NORTH CANTON Walsh University held a special Memorial Mass and Tribute Luncheon honoring the Life and Legacy of former Walsh President Brother Francis Blouin on Feb. 6.
After an 11:30 a.m. mass in Our Lady of Perpetual Help Chapel, a luncheon was held in the Barrette Business and Community Center where friends and colleagues gathered to honor Blouin, who passed away at age 87 on Jan. 21.
Blouin died from complications of Lou Gehrig's disease (ALS). He was born in Rumford, Maine, Feb. 9, 1929. He first joined Walsh in 1970 as the chairman of the Board of Trustees. He was appointed as the third president of Walsh in 1978 and remained as president until his retirement in 1992.
Throughout Blouin's life he held membership and leadership positions in a variety of organizations and was the recipient of multiple awards. He served two terms as superior of the American Province of the Brothers of Christian Instruction. He was a delegate to International Conference of Religious Superiors, American representative to International Conference of FIC's, president of the Coalition to End Homelessness and president of the Main Council of Churches. He was honored with the Walsh Founders' Award in 2012 and served as the honorary chairman of the Walsh We Believe Campaign. His humanitarian work has benefited many.
In a slideshow presentation at the luncheon, pictures of Blouin were shown with quotes from him. Blouin had said if he were given another chance at a career choice, he would return to the same career, confident of his blessings and confident that he would enjoy his many different educational responsibilities.
He dedicated more than 60 years of his life to, what he was most proud of, being a teacher. From 1949 to 2012 he was an educator. He had many accomplishments throughout his career but one he was very proud of was being responsible bringing five Nobel Prize winners to the campus. The one that always stood out in his mind was Mother Teresa in 1982.
What he was most proud of in his life was that he was a teacher all of his life. Blouins was also a principal, guidance counselor and administrator.
He spent a good amount of time in Africa as a founding member and director of Kisubi. He worked to with initiatives to bring higher education to Africa.
Friends fondly remembered Blouin
Marcel Sylvester spoke about the dissertation that Blouin wrote on the concept of freedom. He traveled to Rome, University of Notre Dame and several other places for six months researching. He presented the dissertation to his professor after six months, and the professor said it was impossible for him to have written a doctorial dissertation in that amount of time and that it would take a year or two to finish. Sylvester said Blouin filed the dissertation away and, in a year, took it back to the professor at Fordham University who said it was excellent work.
Norm Kutz, a friend of Blouin, spoke about the time when Mother Teresa was visiting and they had to take her to Minnesota in a private plane.
"You should have seen him talk and work with her," Kutz said. "I was so mesmerized by his closeness and comfort in his speaking with her."
Kutz also said Blouin was invited to speak to the Canton Rotary Club, and several officials from Walsh went to Canton with him. Kutz said Blouin wanted to drive
"If any of you knew how he drove, you would understand that the 35 mile an hour speed limit on Market Street was not for Brother Francis," Kutz said.
Blouin, Kutz said, was traveling at 55 miles per hour when he was pulled over by an officer. When Blouin handed the officer his driver's license, according to Kutz, the officer said, "I am sorry, Father," and warned him that next time he would get a ticket.
Rabbi John Spitzer shared stories of when he and Blouin led the first interfaith trip from Stark County to Israel. He said Blouin read the Beatitudes at the Church of the Beatitudes.
"In those words, we were forged together, Jews and Christians, men and women, young and old from around the world in one spiritual unity," Spitzer said. "That is the iconic image that I will always hold dear that will always connect our communities together."
Spitzer also said the relationship between the Jewish community and Walsh University were strengthened and made strongest during Blouin's presidency. He had a warm flowing sense of faith that embraced all kinds of people.
Contributions can be made in Blouin's name to the Brother Francis Blouin Memorial Endowed Scholarship Fund online at www.walsh.edu/brfrancis, or by sending donations to: Walsh University Office of Advancement, 2020 E. Maple St., North Canton, OH 44720.