Prof. Joseph (Joe) O’Connell, professor emeritus of Hinduism at the Department for the Study of Religion, and long-time associate of St. Michael’s College, passed away on Sunday 6 May at the age of 72, following a brain haemorrhage while in New York. He was born in Boston in 1940. Joe had taught at the University for more than thirty years.
Prof. O’Connell served as the Academic Director at the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies in 1999–2000 and since then was also a Senior Associate Fellow of the Centre. Most recently he was a visiting professor at the University of Dhaka, Bangladesh, where he was instrumental in the development of a department of World Religions – a discipline that is largely non-existent in South Asia.
He was an exceptional scholar, who did much for the study of Gaudiya Vaishnavism since his PhD in the 1950s on the social aspects of the Chaitanya movement. He has published widely on the history of Vaishnavism in Bengal, and on the social and ethical issues in the tradition.
He is survived by his wife, Kathleen O’Connell, a daughter and two sons. Joe was a kind and generous scholar, and a man of integrity and character. He will be missed by all.
A memorial service will be held for Joe at St Basil’s Church, University of Toronto, May 15 at 3:00pm.