Honorary Professorship for Skye-born Academic

A Canadian professor who was born on Skye/who went to Inverness Royal Academy has been given a special role in his retirement to help the creation of a university of the Highlands and Islands.

Donald Gillies, professor emeritus of media and communications at Ryerson University in Toronto, says he is delighted to accept an honorary professorship with UHI Millennium Institute, the higher education network bidding for university title.

“I have been moved and impressed by the development and vivacity of UHI and, now that I’m retired, I’m delighted to offer my academic, administrative, and professional training and experience to contribute to its essential work, including research, postgraduate supervision, and advancement, “ he said. “I’m thrilled by the prospect of helping to bring a university of the Highlands and Islands into being.” 

Professor Gillies was born in Broadford, Skye, and attended the former Broadford Junior Secondary School and then Inverness Royal Academy. His parents, from Fort William and Broadford, were native Gaelic speakers, and a kinsman was Father Allan McDonald – Maighstir Ailean – of Eriskay, the renowned poet and scholar.

A graduate of the universities of Edinburgh, Toronto, London, and Imperial College, the professor has been an adult learner of Gaelic in Toronto and UHI partner college Sabhal Mòr Ostaig on Skye since 2003. He has spent the last four summers at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig taking Gaelic courses and conducting research. 

He has combined his work in media and communications with new research into the political economy of Gaelic culture, specifically Gaelic media ecology, and has presented papers on this topic at two recent conferences: Rannsachadh na Gàidhlig 4 in 2006 and Heritage and the Environment in 2007, both at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig. He has written and lectured on Gaelic culture in both Canada and Scotland and is a director of the Canadian Celtic Arts Association and a life member of An Comunn Gaidhealach.

Professor Gillies was the founding associate director and now adjunct professor to the Joint York University and Ryerson University Graduate Programme in Communication and Culture, and was formerly the chair of Ryerson’s School of Image Arts. He is a member of the executive committee of the McLuhan Programme in Culture and Technology in the University of Toronto.

Along with his university work, Professor Gillies has been managing director and chief executive of the Telecommunication Executive Management Institute of Canada, and a consultant to public and private sector organisations in Canada, France and the United States as well as the governments of Canada and Ontario. He has also served as a Canadian delegate to the International Telecommunication Union and UNESCO.

Professor Bob Cormack, UHI principal, said: “Donald’s skills and experience, coupled with his great passion for Gaelic language and culture, made him an obvious choice for an honorary professorship and we are sure to benefit from his involvement with UHI.”