Tributes paid to 'enthusiastic and passionate' Mary Immaculate College president


Fintan Walsh


Fintan Walsh


Tributes paid to 'enthusiastic and passionate' Mary Immaculate College president

Prof Michael A Hayes Picture: Press 22

TRIBUTES have been paid to the “enthusiastic and passionate” Mary Immaculate president Prof Michael A Hayes, who unexpectedly passed away at the weekend.

The respected Limerickman and dedicated academic, aged 59, died in the early hours of Easter Saturday morning at the Mater Private Hospital in Dublin, following a short illness.

The respected priest, who attended St Munchin’s College and St Patrick’s Pontifical College in Maynooth, was appointed the president and the chief executive of the South Circular Road institution in October 2011.

Before serving as MIC president for six years, Prof Hayes lived and worked in the United Kingdom for more than 30 years. He was a priest of the Archdiocese of Southwark in South East England.

Leading the tributes was acting president, Prof Eugene Wall, who said that the Limerickman’s death came as “an enormous shock to the college community”. He said that “his guiding hand will be sadly missed.

“Since becoming president almost six years ago, Michael worked relentlessly and with compelling conviction to lead the college with clear-sighted vision through a difficult era for higher education. He was an enthusiastic and passionate champion of the college’s role in the Irish educational landscape and he possessed an unwavering belief that student wellbeing should be a mainstay of the college’s mission. He spoke earnestly and eloquently of his hope that the enduring contribution of the College would be to contribute to the flourishing of our students’ lives,” he said in a statement on Easter Sunday.

Limerick bishop Brendan Leahy, chairperson of the Trustees of the Governing Authority, expressed his sorrow at the death of Prof Hayes on Sunday.

He said that Prof Hayes dedicated “more than 100% to the advancements” of MIC “on so many levels.

“I was always struck by the untiring zeal with which Michael approached his role as president.

"Any time he updated the Trustees and the Governing Board of the college, he spoke so warmly and with pride of the achievements of staff and students. Even in recent weeks, he was so clearly delighted that the college team had for a second time in a row won the Fitzgibbon Cup,” he commented.

Bishop Leahy described him as “a man with a large cluster of talents and competencies”, who “befriended many with kind words of wisdom, clarity and wit.

“Keeping before us all the high ideals that he believed the College’s history and mission proposed, Michael certainly played a key role in ensuing Mary Immaculate College is today not only the largest Catholic third level college in the country but well acclaimed for its significant role in the Irish academic and educational landscape.

“His loss will be deeply felt. He faced his illness with admirable calm and trust in God’s providence. No doubt, when the moment of death came for Michael, it was a handing over of his life to the One who can do so much more than we can imagine. With that hope, we pray for Michael and trust he will continue to contribute to the College that he served so generously,” he added.

During Prof Hayes’ successful six years, he contributed immensely to a myriad of major developments at MIC. This included the college’s incorporation of St Pat’s in Thurles; the opening of the Lime Tree Theatre; the mammoth growth of the student population to 5,000; the expansion plans of the John Henry Newman Campus on O’Connell Avenue; and the development of the state-of-the-art €21m library and learning centre, which received the green light from Limerick City and County Council.

University of Limerick president, Prof Don Barry said that he was “saddened” to learn of Prof Hayes’ untimely passing.

“As an active member of the Shannon Consortium, Prof Hayes was a wonderful colleague who worked creatively and collaboratively to advance the cause of education in the Mid-West Region in partnership with UL and LIT. I know I speak for all my colleagues at the University of Limerick in expressing sympathy to the members of Michael's family and to the entire MIC community.”

A staunch supporter of the arts and culture in Limerick, Prof Hayes was instrumental in MIC’s involvement in the 1916 Easter Rising centenary programme and the National City of Culture designation in 2014.

Staff at the Lime Tree Theatre took to social media to express their sadness at the death of the MIC chief executive.

“Prof Hayes played a key and vital role in the setting up and running of the company charged with managing and programming the Lime Tree Theatre and, through his invaluable and dedicated support, ensured the success of the venue both as a regional and national venue.

“He took a keen interest in everything we presented and was a regular and enthusiastic supporter of events in the theatre. He was a regular visitor to the office in the Tara building, bringing support, encouragement and good humour to the everyday challenges and triumphs we faced and we are deeply saddened at his passing,” it stated on Facebook.

Following his appointment at MIC, he was nominated by the colleges of education in Ireland to the Teaching Council of Ireland in April 2012.

A qualified psychotherapist, having studied at London Institute of Psychosynthesis, Prof Hayes was internationally-renowned for his academic expertise in pastoral theology.

In May 2013, the late academic was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Humane letter from De Sales University, Pennsylvania. He also served as editor of the international journal, The Pastoral Review, published in London.

Prior to his appointment at MIC, he taught in the Department of Theology and Religious Studies at Roehampton University, and was latterly Vice-Principal and Professor of Catholic Pastoral Studies at St Mary’s University College, Strawberry Hill in Twickenham, where he had also been Head of the Department of Theology and Religious Studies, and the founding Head of the School of Theology, Philosophy, and History. He was a visiting professor at St Mary’s University College, London.

Prof Hayes will be reposing at MIC chapel, on South Circular Road, this Tuesday at 4pm, with evening prayer at 8pm. Requiem Mass will take place at 12.30pm at St John’s Cathedral, with burial afterward at Mount St Lawrence Cemetery.

Son of the late Sean and Margaret and beloved twin brother of Elizabeth, he is deeply mourned by his loving brother David Aidan; sisters Deborah O’Neill, Marjorie O’Malley, Bredette Keane and Marie-Thérèse Foley; sister-in-law Gertrude, brothers-in-law Tom, Gerard, Kieran, Mark and Mike; nephews, nieces, grand nephews, grand nieces; uncles Dermot and John Reid; his MIC colleagues; Archbishop Peter Smith, of Southwark; Bishop Brendan Leahy; and his fellow priests, other relatives and his many friends.