By Richard Lee
Patricia Kennealy-Morrison was one of journalism’s first female rock critics and the author of numerous books, including a memoir about her relationship with Doors lead singer Jim Morrison and two fiction series — one science fiction/fantasy; the other, a collection of murder mystery novels.
And the time she spent studying journalism at St. Bonaventure University in the 1960s played an influential role in her career.
“Russell Jandoli, then head of the department, was a role model and a teacher in the true sense of the word,” Kennealy-Morrison wrote in a blog post several years ago. “He taught me how to think the story like a reporter and feel the story like a reader and write the story like a witness on oath and edit the story like a hanging judge. Without his influence, I would still have become a writer and editor, but not the writer and editor I became because of him.”
Kennealy-Morrison died earlier this month at the age of 75.
“She loved St. Bonaventure, and she loved Dr. Jandoli,” Lee Coppola, retired dean of what is now the university’s Jandoli School of Communication, recalled.
As dean, Coppola brought Kennealy-Morrison to campus to work with journalism students, and the two developed a long friendship.
“She was such a fantastic erudite woman who had all kinds of stories,” he said.
Kennealy-Morrison attended St. Bonaventure from 1963 to 1965 and then transferred to Harpur College (now SUNY Binghamton), where she earned a B.A. in English literature in 1967.
She joined Jazz & Pop magazine as a writer in 1968 and eventually became editor-in-chief. While working as editor-in-chief, she interviewed Jim Morrison. They developed a relationship, and in 1970 they exchanged vows in a Celtic handfasting ceremony.
Years later, Kennealy-Morrison’s religious practices brought her to St. Bonaventure’s attention when she told a New York Post columnist that her religious practices were influenced by early Celtic mythology that she learned about from materials in the university’s library. According to Sister Margaret Carney, who at the time was the university’s president, an alumnus wrote “a blistering letter” who took offense at the departure from traditional Catholic ways.
Carney decided to learn more about Kennealy-Morrison and asked Coppola to try to contact her. Coppola reached out to the columnist, who declined to share Kennealy-Morrison’s contact information but did offer to relay a message.
“Three minutes later she called,” Coppola said. “She was all excited that someone at St. Bonaventure was interested. We had a wonderful conversation about her two years at St. Bonaventure.”
Carney, who had a trip New York on her schedule, wrote to Kennealy-Morrison and arranged to meet her in the city.
“We met over coffee, and we just hit it off,” Carney said, noting that their conversation focused on common interests such as Celtic literature, not on Morrison and the time she spent with the Doors.
The conversation led to an invitation for Kennealy-Morrison to visit St. Bonaventure to speak about her career and work with journalism students.
“From that first visit, Patricia developed friendships with several of us at Bona’s,” Carole McNall, an assistant professor in the Jandoli School, said. “We didn’t get to see her in person too often but stayed in touch online via email and social media.”
Kathy Boser, administrative assistant in the Jandoli School, said Kennealy-Morrison donated several of her books to the school, along with a large jeweled cross that hangs outside the dean’s office.
“She shared a genuine love for our area, for St. Bonaventure University’s journalism program and its founder Dr. Jandoli,” Boser said. “She credited him for helping to develop her writing skills, as well as her being ‘the eternal proofreader,’ which she reminded me of just earlier this month when I had inadvertently used the word tic for tick.”
Boser’s daughter Beth also kept in contact with Kennealy-Morrison via social media.
“I will definitely miss her comments and am now picturing her and Jim dancing the night away,” she said. “I hope somehow, as she once requested, that her ashes can be spread at Merton’s Heart, which was one of her favorite places.”
Kennealy-Morrison’s bond with St. Bonaventure also includes women she knew while she was a student at the university. Kathleen Brady said Kennely, as she spelled her name back then, made an immediate impression when they met.
“Shoulder-length hair fell down across one half of her face, and cigarette smoke veiled the other,” Brady, an author, said. “Whoever she was, she seemed very sophisticated, very Greenwich Village, and somewhat intimidating, but that afternoon, and certainly over the years, I knew that however dramatic she might be, she was also very real and when it counted, very down to earth.”
In the years that followed, Kennealy-Morrison became a pioneering journalist, traveled with rock stars, was portrayed in — and appeared in — Oliver Stone’s movie The Doors (a film she strongly criticized), and was invited into the New York Mets clubhouse in 2000 because the team had adopted a Doors’ song as a rallying cry.
Yet when the president of a small Catholic university asked if she wanted to meet for coffee, she not only accepted the invitation, but forged relationships with the school and its personnel that lasted years.
“It’s one of those adventures of a college president,” Carney reflected. “You can’t make this stuff up.”
Richard Lee, executive director of the Jandoli Institute, is a former music journalist who often writes about the intersection of music and current events.