Professor Emeritus, University of Toronto
Joseph T. O’Connell, noted scholar of world religions, passed away suddenly on May 6, 2012 in Lenox Hill Hospital, Manhattan, surrounded by his loving family.
Born in Boston, Massachusetts in 1940, he was educated at Holy Cross College and Harvard University, where he specialized in the religions of South Asia, completing his Ph.D. thesis on Caitanya Vaisnavism. Joseph taught at St. Michael’s College and the Centre for the Study of Religion, University of Toronto from 1968-2000, and he and his wife Kathleen, a Tagore scholar, made regular research visits to India and Bangladesh.
His distinguished academic career includes teaching appointments at Oxford University, Visva-Bharati University, India, and more recently at the University of Dhaka, Bangladesh, where he has been instrumental in the establishment of the Dept. of World Religions and Culture for the past ten years.
Beyond his multi-faceted scholarly contributions of teaching, writing and curriculum development, Joe’s deep social conscience found scope in his support of various causes involving social and political injustice as they became evident to him. Locally, he generously donated his time over many years to the Out-of-the-Cold program at St. Peter’s and St. Matthew’s parishes as a member of the steering committee and regular volunteer.
Much cherished husband of Kathleen for forty-seven years, Joseph will be deeply missed by the family he doted on: daughter Deirdre and her husband Christopher Schell, as well as sons Mark O’Connell and Matthew O’Connell with his fiancée Wen-Chih Yu. ‘Grandpa Joe’ was especially devoted to his grandchildren Charles and Caroline Schell.
Friends and family are welcome to pay their respects during visitation at the Morley Bedford Funeral Home, 159 Eglinton Ave. W. from 2-4 and 6-8 pm, Sunday, May 13. A Memorial service will take place at St. Basil’s Church, 50 St. Joseph Street on Tuesday, May 15th at 3:00 pm
In lieu flowers, donations may be made to First Interfaith Out of the Cold (cheques payable to First Interfaith OOTC c/o Cong. Darchei Noam, memo line: Joseph O’Connell) 864 Sheppard Ave. W., Toronto, ON. M3H 2T5 Attention: Carol
The University of Toronto flags were kept at half-mast on all three campuses on Tuesday, May 15 in Professor O’Connell’s memory.
*Update 08/09/2012* The Globe & Mail has published an article about Joe in the Lives Lived section, here.