Francis X. Rooney

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Francis X. Rooney

March 30, 1933 - November 25, 2015

Francis X. Rooney, a professor for 50 years in the Humanities Department of Wentworth Institute of Technology, died Saturday at the age of 84. He was a patient in the Cardiac Care Unit of Lahey Hospital and Medical Center at the time of his death.
Born March 30, 1933 at St. Elizabeth Hospital in Brighton, he was the son of Francis Xavier Rooney and Alice Doyle Rooney; the oldest of ten children. While later in life, he moved first to Marblehead and then to Newburyport, Boston remained his spiritual home, said his wife, Lois Ascher. His 30-year subscription to the Boston Symphony was a particular pleasure. The cultural and political activism of Boston was a fixed part of his character throughout his life, she added.
In addition to his wife, he leaves a daughter, Shelley Rooney and her husband, Steven Howe of Cincinnati, Ohio; a son, Benjamin Ascher and his wife, Yenna Chan of Pelham, NY; and four grandchildren, Alexander Howe of Brooklyn, NY, Zachary Howe of Philadelphia, PA, and Rosalie and Elias Ascher, both of Pelham, N.Y.
Mr. Rooney earned undergraduate and graduate degrees at Tufts University. He taught literature courses at Wentworth until his retirement in 2008. His insights into literature and life, along with his sharp wit, provided students with challenging and thought-provoking classes. His concern for his students was exemplary, and his exacting standards never wavered for himself or for his students.
In his retirement, Mr. Rooney continued his lifelong pursuit of understanding humanity’s triumphs and failures, and the connections between individuals, communities, and society. He shared his enthusiasm for literature and philosophy by teaching courses at Newburyport Adult & Community Education, and tutoring Wentworth undergraduates.
While born before the counter culture generation, Mr. Rooney joined its ranks in delving deep into questions of war, peace, race, and Civil Rights. He marched in antiwar demonstrations in the 1960s and ‘70s and joined the March on Washington, DC. He also participated in Civil Rights demonstrations in Boston at the time of the school integration era.
A tireless champion of fairness, compassion, truth, and civility, Mr. Rooney also was a frequent contributor to the letters section of The Boston Globe.
Mr. Rooney was an avid sailor and for many years kept a boat moored in Marblehead Harbor. As he did with his academic and intellectual pursuits, Mr. Rooney immersed himself in vegetable gardening, reading, and walking the paths of Maudslay State Park, near his Newburyport home.
The funeral will be private, but a memorial service is planned in honor of what would have been Mr. Rooney’s 85th birthday.
Donations in Mr. Rooney’s name may be made to NYC Salt (, an arts program that mentors and teaches photography to inner city disadvantaged high school students. Mr. Rooney had connected with some of the Salt students, admired their photography, and helped edit their college essays.
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Published on November 30, 2017
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