Rev. J. Donald Monan is recalled for love of BC, hockey

March 23, 2017 GMT

Hundreds gathered yesterday to celebrate the life of former Boston College president and chancellor Rev. J. Donald Monan, who passed away last week at the age of 92 and was remembered for his passion for BC and love of hockey.

“From a very early age, Don fell in love with hockey, and how proud he was of his BC national champion Eagles,” said the Rev. Joseph O’Keefe during the homily at the Church of St. Ignatius of Loyola in Chestnut Hill. “When I think of Don’s career at BC, I am reminded of a quote attributed to Wayne Gretzky, who said ‘a good hockey player plays where the puck is, a great hockey player plays where the puck is going to be.’ Father Monan was a great hockey player.”

Monan served as BC’s president from 1972 until 1996. The college’s 24th president, Monan oversaw a period of rapid growth and a rise in athletic standing, including the formation of the Big East, the expansion of Alumni Stadium, and the building of Conte Forum.

“He was a visionary,” O’Keefe said. “He saw possibilities no one else saw.”

Mourners packed the church as Monan’s casket made its way up the center aisle flanked by Boston College clergy and guided by pallbearers that included longtime BC hockey coach Jerry York and BC senior Chris Calnan, a forward on the hockey team.

“He was an athlete, he loved sports, he was a healthy competitor who had this controlled intensity about him,” said Beacon Group Chairman Geoffrey T. Boisi, a BC grad who described Monan as both a friend and mentor. “He knew athletics was an integral part of BC’s culture.”

In addition to numerous members of the Boston College community and the Monan family, Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh, Newton Mayor Setti Warren, and Boston police Commissioner William B. Evans attended the morning Mass.

Monan’s great-nephew, Anthony J. Bellia Jr., offered the first eulogy and said his great-uncle was there for his family in matters large and small.

“He pushed me around in a little red fire engine when I was a 2-year-old with a broken leg, a small thing,” Bellia said. “He brought comfort and peace to my parents when they had to bury a 7-year-old child with broken hearts, a much bigger thing.

“He dropped everything and took my family around Boston after he learned we had ended up in the Callahan Tunnel en route from BC to Plymouth, kind of a medium-sized thing,” Bellia added to laughter.

The last words before the casket was brought back up the center aisle to the hymn “We Shall Rise Again” belonged to Monan. Fittingly, they were about hockey and delivered by his longtime friend, Boisi, who quoted from Monan’s speech when he stepped down as BC’s president in 1996.

“‘A hockey player is only given a few short minutes of intense activity on the ice and then he yields his place to a new line and skates to the sideline to watch the action,’” Boisi said, quoting Monan. “‘The fact that my time on the ice has been so long has made it more enjoyable. And the best part is that, even if I never score another goal, I will continue to be a member of the team and perhaps enjoy the action more watching from behind the protective glass.’”