Farewell Father Donohue, may your beautiful soul rest in peace!

Juillet 2022

If you are lucky enough to have met him, then you will read the following and remember; if not, then I will try to be as thorough as I can to describe Fr. John Jack Donohue.

When I met him, Father John Jack Donohue was a professor of journalistic translation in fourth year at the School of Translators and Interpreters in Beirut. As a professor, he was motivating, interesting, challenging and considerate. I looked forward to his courses and to his presence, as he was eager to teach and share the knowledge, which he made accessible. Soon, I found out that he was the Director of CEMAM, the Center of Studies for the Modern Arab World. The Center ‘followed the Arabic press closely, and slowly built a database of socio-cultural information’. He offered USJ students a part-time job but more importantly he built a community: one that was academic through discussions but also one that was profoundly humane through coffee breaks. He was also a great translator: he had learnt Arabic and was fluent in both colloquial and written Arabic. Translation fitted him as he sought to bring people together, and this is what translators do. A native of Worcester, Massachusetts, he first studied Arabic history at Harvard. This is where he finished his PhD. Of course, modest as he were, he never mentioned this. I learnt about it by reading about him. Before Lebanon, he also went to Baghdad, where he was appointed superior. However, in 1968 and 1969, Jesuits were expelled by the Baath Party. This is when Father Donohue came to Lebanon – luckily, I may add.

One of his most distinguishing features was his intellectual curiosity: he never ceased to want to learn. An instance of this is his interest in computers: he probably saw the future in this device and started using it very early. He did some research about computer-based translation and found this to be funny. For this is another of his most striking traits: you rarely got to see him angry or in a bad mood. He almost always found a way to make you laugh and to make your day.

As he retired in several phases, first here in Lebanon then in the US, he went on being interested in life: he loved taking photos and loved to use Adobe Photoshop. In this and in many other ways, he remained young at heart and in his mind.


                                                                                                                                           Rita Rousselle Matta