Roger Downer Obituary, Death – A “gentle soul” who “fought the good fight,” Professor Roger Downer was the former president of the University of Limerick (UL), and his legacy lives on in the fond remembrances of his peers. Professor Downer was the second president of UL and was currently 79 years old when he lived in Nenagh. On Saturday, he passed away “in a calm and peaceful manner, surrounded by his devoted family.” Professor Downer was born in Belfast in 1942, and he received his education at the Methodist College in Belfast before continuing his education at Queen’s University in Belfast, where he studied science, and at the University of Western Ontario, where he received his PhD and was honored with a FEJ Fry Gold medal from the Canadian Society of Zoologists.
He spent the majority of his academic career at the University of Waterloo, where he was honored with the institution’s prestigious annual Distinguished Teacher Award. He also took sabbatical leaves at Hokkaido University in Japan and Oxford University during the course of his career. Following the retirement of the university’s founding president, Professor Ed Walsh, Professor Downer served as both president and vice chancellor at the University of Louisiana from 1998 until 2006. During his tenure, the university experienced significant increases in the number of students enrolled, the output of research, and the size of the campus footprint.
The Irish Peace Institute, the Munster Rugby Board, the JP McManus All Ireland Scholarships, the Irish Rugby Players Association Player Services Council, the Hunt Museum, and the Foynes Flying Boat Museum were all chaired by Professor Downer during his tenure as a non-executive director at various Irish organizations, including the Hunt Museum and the Foynes Flying Boat Museum. We would like to express our deepest condolences to Jean and the rest of the Downer family on behalf of everyone here at the Foynes Flying Boat & Maritime Museum. Roger was of tremendous assistance throughout the many years of our museum’s growth and development. Margaret O’Shaughnessy, the managing director of the Foynes Flying Boat Museum, remarked that her late father “always gave 100% to everything he was involved in.”
“He was a fighter to the end and will be sorely missed not only by his family but also by the greater community in which he lived.” TD for Tipperary Jackie Cahill extended his “sincere sympathy to the Downer family” and communicated this to the family. Instead of sending flowers, the Downer family has asked that memorial contributions be made to the Irish Cancer Society in lieu of flowers. The surviving members of Professor Downer’s family are his wife Jean, son Kevin, and daughters Katie and Tara.