‘Wise, witty’ college president passes away after short illness

The death of Michael Hayes, president of Mary Immaculate College (MIC) in Limerick, occurred at the weekend.

Michael Hayes, Mary Immaculate College president, died on Saturday.

The 59-year-old Limerick native had overseen significant changes at the teacher education institution since 2011 and passed away after a short illness.

Bishop Brendan Leahy, Catholic bishop of Limerick and chairman of MIC’s governing authority, said that Prof Hayes had approached his role there with untiring zeal.

“With a deep conviction that Catholic education has to do with the full flourishing of the human person in this life and the next, Michael gave himself more than 100% to the advancement of the college on so many levels,” said Bishop Leahy.

“A man with a large cluster of talents and competencies, he befriended many with kind words of wisdom, clarity, and wit.”

During the presidency of Prof Hayes, who was a priest of the archdiocese of Southwark in England, St Patrick’s College in Thurles was incorporated into MIC, and student numbers grew to 5,000.

Although best known for preparing students for careers in primary teaching, MIC also trains teachers in a number of second-level subjects, as well as pre-school teachers. It also offers a degree in Theatre Studies and opened the Lime Tree Theatre on campus during Prof Hayes’s tenure. People associated with the theatre said his death was a huge loss, and director Louise Donlon attributed the theatre’s success to his guidance and support.

The Mount St Vincent campus, now known as the John Henry Newman campus, was also acquired and developed during Prof Hayes’s presidency. Other developments include a masterplan for the college library.

MIC acting president Eugene Wall said Prof Hayes had an unwavering belief that student wellbeing should be a mainstay of the college’s mission.

“Michael’s untimely death had come as an enormous shock to the college community and his guiding hand will be sadly missed,” said Prof Wall.

Daire Keogh, president of St Patrick’s College, Drumcondra, said that he was very sad to lose a great friend in Prof Hayes.

As a respected academic in the field of pastoral theology, Prof Hayes received an honorary doctorate from De Sales University in Pennsylvania, in 2013, and edited the international journal The Pastoral Review


Educated at St Munchin’s College in Limerick, and St Patrick’s College, Maynooth, he lived and worked in the UK from 1980 up to his appointment as MIC president six years ago.

He worked in pastoral ministry in his archdiocese, before teaching at Roehampton University’s department of theology and religious studies.

He later worked at St Mary’s University College, Strawberry Hill in London, where he founded the school of theology, philosophy and history, and also became the college’s vice-principal and professor of Catholic pastoral studies.

Prof Hayes is survived by five sisters and a brother. His remains will be reposing at the Mary Immaculate College chapel on Limerick’s South Circular Rd tomorrow evening, and funeral Mass takes place at St John’s Cathedral on Wednesday at 12.30pm.

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