Father John E. Brooks was praised as “the right man at the right time for the right job as president of the College of the Holy Cross” at his funeral Mass July 9 in St. Joseph Memorial Chapel at Holy Cross.
Father Brooks was president of the college from 1970 to 1994, serving in that office longer that any other president in the college’s history. He graduated from Holy Cross in 1949, after four years service in the U.S. Army in World War II. He entered the Society of Jesus in 1950 and, after receiving several advanced degrees, came to his alma mater to teach in 1963. He remained there until his death on July 2.
He was the leader in recruiting African-Americans for the student body, admitting women to the college in 1972 and building the endowment.
Bishop McManus, Bishop Reilly and Bishop Rueger presided at the Mass.
In his homily at the funeral Mass, Jesuit Father Earle L. Markey, associate dean of admissions, said Father Brooks “began his presidency with the purpose of bringing the college into the 21st century, and making the college a liberal arts college competitive with the best in the nation. He never wavered from that goal and said, at his retirement, that he honestly never made a decision that he did not think was in the best interests of the college. He said he may not have been right all the time, but he never made a decision that he did not think was in the long term good of the college.
“Father (Raymond) Swords stepped aside in 1970 and was replaced by Father Brooks as President of the College of the Holy Cross, his alma mater. He was the right man at the right time for the right job.”
In his eulogy, P. Kevin Condron, class of 1967 and chairman of trustees, said of Father Brooks, “Holy Cross was his heart, his love, his life’s work and his enduring passion. Throughout the 49 years Father Brooks spent here atop Mt. St. James, he always had a crystal clear view of what Holy Cross should be. He wanted Holy Cross to be a Catholic Jesuit liberal arts college committed to the highest standards of excellence. His passion and love for all things Holy Cross led him to insist on excellence in the student body, excellence in the faculty, excellence in the campus, excellence in fundraising. He held himself to the highest standard and expected the same from everyone and everything. He would accept nothing less for his Holy Cross.”
Jesuit Father Philip L. Boroughs, president of the college, said that “until the very end, John kept that brightness in his eyes signaling his enjoyment of the beauty of life, the interchange of ideas, the diversity of human personalities, and always his passion for Holy Cross.
“As a formed Jesuit, he never worked anywhere else; and over the years he became not just the president but the personality of Holy Cross. His commitment to academic excellence, to diversity and inclusion, to a measured approach to athletics, to the professional development of the faculty, to critically engaged theology and to our Catholic and Jesuit identity has become the imprint of all that we do today.
“He was a man with a determined will and great strength of character, but not an over-sized ego. He always recognized the leadership of his friend and predecessor, Father Raymond Swords, and the talents and gifts of his administrative team, faculty and students.”