Brooks, John E.Died
Jesuit Father John E. Brooks, 88, died peacefully at the College of the Holy Cross on July 2, 2012. Fr. Brooks was the longest serving president of the College of the Holy Cross.
Born July 13, 1923 in Dorchester, Mass., to the late John E. and Mildred (McCoy) Brooks, Fr. Brooks grew up the oldest of four children in the West Roxbury section of Boston. He graduated from the Boston Latin School and entered Holy Cross as a freshman in 1942. Fr. Brooks volunteered for service in the U.S. Army in 1943, and trained in the Signal Corps. He served in World War II campaigns in Northern France, the Rhineland, Ardennes and Central Europe until his discharge from the Army in January 1946. He graduated from Holy Cross in 1949 with a bachelor’s degree and major concentration in physics. After pursuing graduate studies in geophysics at Pennsylvania State University, he entered the New England Province of the Society of Jesus in 1950. He earned an M.A. in philosophy in 1954 from Boston College, and immediately returned to Holy Cross as an instructor of mathematics and physics. In 1956, he began his study of theology at Weston College and was ordained a priest on June 13, 1959 by the late Richard Cardinal Cushing of Boston. Having completed a year of ascetical theology study at the Jesuit Tertianship in Pomfret, Conn., he also earned an M.S. in geophysics from Boston College. Assigned to pursue graduate studies in theology, in 1963 he earned a Doctor of Sacred Theology degree from the Gregorian University in Rome, during the early years of the Second Vatican Council.
He returned to Holy Cross as a faculty member in the Religious Studies Department in 1963, and was named department chair in 1964.
Fr. Brooks made his final vows as a Jesuit in August 1966.
During his tenure as Holy Cross’s 29th president from 1970 to 1994, Fr. Brooks presided over a period of enormous change at Holy Cross, New England’s oldest Catholic college. In addition to moving the College to coeducation and recruiting a significantly more diverse student body, he helped strengthen Holy Cross financially, energize the alumni network, and build the College into one of the country’s top liberal arts institutions.
At the time of his death, Fr. Brooks was actively working, serving as President Emeritus and Loyola Professor of the Humanities in the Religious Studies Department. He continued to teach a seminar in Contemporary Christology, remained engaged in fundraising and the business of the College, and had close ties with legions of alumni. In the past year, his leadership at Holy Cross received widespread attention after the publication of the book “Fraternity,” chronicling the bold steps he took in the late 1960s and early 1970s to recruit African-American students to the College.
Fr. Brooks received an honorary Doctor of Letters degree from Holy Cross in 1994. He also received honorary degrees from St. Ambrose College, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, St. Anselm College, Assumption College, Anna Maria College, and the University of New England. He served on the boards of Spring Hill College, Canisius College, St. Peter’s College, and Anna Maria College. He was also a trustee of The Gregorian University Foundation and St. Sebastian’s School, among many other educational, cultural, and research organizations he helped lead.
He was past president of the New England Association of Schools and Colleges, and the New England Colleges Fund, Inc. He also served as chair of both the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities of Massachusetts and the Colleges of the Worcester Consortium.
Fr. Brooks is survived by his sisters Mildred E. Brooks and Marion L. Brooks, both of Needham, Mass; his brother Paul F. Brooks of Manchester, N.H.; and sister-in-law Dorothy G. Brooks of Needham. He is also survived by niece Maureen Shambo, of Merrimack, N.H.; nephew Paul F. Brooks and his wife Tammy of North Attleboro, Mass.; nephew John E. Brooks of Manchester, N.H.; cousin Roger Sullivan and his wife Marguerite and cousin Barbara Sullivan, all of Hingham, Mass.; and many grandnieces and grandnephews whom he loved very much.