By: Michael Kenneally, June 2000
Mr. Chancellor, I have the honour to present to you scholar and author Ann Saddlemyer, a pioneer in the field of Irish Studies.
For more than three decades, Ann Saddlemyer's name has been synonymous with pioneering work in Irish Studies both in Canada and abroad. Over that time, her scholarly research, her many publications, her distinguished academic positions and her participation in all aspects of the promotion of Irish literary studies, have established her as the most highly respected and widely known scholar in the field, outside of Ireland itself.
Ann Saddlemyer was born and raised in Saskatchewan She earned her undergraduate degree in English and Psychology from the University of Saskatchewan and her Master's in English from Queen's University. Upon receiving her Doctorate from the University of London, she accepted a teaching position at the University of Victoria in British Columbia.
In 1971, she moved to the University of Toronto, where she was appointed Director of the Graduate Centre for Study of Drama, where she introduced the first classes in Canadian theatre at the undergraduate and graduate levels. She remained with the University for close to 25 years, and, in 1995, was honoured with the title Professor Emerita. During her tenure with the University, she also served as Master of Massey College from 1988 to 1995, the first woman ever to hold that distinguished position. In 1995, she returned to Victoria, where she continues to conduct her research and writing.
Dr. Saddlemyer's work has played a central role in establishing Irish Studies, and particularly the writers of the Irish literary renaissance, as a subject worthy of study outside the traditional parameters of the English literary tradition. In particular, her publications on Lady Gregory and John Millington Synge were crucial in arguing that these writers needed to be studied in the context of unique cultural, historical and literary traditions. Her international scholarly reputation will, no doubt, be further enhanced with the forthcoming publication of a critical biography of Georgie Yeats, wife of William Butler Yeats, the last remaining figure whose life needs to be studied for a complete scholarly appreciation of the Irish literary renaissance.
Aside from the inherent scholarly reputation of her work, her extraordinary and enduring achievement is the humane perspective she brings to her study of literature. Time and again, whether lecturing in Japan, China, Ireland or Australia, her audiences are struck by, and deeply appreciative of, her ability to convey in lucid and energetic language the universal civilizing aspects of literature that lie behind its aesthetic, stylistic and cultural appeal.
This aspect of her scholarly reputation is reinforced by Ann Saddlemyer's embodiment of these values in her relationship with colleagues and students around the world. Her personal generosity in both large and small gestures is greatly appreciated by her colleagues. Similarly, both her practical support and intellectual stimulation have influenced the lives of countless students. The fact that many of her students now occupy important academic positions is a testament to her role as a mentor for scholars of Irish Studies.
Dr. Saddlemyer is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and of the Royal Society of Arts in England, a member of the Canadian Association for Irish Studies and the International Association for the Study of Irish Literatures, which she chaired for three years, and is the founding president of the Association of Canadian Theatre Research.
She has received numerous honours and awards for her scholarship, including honorary doctorates from five Canadian Universities. She received the Alumni Award of Excellence from the University of Toronto and, in 1994, was named Woman of Distinction for Letters by the YWCA in Toronto. In 1995, she was named an Officer of the Order of Canada.
Mr. Chancellor, it is my privilege and an honour to present to you, on behalf of Senate and the Board of Governors, Ann Saddlemyer, so that you may confer upon her the degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa.
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