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Famous Mayo professor dies in Dublin


Seán Freyne

Professor Seán Freyne dies suddenly in Dublin

Michael Commins

Seán Freyne, the Mayo man who made history in 2007 when he became the first person in the entire history of the GAA to be honoured with a teaching post at the famous Harvard University in the USA, died suddenly at his home in Dublin yesterday (Monday).
He enjoyed immensely his one year assignment as Visiting Professor and senior academic at the Harvard School of Divinity, cementing still further his special status as one of Ireland’s foremost theologians.
The Tooreen native, who was captain of the Mayo minors that won national honours in 1953, had a lifelong association with the GAA. He was a current member of the Museum Board of the GAA.
Seán, who was in his late 70s, was a passionate supporter of Mayo and attended almost all their National League and Championships games for many years, often travelling in the company of his good friend, Willie Connor from Barnacarroll, Claremorris, who also resides in Dublin.
Seán told me at the time of his appointment to Harvard in 2007: “I love the football and the GAA is a huge part of my life. It’s a major social thing in Irish society and I have made many great friends through the GAA over the years. Heading off to games around the country is a real delight and something I enjoy enormously.”
Seán, who served as Professor of Theology and (until 1997) Head of School of Hebrew, Biblical and Theological Studies at Trinity College from 1980 to 2002, was one of the world’s leading specialists on Galilean studies. He addressed seminars and delivered lectures on matters relating the Holy Land in many parts of the world and published several books in relation to the history of the region.
Back in 1979-80, he served as lecturer with the Department of Studies in Religion at the University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia. For the three years before that, Seán was Professor at Loyola University, New Orleans. He served in recent years as President of the international Society for the Study of the New Testament.
Known for his passion for the land of Galilee, which he visited on numerous occasions, he published a wealth of material which generated much interest among scholars and historians of the Biblical territories. One of his more recent publications, Jesus a Jewish Galilean, gathers together many of his ideas on both Jesus and Galilee developed over the years.
After Requiem Mass in Rathmines Church on Thursday morning at 11am, his funeral will proceed to Culmore Cemetery, Kilkelly for interment in his beloved Mayo.
He is survived by his wife Gayle, daughters Brigid and Sarah, his sister Mary Keane (Swinford), relatives and many friends.

During half-time of the All Ireland quarter-final between Mayo and Donegal in Croke Park on Sunday, Seán sent this text to Michael Commins, The Mayo News: “Best Mayo display I have seen and I’ve been going to games since 1946. Seán”.