Every other year during his Wofford tenure, Dr. Dennis Dooley, professor of English emeritus, took a group of students on a month-long trip to Ireland during Interim. Over time, those trips became the stuff of legend.
Dooley, who taught at Wofford for 40 years, died Saturday, Aug. 13, at his home in Spartanburg. He was 79.
David Wright ’91, president of WrightEngage in Chicago, joined Dooley for one of his Ireland tours as a 20-year-old. He says it was everything he expected, and more.
“We went to the Lake Isle, a few of us climbed Ben Bulben and got a little lost, and went to the Abbey Theatre, all places Dennis had taken us to before in a classroom in South Carolina,” says Wright. “All this and innumerable high crosses, pub crawls and tales of the Easter Rebellion.”
While Dooley, who retired in 2009, enjoyed the Interim trips, he also enjoyed teaching. He enjoyed exposing students to modernist Irish and Southern literature, Wright says.
“He shared a sense of anticipation when he taught like he was excited that you were getting to see these things for the first time,” Wright says. “It was the excitement of introducing a friend to something you love and being thrilled to have them join the club.”
Charles Usry ’03, an attorney in Columbia, South Carolina, says Dooley was one of his favorite professors.
“You know he was passionate about teaching because he got up early to do it,” Usry says. “Like a lot of students, I wasn’t a fan of 8 a.m. classes. But I took his, and I kept coming back for three years. He taught us W.B. Yeats and James Joyce. I still have my book with all the notes I wrote in it from the Yeats class.”
Usry also made one of the trips to Ireland. It was memorable, he says, because it was his first trip out of the U.S. and he made some lasting friends along the way.
“Dr. Dooley took us to sites that people wrote about and showed them to us. It was cool to get to see what he taught us. It was just an awesome experience, and I’m so grateful for it.”
Dooley founded the Wofford Writers Series in 1981. The series brought a variety of authors to campus, including Nobel Prize-winning poet Seamus Heaney, novelist Ron Rash, and South Carolina’s own Pat Conroy and James Dickey.
John Lane, professor of environmental studies emeritus, was a student of Dooley’s before he became a colleague. Dooley brought Lane into the Wofford Writers Series in 1984. In 1998, Lane was Dooley’s “co-pilot” on the Interim trip to Ireland.
“Soon after I heard of his death, I sat and read my 150-page ’98 Ireland Interim journal and it was full of Dennis’ life and his stories and love for the country of his heritage,” Lane says. “He introduced me to his old friends there, both the local people, the high crosses and the numerous out-of-the-way pubs. I will forever remember all this.”
A funeral service will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 20, at St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church, 101 St. Matthew’s Lane, Spartanburg. A reception will follow at the church.