Holy Cross Remembers Rev. T. Frank Kennedy, S.J.

Rev. T. Frank Kennedy, S.J., of Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts, died on Aug. 19, 2016, at 67. Fr. Kennedy was an internally known scholar of Jesuit musical tradition, one of the founding members of the Boston College music department and a former director of the Boston College Jesuit Institute.

Fr. Kennedy grew up in Providence and North Smithfield, Rhode Island, where he got his start in music playing piano, organ and cello. He entered the College of the Holy Cross in 1966, alongside the Class of 1970. He decided to become a Jesuit priest after his first year, influenced by his strong friendships with the Jesuits on campus and a student retreat at the Jesuits’ Shadowbrook novitiate, and he left the College to enter the seminary. As part of his Jesuit training, Fr. Kennedy studied philosophy and classics at Boston College, where he would return years later as a faculty member.

Fr. Kennedy holds a master of fine arts degree in harpsichord and baroque performance from Tulane University in New Orleans, and also completed a doctoral dissertation in musicology at the University of California-Santa Barbara, studying the musical traditions of early Jesuit colleges and churches in Europe. He combined his studies in music with the emerging field of Jesuit studies, writing scholarly works about Jesuits operas and bringing them to the stage. He was also known for his research on mission music of South America, especially Paraguay and Brazil, which helped establish mission music as a separate genre from the more commonly studied European cathedral music.

Fellow Jesuit Rev. Dennis Yesalonia, S.J. '71 recalls Fr. Kennedy’s “gregarious nature.” “He had a larger than life presence in whatever environment he was in, whether social or professional,” Fr. Yesalonia says. “T. Frank was passionate about music, especially Jesuit composers of the Baroque era.”

Fr. Kennedy taught in the music department at Holy Cross for 12 years, from 1976-1988. Rev. William Campbell, S.J. ’87, now the College’s vice president for mission, enrolled in Fr. Kennedy’s “Music and Worship” course during his first year as a student at Holy Cross. “His passion for that intersection [between music and worship] ignited my own,” Fr. Campbell says. “He gave me permission both to love music (I later declared myself a music major) and to imagine myself as a Jesuit priest. In his tacit way, he played a key role in fostering both my vocation and my avocation."

Fr. Kennedy returned to Boston College in 1988 as one of the first two tenure-track faculty members in the school’s new music department. He became the department chair in 1992, serving in the role until 2003, and then again from 2005-2008. In addition to his faculty roles and academic work, Fr. Kennedy also served as a member of the board of trustees at BC and, from 2003-2014, the director of the Jesuit Institute, which supports the Jesuit, Catholic character of Boston College.

He is survived by two brothers, including Peter A. Kennedy ’72; and three sisters, including Tracy Michaela Kennedy ’81.  ■