The Rev. J. Robert Barth, a Buffalo native who taught English literature at Canisius College in the 1960s and rose to become Boston College's dean of arts and sciences, died Wednesday in Boston. He was 74.
Father Barth also taught at Harvard University, where he was the first Jesuit to be offered a full-time teaching position. He was a member of the Canisius College board of trustees in the 1990s and retained close ties to the college.
He grew up in the Riverside section of Buffalo and graduated from Canisius High School in the late 1940s. He studied English at Fordham University, receiving his bachelor's degree in 1954 and his master's in 1955, before earning his doctorate from Harvard in 1967. A specialist in British Romantic literature and the relationship between religion and literature, Father Barth was highly regarded for his expertise and writing on the works of poets Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Gerard Manley Hopkins.
He was an enthusiastic booster of the arts, which he saw as an outgrowth of the Jesuit tradition. He founded the Boston College Arts Council, which organizes an arts festival that attracts 10,000 people each year.
But it was in the classroom where Father Barth found his greatest fulfillment.
"His students were his life," said his brother Roger V. of
Bethesda, Md. "And his students loved him for his approachability, his scholarship and his great interest in their lives."
In addition to his brother Roger, Father Barth is survived by his father, Philip C. of Williamsville; two other brothers, Philip C. Jr. of Juno Beach, Fla., and Dr. Eric of Park Rapids, Minn.; and two sisters, Sue Starapoli of Rochester and Shari McCarthy of Bonita Springs, Fla.
A Mass of Christian Burial will be offered Monday in Boston. Burial will be in the New York Province of the Society of Jesus Cemetery, Auriesville.