Brian Doyle, award-winning author and editor of the University of Portland’s acclaimed Portland Magazine, passes away on May 27

May 27, 2017

The University of Portland lost a beloved member of our community when Brian Doyle, award-winning author and editor of Portland magazine for 25 years, passed away early this morning, May 27, 2017 from complications related to a brain tumor.

Brian, 60, is survived by his wife, Mary, their daughter Lily and twin sons Liam and Joseph.

“Brian exemplified God’s grace by how he lived his life,” said University president Fr. Mark L. Poorman, C.S.C. “He was a man filled with a sense of humanity and wonder, who was interested in everyone’s story and who saw everyone’s potential. His warmth, humor and passion for life will be deeply missed.”

Born in New York City in 1956 to James A. Doyle, a journalist, and Ethel Clancey Doyle, a teacher, Brian grew up in a large Irish Catholic family in a home peppered with Irish Gaelic. Brian always knew he would be a writer and credits his start to his parents, whom he described as gifted raconteurs and storytellers. Jim Doyle was head of the Catholic Press Association for thirty years, and Brian’s writings, like his father’s, reflect his deep Catholic faith.

After earning a degree in English from the University of Notre Dame in 1978, he went on to become the assistant editor at U.S. Catholic magazine and, later, a senior writer for Boston College magazine, before John Soisson hired him as editor of the University’s quarterly Portland magazine in 1991. Called “the best spiritual magazine in the country” by author Annie Dillard, Portland magazine, under Brian as editor, has consistently been ranked among the best university magazines in the country and, in 2005, won Newsweek’s Sibley Award as the top university magazine in America. 

Brian has also authored many books of fiction, essays, and poems, including his novels "Mink River," "The Plover," "Chicago," and "Martin Marten," for which he won a 2016 Oregon Book Award for Young Adult Literature. His most recent novel, "The Adventures of John Carson in Several Quarters of the World: A Novel of Robert Louis Stevenson," was published in March 2017. His essays have appeared in The Atlantic Monthly, Harper’s, Orion, The American Scholar, The Sun Magazine, and The New York Times, and have been reprinted in the annual anthologies from Best American Essays, Best American Science & Nature Writing, and Best American Spiritual Writing.

Other honors include the Catholic Book Award, three Pushcart Prizes, the Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters (previous recipients include Saul Bellow, Kurt Vonnegut, and Flannery O’Connor), the John Burroughs Award for Nature Essays, and, most recently, the 2017 John Burroughs Medal for Distinguished Nature Writing for his novel Martin Marten, only the second work of fiction to be awarded the Medal in its 90-year history.


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