Emeritus UNH historian memorialized

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

PRofessor Francis D. McCann at uNH in 2006.

Francis Daniel McCann Jr., professor emeritus of history, passed away on April 2, 2021 at the age of 82. He served UNH from 1972 to 2007 as an historian of Brazil and Latin America. Prof. McCann died from complications related to a stroke.

Prof. McCann was born December 15, 1938 in Lackawanna, N.Y., and grew up on Colton Avenue, as part of a tight-knit community of friends and relatives, residing near the Basilica of Our Lady of Victory and in the shadow of Bethlehem Steel Mill.

Prof. McCann's scholarly life was devoted to the study of Brazil. He was fluent in Portuguese and spoke excellent Portuñol. At the university, he taught a wide range of courses on Latin American history and Native American cultures. He was the founding director of the UNH Center for International Perspectives (now the International Affairs Program and dual major) and took immense pleasure in guiding students to explore, learn from and appreciate other countries, cultures and languages. Prof. McCann thought it was imperative for students to experience life beyond their home towns to better understand their own roots and also to consider the possibility that they, like he, might thrive and grow when transplanted, if even temporarily. He spent many hours encouraging students to have confidence in their own abilities and to believe that through hard work and effort, anyone could succeed academically, professionally and personally.

Prof. McCann's fascination with history began while tromping around Fort Ticonderoga and other historical sites with his younger brother Bernard, father Francis Daniel Sr., (Kelly) McCann and, before her early death when the boys were 13 and 8, his mother Kay Moran. The Lackawanna Public Library, where Prof. McCann and his brother spent many hours reading, became another happy and comfortable place. A place Prof. McCann emulated when he created his own lending library for neighborhood kids. During high school, Prof. McCann excelled at archery and running, making the Western New York All-Catholic cross-county team. He earned his Eagle Scout rank and spent his summers as a camp counselor in the Adirondacks. While there, he strengthened his deep and abiding interest in the Indigenous peoples of the Iroquois Nation, especially the Tonawanda Seneca. Later, he spent much time in New Mexico, wandering through ancient Indigenous sites, attending many contemporary dances and powwows, and becoming an admirer of the skill and artistry behind Native American pottery, art, and jewelry.

Prof. McCann earned his B.A. (1960) at Niagara University, where he met Diane, his beloved wife of nearly 59 years, and participated in the Army ROTC program. He earned an M.A. in 1962 from Kent State and a Ph.D. in 1967 from Indiana University. His older daughter, Teresa Bernadette (Tibi), was born in Bloomington as he completed his coursework. A group of students, led by Brazilian Teresinha Souto Ward, and Hungarian refugee George Fodor, convinced him to focus on the pais maravilloso and write on U.S.-Brazil relations. A Fulbright grant, the first of four, took Prof. McCann, Diane, Tibi and six-month old Katherine Diane (Kaydee) to Rio de Janeiro in 1965. Prof. McCann would make dozens of subsequent trips to Brazil on his own and with family, pursuing archival documents, teaching, building friendships and criss-crossing the country by car, plane and boat, always preferring the least traveled, frequently unpaved and occasionally unmapped road or byway. Every church along the way merited his attention. The almost countless trips informed his books, articles, journals reviews and, more recently, hundreds of entries in the "Handbook of Latin American Studies" as one of its contributors for Brazilian history. His work on the military was widely respected in Brazil. His books "The Brazilian American Alliance, 1937-1945" and "Soldiers of the Pátria: a History of the Brazilian Army, 1889-1937" have been translated into Portuguese and published in Brazil. The former publication was winner of the Bernath Prize and won honorable mention for the Bolton Prize. He was also co-editor with his compadre Michael L. Conniff of "Modern Brazil: Elites and Masses in Historical Perspective." In 2018, he completed the book "Brazil and the United States during World War II and its Aftermath." The Brazilian government recognized his commitment to the study of the country, awarding him the rank of Comendador in the Order of Rio Branco (1987) and in 1995 the Medalha do Pacificador (Peacemaker Medal).

Before joining the UNH faculty, Prof. McCann taught at the University of Wisconsin, River Falls, and United States Military Academy at West Point as a Captain in the Unites States Army. He completed a post doc at Princeton University. He was also a visiting professor at the University of New Mexico (Albuquerque), the University of Brasilia and the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro.

Scholarly ventures took Prof. McCann to many countries of Latin America as well as Poland, Bulgaria, England, Ireland and Nigeria, among other places. He and Diane enjoyed adventures in Belize, Mexico, Canada, Italy, Turkey, Spain, France and much of the United States, especially Northern California, Washington D.C., and many small towns in Virginia. Prof. McCann's wide-ranging taste in music encompassed Gregorian chants to samba to the Clancy Brothers to Armstrong, Sinatra, Miles and beyond. A dinner party without MPB (Musica Popular Brasileira) to set the mood was as unthinkable as a bar that served a mediocre Manhattan (only Kentucky bourbon, please!). An avid canoer and cross-country skier, Prof. McCann and his wife and children enjoyed outings to Durham's College Woods and Mendums Pond, Jackson and North Conway, N.H., and beyond. His appreciation for the outdoors extended to hours spent tending trees, shrubs and other plants at his and Diane's long-time Durham home and keeping the bird feeders well supplied.

Prof. McCann is survived by his wife Diane, daughter Tibi McCann and her husband Eric Jensen, granddaughters Cassidy and Samantha, daughter Kaydee McCann and partner Daniel Mazurek, brother and sister in law Bernie McCann and Kathy Barlow-McCann, and nieces Kelly, Casey and Brigid and their families, and a large Irish-American family. A Mass of Christian Burial took place on April 6 at St. Mary's Church in Newmarket followed by a burial in the Durham Cemetery, Durham.

The McCann family is planning a celebration of Prof. McCann's life in the fall, once COVID is defeated. There will be an opportunity to make a donation to a fund to be established in his name to honor his interests.