Johnn O'Sullivan

December 20, 1938 ~ April 26, 2021 (age 82)

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Johnn O’Sullivan

December 20, 1938 - April 26, 2021

Johnn O’Sullivan passed gracefully on April 26, surrounded in love. Born in New York City on December 20, 1938, he was the son of the late Jack Sullivan born in Glountanefinnane, Ballydesmond, Ireland and Catherine (Houlihan) Sullivan of New York City. 

Johnn was a renaissance man. Proud of his sharp intellect, he earned five degrees from four universities (B.A. St. John's University, M.A. Purdue University -- Mathematics, PhD University of Virginia - English Literature ‘66, PostDoc Yale -- African American Studies ‘71, PostDoc Yale School of Management -- Ethics in Management ‘79).

Johnn’s commitment to social justice and anti-racism included piloting the initial accreditation of Roxbury Community College while serving as Academic Dean. He taught Mathematics, Literature, and Management Science at the university level and worked in more than seven distinct industries from door-to-door phonebook sales to management consulting. He was an innovator in developing quality improvement systems in hospitals nationwide. 

The language of Johnn’s life was poetry. He worked under Hugh Kenner, and his 1966 doctoral dissertation broke new ground in the study of W.B. Yeats. Known for his boldly original approach to “spoken word” performance, Johnn was named Poet of the City of Boston in 2015. A collection of his work is compiled on the CD Seeds, and he was scheduled to release Work in Progress.

Johnn lived a deep journey in this lifetime and moved the hearts and minds of many. Perhaps most important to Johnn were the lives that he touched throughout his life. He had more than thirty years of sobriety and served as an active participant in various Boston-area recovery support groups. Among his other varied interests and passions were Irish culture, National Talk Like a Pirate Day, various religious practices and customs, and the very pursuit of learning. As Chaucer said in his Canterbury tales, “gladly would he learn and teach.”

He was a devoted husband, scholar, poet, teacher, friend, father, grandfather,  and uncle.  A practicing Buddhist, Johnn was grateful to have met his Tibetan Drikung Kagyu Lama - Drupon Samten Rinpoche. 

Johnn is survived by his beloved partner of nearly 60 years, Dr. Marrey Embers; his children Maurya Sullivan (Joel Kadis), Liam Sullivan (Eric Falcon) and Timothy Sullivan (Jennifer); his grandchildren: Colin and Riley Kadis; Nachum/Tade, Devin, and Peter Sullivan. Johnn was predeceased by his brothers Eugene and Liam Sullivan and leaves his brothers Joseph Sullivan (Margaret) and Bill Sullivan (Penny) and many, many other family members, friends, neighbors and colleagues who will miss his intellect, humor, creativity, and playfulness.  Johnn was a source of endless optimism, wisdom, respect, and love. His indelible mark on the lives of many will be remembered when it is time to carve the turkey for Thanksgiving, check homework assignments for grammatical errors, and remember the bright side of life. 

Due to Covid precautions, his Memorial Service will be live-streamed on Sunday, May 2nd at 11:30 EDT. Follow this link:

Additionally, a Circle of Remembrance and a celebration of Johnn’s life will be held virtually on Saturday, June 5th, from 12:30-2:30pm EDT. We hope you can join us to share memories and appreciations of Johnn on Zoom.  Here is the link:

In lieu of flowers, please send donations to the Drikung Kyobpa Choling Tibetan Meditation Center in Escondido, CA

May he abide in expansive Light & Bliss.



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