How Stewartstown brickie became a US professor and political force

Dan Dorrity
Dan Dorrity

The cremated remains of a former Stewartstown bricklayer, who became a professor in the United States and went on to hold political office, have been interred in St Mary’s Church Stewartstown.

Dan Dorrity, who died after a long illness in Michigan, was born in 1932 to Daniel and Margaret Dorrity on a small farm in Stewartstown.

As a young man he worked as a bricklayer and an actor on the theatre stage before emigrating to Canada in 1957, and then to the US. He worked as a bricklayer to pay for his education, eventually receiving his PhD in History from the University of Michigan in 1973, and going on to teach as a Professor at Lake Superior State College. During his tenure, he served in academic administration as Dean of the College of Arts and Letters and Assistant to the Vice President for Academic Affairs.

He also held a number of political offices, working tirelessley with state and federal officials as Chairman of his county’s Board of Commisioners. In 1980 he became the Democratic U.S. Congressional 11th district candidate, campaigning with Vice President Walter Mondale. To Dan, however, his greatest accomplishment was being a father to his two children.

Later in life, he relished the joys of fatherhood and enjoyed singing Irish songs, dancing an Irish jig or playing football in the yard.

As a professor, he taught a variety of history courses world history, Russian history, history of the English language, European history, political science and humanities. His teaching style was to engage the students to encourage them to form their own opinions, rather than to impose his own upon them. In a 1975 interview, when he was asked his opinion of the education system, Dan said: “Students are merely asked to check which answer is right or which one is wrong.

“They are not given sufficient opportunity to write, and therefore to use their own creative powers to formulate their own ideas or describe and analyze processes. There is too much emphasis on learning facts instead of understanding them or the causative factors behind them.”

Throughout his 44 years of teaching, Dan encouraged his students to think for themselves and to be confident in their beliefs. He admired the style of Plato, the insights of Shakespeare and the wit of Shaw and always welcomed a good philosophical discussion with his colleagues, his students and his family and friends.

He is survived by his wife Sharon, daughter, Brenna and son, Patrick, brothers Eamon and Joseph; sisters Eleanor McGrath of Edendork and Anna Leahy of Stewartstown.