Teacher and academic possessed of extraordinary versatility

Sat, Jan 5, 2013, 00:00

Generations of business and social science students at UCD learned the skills of conducting research from Dr Teresa Brannick, who has died following a long struggle with multiple sclerosis.

Teresa Brannick was born in New Inn, east Galway. After boarding school she attended UCG, where she studied mathematics and mathematical physics through Irish. She went on to UCD to study for a postgraduate diploma in social science. There she met and soon married Eddie McIlduff. At UCD she completed a master’s degree in sociology, using ethnographic methods which was unusual for somebody trained in mathematics. But this providded a glimpse of the extraordinary intellectual versatility that was to become a hallmark of her professional career.

After a time as a research assistant in sociology at UCD, Dr Brannick conducted research in epidemiology at the Medico-Social Research Board. She returned to UCD and worked on a research programme in the department of industrial relations, conducting seminal research on changing patterns of industrial conflict, with Prof Aidan Kelly.

Highest accolade

She continued to work on research on access to higher education, with Prof Patrick Clancy. She lectured on research methodology in the faculty of commerce and in the department of social science. She then became a Newman Scholar and completed a PhD in marketing. Dr Brannick edited the Journal of Irish Business and Administrative Research with Aidan Kelly and oversaw its development into the Irish Journal of Management, of which she became editor-in-chief. She was the first person elected a Fellow of the Irish Academy of Management – the highest accolade bestowed by the academy on a member.

Dr Brannick’s published work spans the disciplines of sociology, epidemiology, industrial relations, marketing, management and research methods. She edited and co-wrote several books, perhaps her most important being her book on action research, written with Prof David Coughlan SJ of Trinity College, who celebrated her funeral Mass.

More recently, she contributed her methodological expertise to the research undertaken for Judge Yvonne Murphy’s Commission of Investigation into the Dublin Archdiocese.

Such an extraordinary range and level of versatility is simply remarkable. As her friend and colleague Prof Bill Roche of the UCD school of business said in his address at her funeral, she had a unique ability to put herself into the mind of a student or a colleague with a methodological problem. She could help them clarify what specifically they wanted to investigate.

Teaching style

Countless PhD students owe her a debt in applying these gifts to help them progress and complete their dissertations. These qualities made her a wonderful teacher. She is remembered as succinct and crystal clear in her teaching style and delighted in students’ accounts of their professional and life experiences. Dr Brannick was adept at helping them draw out their ability. She often said that universities were nothing if not places of inquiry, and inquiry for her was intertwined with people’s lived experiences.

She was strongly committed to equality and social justice. And part of her legacy at UCD is her work towards the recognition of these fields of study in the college in collaboration with her friend Prof Kathleen Lynch.

She was a person of great fun and bore her long illness with enormous dignity and courage, never complaining about her pain and discomfort although they were evident to all. Her outlook throughout her illness remained that “everything is important, or nothing is important”.

To her, everything scholarly, joyous and life-affirming was important.

She is survived by her husband, Eddie McIlduff.