A gifted and popular lecturer at UCD College of Business for over twenty five years, Tony O’Dea is fondly remembered by colleagues and students for his keen sense of humour and love of life.
“He was great fun and everyone loved Tony,” says Prof Aileen Pierce, a long-time colleague in the UCD accountancy department. “He could tell great stories, was very outgoing and so loyal to all of his friends.”
“He was extremely conscientious but had that light touch when he was dealing with people,” adds Prof Tony Brabazon, Dean at UCD College of Business.
An only child, Tony grew up in Limerick, where he attended Crescent College. During these early days, he developed his lifelong love of horse racing. “He used to tell us stories about how his father would take him out of school and bring him to the races without his mother ever knowing,” says Aileen Pierce. “So from a young age he was well schooled in racing and that was his passion.”
After starting out in the bank in the 1960s, his first interaction with UCD was studying for a B Comm, which he began at night and completed by day on a bank scholarship. He subsequently moved to DIT Cathal Brugha Street to begin his teaching career and, around this time, also did his CIMA exams.
In the early 1980s, he took up an Irish government contract to teach at Evelyn Hone College in Lusaka, Zambia. When he returned to Ireland in 1986, he completed a one-year contract at UCD, covering for Aileen Pierce who was in Zambia at the time. He returned to Africa, spending three years in Tanzania before being offered a full-time job teaching management accounting in UCD’s Department of Accountancy.
“Des Hally (Professor of Accounting) was so keen to get him back because Tony could carry any class and was a great colleague,” says Aileen Pierce. “Even in the one year he had been at UCD, everyone knew he was an excellent addition.”
She notes that at a time when many in the department were professional accountants first and lecturers second, Tony had the advantage of having completed a H Dip. “And he loved teaching.”
“Tony was one of the few people in my experience who was able to teach really effectively both to large undergraduate classes and to a room of 20 in the executive MBA programme,” says Tony Brabazon. “There aren’t that many people who can span that.”
Hugely dedicated to his students and teaching, he was director of the BBLS (Bachelor of Business and Legal Studies) programme from 1996 to 2001 and also a member of the MBS (Master of Business Studies) programme committee from 1996 to 2000. He served as Head of the Department of Accountancy from 2005 to 2006.
In preparation for the move to the new UCD Lochlann Quinn School of Business, Tony chaired the undergraduate curriculum review committee. “We designed the building with a focus of moving to small group teaching and therefore had to redesign our undergraduate curriculum accordingly,” says Tony Brabazon. “Tony successfully led the curriculum redesign project and generations of students have benefited from this.”
He also had a deep interest in accounting research. “While everyone talks about what a great teacher he was – and he was – he was also a ground-breaking researcher in management accounting,” says Tony Brabazon. “In particular, he undertook important research concerning the degree of use of both traditional and innovative management accounting techniques in practice, contrasting the experience of the SME and multinational sectors.”
He was a regular contributor to the annual Irish Accounting and Finance Association Conference, frequently collaborating with Peter Clarke of UCD and Bernard Pierce of DCU, and had academic articles published in the Irish Accounting Review and the British Accounting Review. Tony also co-authored 'Cases in Management Accounting' with Tony Brabazon.
After taking early retirement in 2009, he returned to UCD College of Business on a five-year contract until 2014.
The love of Tony’s life was his family – wife Catherine and children Shane, Emma and Adrian and, more recently, their own families. “And he was absolutely adored by them,” says Prof Niamh Brennan, another colleague from the Department of Accountancy.
He also made time for his many and diverse friendships. “He was on great terms with all the people from the various parts of his life,” says Aileen Pierce. “He would follow up on arrangements and make sure we all got together. Many, many times he and Catherine had people over to their house. Catherine was always fantastically supportive.
“We met many people in Tony’s house who were friends from his Zambia days,” she adds. “Because of the Zambia connection he’d often have us there when they would be coming. They all stayed friends.”
His hospitality and gift for enlivening social events were legendary. “He was a cultured man and had a real memory for poetry and songs that he heard and learnt when he was growing up” says Tony Brabazon.
“He always had a glint in his eye for a bit of fun,” adds Niamh Brennan. “A group of us were early starters in my department and at 8 o’clock we’d go over to the restaurant for a cup of tea. Our table was the one from which the loudest laughing could be heard and Tony was very much part of that.
“He could break out into Latin at the drop of a hat. Or you’d be in the middle of a conversation and Tony would recite a poem.”
He was also known for being genuinely collegiate. “He was a lovely colleague to have and was 100% well liked by the staff. He had a good manner about him. He’s not a person about whom there’s a bad thing to say.”