Dec. 1, 2021 – Fr. Charles J. Dunn, SJ, was born in Milton, Mass., on June 25, 1923. When he entered Milton High School, he had already begun to think about becoming a priest and he persuaded his surprised parents to let him transfer to Boston College High School. When he graduated, he entered the Shadowbrook novitiate in June of 1942. In 1946, he moved to Weston College for three years of philosophy studies. In 1949, he received a surprise assignment: he would spend his regency teaching at Baghdad College. He returned to Weston for theology studies in 1952, happy to drink milk, see green grass, and visit family and friends. He was ordained there in 1955, and a year later went to Pomfret, Conn., for tertianship.
His first assignment was to Cheverus High School, in Portland, Maine, as assistant principal and prefect of discipline, but he spent only three years there as the status of 1962 indicated he was being assigned to the College of the Holy Cross as assistant dean of men. Before the end of the summer, he was told that he would be dean of men, a job for which, certainly at the college level, he felt he had no preparation. What saved him, he said, was a lot of luck, common sense, putting himself in students’ shoes, and remembering his own carefree days at Milton High School.
In 1967 another surprise: the provincial asked him if he would become rector of the newly opened Bishop Connolly High School in Fall River in southeastern Massachusetts. The diocese built the building and owned the property; the Jesuits would staff it. The Jesuits stayed twenty-five years and he stayed six, until his term as rector ended. He liked his years at Connolly and the good work the school did educating first-generation, many of them college-bound sons of hard-working, often immigrant parents. When he left Connolly, Fordham University invited him to come there as associate dean of students and he spent five years in the Bronx. When the vice president who had recruited him for Fordham resigned, he saw a notice looking for a religion teacher and chaplain at a Catholic high school in Columbia, S.C. There was no air-conditioning, but it was a joy being in the classroom again.
Then, in 1981, he got a phone call from a Jesuit friend in the province office, saying that the president of Holy Cross was looking for a Jesuit to work in the development office. So he packed a U-Haul and headed north, to the place where he would spend almost thirty years. He had to learn a new language—charitable trusts, prospect research, estate planning—but he enjoyed the contact with alumni, many of whom he knew from his earlier years at the Cross, the wakes and funerals that went with the job, and the occasional time off when he could practice his putting.
In 2019, his health was becoming problematic, and it was thought best that he move to Campion Health Center. There he was a genial presence, good company, with the wisdom that comes from years of ministry among students, teachers, parents, and alumni. He enjoyed scooting around on his electric go-kart and the modest celebrity of being the oldest Jesuit in the USA East Province. He died peacefully in the early evening of Nov. 18, 2021.