Alumni Focus - Spring 2005
BERNARD BRENNAN: PHILOSOPHY AND STAINLESS STEEL
This article is based on an interview that took place early in 2002.
On January 5, 2002, Bernard T. Brennan ('37), former Trustee of Loyola and longtime benefactor of the Philosophy Department and the university as a whole, chatted with Thomas Wren and recalled highlights of his relationship with Loyola and his career as a businessman and philanthropist. The conversation took place in his home in Florida. A few weeks later, he sent another large donation to President Michael Garanzini, S.J., earmarked for Philosophy.
Over the last twenty years he has given significant gifts to the university, much of which has come to the Philosophy Department in the form of endowment support for faculty development and the Brennan Lectures.
Brennan is currently reading the Chinese classic Qui-gong and Homer's Iliad and Odyssey, after which he plans to look again at James Joyce's Ulysses. Although he claims "I was never a very good student," one wonders what standard he uses to grade himself. "I had fun but I sweated my ears off as an undergraduate," he remarked. Brennan was taught by the exacting John McCormick, S.J., remembered in the previous Newsletter. (A fellow student who remained a close friend was classmate Robert Mulligan, S.J., who is memorialized in this issue.) After graduating with a major in philosophy in 1937, he took an M.B.A. at Harvard University two years later, where he received high honors for a paper on the morality of strikes.
Shortly thereafter he and his late wife Katherine moved to the Hudson Valley of New York, where he pursued an increasingly successful business career that included ownership of the first company to make anti-corrosive (stainless steel) fasteners. In the 1960s he worked in Washington with the Securities and Exchange Commission and later with Secretary of State Dean Rusk. He vividly remembers the meeting at which a State Department aide burst in to announce the ominous news of offensive weapons discovered in Cuba.
Brennan has five children and nine stepchildren from a second marriage, to Ann Kelly (also deceased).
In addition to his service in the early 1990s on the Loyola Board of Trustees, Brennan has served on the board of a hospital and college in New York, as well as the boards of various businesses and a bank in Albany. His philanthropy, which is also directed to a new Maryknoll hospital in Kenya, was made possible, he says, by "the hand of God and inflation, as well as the fact that I kept my nose clean."
Asked if he would advise a student today to study philosophy, Brennan said, "Should you take philosophy? Yes, you can think much better. I really think that's true. Philosophy sharpens your aptitude for coming right to the point, getting at the center of problems."