Professor Emerita Ann Dooley named the inaugural recipient of the Ireland Funds Canada Distinguished Leadership Award

The University of St. Michael’s College salutes Professor Emerita Ann Dooley, who has been named the inaugural recipient of the Ireland Funds Canada Distinguished Leadership Award.

L-R: Ann Dooley, David Sylvester, Sophia Poulimenakos, Irene Morra, and Mark McGowan

Dooley, one of the founders of St. Michael’s Celtic Studies program, has been inspiring students and working as a tireless ambassador since the program’s inception. She was presented the award – a custom book box containing a first-edition, signed copy of works by the renowned Irish poet Seamus Heaney– at the Ireland Funds Canada’s St. Patrick’s Day luncheon, held March 8 at the Arcadian Court in Toronto. Proceeds from the event will benefit the Celtic Studies program.

In 1975, while Dooley was a graduate student at Toronto’s Centre for Medieval Studies, she was approached by Fr. John Kelly, CSB, then St. Michael’s President, and the English Department’s Prof. Robert O’Driscoll to discuss creating an introductory course in Celtic Studies.

An instant success, the class quickly led to more courses being added, with Mairin Nic Dhiarmada teaching Irish Language, and then Prof. David Wilson joining to teach history. Over the years, numerous graduate students and graduates of the program have come back to teach as sessional instructors, and you’ll find others teaching at such schools as Harvard, Trinity College Dublin, and at the National University of Ireland Galway.

The 2024 Distinguished Leadership Award was presented jointly by Oliver Murray, Chair of the Ireland Funds Canada, and long-time St. Michael’s friend Eithne Heffernan, who serves as Vice-Chair.

While the Global Ireland Funds has long honoured exceptional community members, Dooley’s award is the first time that the Ireland Funds Canada has chosen to honour a local recipient, Heffernan noted during the presentation.

Describing Dooley as “a leading light in Celtic and Mediaeval Studies,” Murray said the award was made “with great affection and appreciation for her tireless efforts supporting and promoting Celtic Studies in Toronto and Canada.”

Heffernan agreed, noting that Dooley “has spent a lifetime nurturing and educating students whom she inspired to great academic heights. She instilled in them a love of learning and of all things Irish from language to literature,” adding that she continues to be greatly loved, respected, and admired at the University by students and faculty, and by the Irish Community in Toronto.

Always generous to her colleagues, Dooley attempted to convince her program seatmates to rise with her and approach the stage to accept the award.

“It was so good of them,” Dooley says of the Ireland Funds, but she is quick to add that “the real story is the whole team, whose wonderful work is now the real story of the program, not me,” noting the ‘great contributions of Profs. Mark McGowan, David Wilson, Brent Miles,  Pa Sheehan, and those who teach in the program thanks to the Ireland Canada University Foundation (ICUF).

“As many members of the local and international community know, Ann Dooley has been the defining heart and soul of the Celtic Studies program,” says St. Michael’s Principal Irene Morra. “She is, moreover, an extraordinary scholar and linguist. Her work encompasses and speaks to the breadth, rigour, and uniqueness of the program at St Michael’s College: it has ranged from Celtic mythology through to literary, cultural, and linguistic traditions from the medieval period well into the contemporary age. She is, as scholars, colleagues, and former students can attest, an absolute model of academic curiosity, knowledge, and advocacy.”

The Ireland Funds Canada has a long tradition of advancing non-political, non-sectarian, causes throughout Ireland and in Canada. The organization connects people of Irish heritage to bring positive change within Canada and Ireland, shaping culture, reconciliation, and enhancing education.

Read more on the Ireland Funds website.