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Rev. Robert Ignatius Gannon, S.J.

AS A BRIEF OUTLINE OF A "WRITER'S" PAST, THIS MUST BE the story of a misspent life. I have studied and taught and travelled and preached and lectured and engaged in endless wrangles on education, public relations and finance, but the literary output of the last sixty-four years has been practically nil: a textbook, a book of after-dinner speeches, a fat brochure, some magazine articles and now in 1957 a biography. There is no sense of guilt however. Everything can be blamed on my vow of obedience. I have been a Jesuit taking orders for forty-four years and not being regarded by my superiors as an intellectual, have never been ordered to write a book. Without such motivation, it always seemed to me that there should be an excellent reason for giving in to any such weakness and only a few times have I felt comfortably justified about rushing into print.

The first time was in my teaching days at Fordham University. I had Freshman English and Dramatics. I wanted a Play Shop and there were no helpful texts that would prepare for an appreciation of all dramatic literature, get boys interested in writing plays and at the same time teach them the art of the short story. So in 1923 I wrote The Technique of the One-Act Play. It was published by the Fordham University Press. It is being used now chiefly in television circles.

Thereupon mine ancient wisdom and austere control returned and except for occasional dissipation in a magazine, I let the public alone until the good Paulist Fathers asked me to do a hundred pages or so on God in Education for a series that they were getting out at this time. That must have been about 1942. Nothing further happened until a Fordham boy starting a publishing venture, came to me with the idea of making a book of after-dinner speeches. I was appalled. Such curiosities of American life are hard enough to listen to, impossible to read. But he persisted and After Black Coffee appeared in 1945. It was published by Declan X. McMullen.

That should have been the end, but to my astonishment, His Eminence Francis Cardinal Spellman decided in 1953 that I should write the authoritative story of his life. The vow of obedience made up for the usual qualifications, access was granted to all the necessary letters, diaries and reports, and a five-hundred-page book resulted. It was published by Scribner's in 1957. I thought it was going to be pretty dull, one cornerstone after another, but I found that the Cardinal Archbishop of New York had done several things that made the true and unvarnished account read like fiction.

So that is the end. I am at work now on my epitaph.

[EDITOR'S NOTE: Father Gannon was born at St. George, Staten Island, in 1893, joined the Jesuits in 1913, and was ordained in 1926. He was an instructor at Fordham from 1919 to 1923 and president of the University from 1936 to 1949. Besides his S.T.D., earned at Gregorian University, Rome, he holds an A.B. from Georgetown and an M.A. from Cambridge, and has had honorary doctorates conferred upon him by nineteen institutions. In 1952 he has became pastor of St. Ignatius Loyola Parish in New York City, as well as rector of The Loyola School and Regis High School.]

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