that year. A report to the Polish military authorities cited Mr. Wysocki as among those who had distinguished themselves by their roles in the strike. "My name was at the top of the list," he wrote, "which fact I consider one of the greatest honors ever bestowed upon me."

After the war, Mr. Wysocki stayed in London to assist resettled Polish soldiers and civilians, until in 1952 he decided to move to the United States, where he eventually joined the faculty of Marquette University.

The University also mourned the deaths this summer of Marguerite "Peg" Connolly, an employee from 1985 to 1999 in the athletics and geology/geophysics departments (May 20, age 66); Rev. Francis P. Molloy, SJ '40, a philosophy professor from 1952 to 1988 (July 9, age 84); and Gregory B. Monack '06 (June 10, age 19).

 

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