English professor celebrates 50th year teaching

Dr. Maurice O’Sullivan

Dr. Maurice O’Sullivan’s office is covered in papers and posters—not a single corner of his wooden desk can be seen. Walking into the room is overwhelming at first, but this is the environment that has supported O’Sullivan during his tenure as a professor, which has now reached its 50th year. Forty-four of those years have been spent at Rollins.

O’Sullivan, professor of English, and Kenneth Curry, professor of literature, started at Rollins in 1975 and has filled his half century teaching with controversial conversation. His courses transform students’ writing and appreciation for literature, and he constantly celebrates his Irish heritage. 

As a tribute to his anniversary, The Sandspur reached out to various cohorts and peers and asked them to contribute words and impressions of years working alongside O’Sullivan. 

Dr. Emily Russell, associate professor of English and associate dean of curriculum: 

“Dr. O’Sullivan is a towering presence on campus. He can redirect an entire discussion with just a ‘ha!’ in a crowded faculty meeting. His dedication to Rollins and to literature are an inspiration.” 

Dr. Jana Mathews, associate professor of Medieval literature: 

(Courtesy of Rollins College Archives)
Dr. O’Sullivan in his early years as a professor.

“Dr. O’Sullivan has been teaching students at Rollins for longer than most of the other professors in the English Department have been alive. Minus the messy office and penchant for wearing Irish kilts on special occasions, Dr. O’Sullivan is exactly the kind of professor that I want to be when I grow up: namely, one who is endlessly entrepreneurial in his scholarship and course design; no-nonsense yet compassionate in his mentorship; and, most importantly,  fiercely dedicated to his students and committed to their success. While Socky may be the most senior faculty member (in terms of years taught) at Rollins, what I appreciate and respect most about him is that he hasn’t used his privileged status as an excuse to power down. If anything, he is more busy and engaged than ever.” 

Dr. Wenxian Zhang, Professor and Head of Archives and Special Collections:

“Dr. O’Sullivan has been an outstanding teacher in classrooms, a well accomplished scholar, an outspoken faculty member, and a mentor to countless students throughout his distinguished career at Rollins. A few years back I had the privilege of collaborating with him on a research project, I have been deeply impressed by his extensive knowledge of Florida history and literature, and I greatly appreciate his professional guidance and support. I feel we are a thriving community of learners because of people like Dr. O’Sullivan and other dedicated professors at Rollins.”

Dr. Jack Lane, Weddell Professor of American History Emeritus and College Historian:

“Dr. O’Sullivan and I taught a course on Florida Studies for over 25 years, he taught literature and I taught history—and  occasionally he would drift over into history. I said to him one day [that] I never heard that story about Florida. He said:, ‘Oh, I  take the Irish approach to history?’ I said, ‘What’s that?’ He said: ‘The Irish believe there’s no story that cannot be improved upon.’”

Dr. Kathyrn Norsworthy, Professor of Counseling:

“In addition to his extensive and well-respected scholarship and leadership in, for example, Florida Studies, I always think of Dr. O’Sullivan’s passion for his Irish identity and roots. For example, I loved the pipes performance and that he wore his kilt at his 50-year teaching anniversary celebration.  Thank you, Socky, for all the ways you have put Rollins on the map and helped make us the great liberal arts institution that we are.”

Dr. Mike Gunter, Director of Holt International Affairs:

“Hats off to Dr. O’Sullivan! It’s pretty special to have someone of his stature as a colleague, one whose stunning 50 years within the Academy are only surpassed by the continued passion he brings to both the classroom and his scholarship. Look no further than past and present students, as well as fellow professors, to see his life-changing impacts here at Rollins.”

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