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Obituary: John McCarthy; Namesake of Writing Prize


By Office of News & Public Affairs |

Published: Feb. 28, 2013

John Francis (Jack) McCarthy, who taught English at Boston College for more than 40 years and was the namesake for an undergraduate prize in creative writing, died Jan. 16 at Cape Cod Hospital after a long illness. He was 82.

Dr. McCarthy specialized in British Victorian literature and had an abiding interest in poetry. Colleagues recalled him as quiet, thoughtful and good-humored, and a popular teacher whose legacy is reflected in the McCarthy Prize, awarded annually by the English Department for the best collection of pieces of creative writing (fiction, poetry, or creative nonfiction or pieces from several different genres) by a junior or senior. Dr. McCarthy, who taught at the University of New Hampshire prior to BC, retired in 1997 as an associate professor.

A native of Auburndale, Mass., Dr. McCarthy was a graduate of Wellesley High School, where he inspired his classmate, future Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Anne Sexton, to write her first lines of poetry, according to Sexton’s biographer. He went on to earn an undergraduate degree at Harvard University and a master’s and doctorate at Yale University. In between attending Harvard and Yale, he served as an officer in the US Army during the Korean War while stationed at Fort McPherson in Atlanta.

 A lover of music and theater, Dr. McCarthy was a talented pianist and performed with local classical performers.
Dr. McCarthy is survived by his sister, Marcia McCarthy de Onís, a nephew and five nieces.

A private service will be held at a date to be determined later. For more information or to express condolences, contact Ana de Onís at