Thursday 22 February 2018

Professor Michael J MacCormac

Key contributor to business studies in Ireland, writes Gerard Quinn

Professor Michael MacCormac, who has died, made a unique contribution to the development of business education in Ireland. Educated at St. Mary's College, Rathmines, and UCD -- where he was awarded First Class Honours in the BA, BComm and MA examinations -- he was awarded the NUI Bursary in Commerce in 1948, and did postgraduate study at the London School of Economics. He then qualified as an accountant and was appointed to a part-time position in UCD in 1949. His appointment was made full time in 1951, as Lecturer in Economics and Accountancy.

In the Fifties, the Commerce degree had mainly an economics content, with accountancy as the major secondary component and several other business subjects being provided by external part-time lecturers.

Michael MacCormac was the driving force in developing business studies to its present pre-eminent position in UCD. In the Fifties there was little enthusiasm in senior academic circles for the expansion of business studies. In the mid-Fifties, MacCormac toured US business schools for several months and returned with settled ideas on the blueprint for the future.

He set up the Master of Business Studies and the Master of Business Administration (MBA) degrees, the latter being the first MBA to be established in Europe. He proved himself adept at raising funds, and a number of sponsored Chairs enabled him to attract highly talented staff to UCD. His efforts were recognised by steady promotion, and finally by his appointment as Professor of Business Administration in 1971. He served as Dean of the Commerce Faculty from 1973-1980 and was a member of the college's governing body, and of the NUI Senate.

His energy and commitment were extraordinary, especially in the light of a serious illness which struck towards the end of the Fifties. He served on the Higher Education Authority and was a council member of the Irish Management Institute and the Institute of Public Administration. He was chairman of the Board of Management of St Vincent's Hospital and chairman of the Medico-Social Research Board. He also acted as chairman of the National Institute of Higher Education Dublin (later DCU). He was also chairman of the Transport Consultative Commission which produced reports on passenger transport and road freight.

He took early retirement from UCD in 1986, and the second non-academic phase of his career was launched. It was no less successful and stimulating than the first. He became a director of many companies, including the chairmanship of Green Property and the First National Building Society. His perennial interest in horse racing was reflected in his becoming senior steward of the Turf Club. His many publications include the book The Irish Racing and Bloodstock Industry. He also wrote extensively on other business subjects, including the role and responsibilities of boards of directors.

Despite his remarkable work schedule, his family occupied the central role in Michael's life, as his son-in law, James McCormack, stressed in his eulogy. His wife Patricia, who was a classmate in UCD, and whom he married in 1950, was a constant support and Michael's first port of call when he felt advice was needed. He was very proud of his daughter, Lucy, and in his later years his grandson, Matthew, was a source of great delight.

He always remained a very modest man despite his many and varied achievements. He was also a man of great integrity. He has left a rich and lasting legacy which finds its physical expression today in the Lochlann Quinn Undergraduate Business School and the Michael Smurfit Graduate School at Carysfort, Blackrock. It is a legacy to the great benefit not only of UCD but of the country.

Gerard Quinn is Professor Emeritus of Economics, UCD

Sunday Independent

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