Award-winning author and editor of University of Portland's magazine dies

Brian Doyle, award-winning author, editor of the University of Portland's magazine, died May 27 from complications related to a brain tumor. (CNS photo/Tim LaBarge)

Portland, Ore. — Brian Doyle, an award-winning author who was editor of the University Portland's magazine, died May 27 from complications related to a brain tumor. He was 60.

Doyle, who also was a columnist for the Catholic Sentinel, newspaper of the Portland Archdiocese, is survived by his wife, Mary, their daughter Lily and twin sons Liam and Joseph. His funeral Mass was to be celebrated June 2 at St. Mary Cathedral in Portland.

Read Doyle's NCR columns here

"He was a sweet, wise guy, an insightful everyman, a serious Catholic who discerned beautiful hilarity in practitioners of faith," Sentinel editor Ed Langlois wrote in a tribute published in the June 2 issue of the newspaper. "He was funny, but not mean. He pointed out hints of the divine in the hurlyburly of humanity, and what could be more Catholic than that?"

Langlois reported that people had been brought to faith by Doyle and his writing.

Born in New York City in 1956 to Jim Doyle, a journalist, and Ethel Clancey Doyle, a teacher, Doyle grew up in a large Irish Catholic family in a home peppered with Irish Gaelic. He 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 30 years. The writing of both father and son reflect a deep Catholic faith.

After earning a degree in English from the University of Notre Dame in 1978, Doyle 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 Portland, the quarterly magazine of the Catholic-run University of Portland, in 1991.

Called "the best spiritual magazine in the country" by author Annie Dillard, Portland magazine 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 exemplified God's grace by how he lived his life," said Holy Cross Father Mark Poorman, president of University of Portland, home of Portland magazine. "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."

Related: Portland editor wants magazine 'to move and startle and amaze' (Nov. 30, 2016)

Doyle wrote 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, Harper's, Orion, The American Scholar, The Sun Magazine and The New York Times, and they 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, whose 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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