A Tribute to Professor David Harold Cox R.I.P.

25 Aug 2020
Professor David Cox Photo by Tomás Tyner

The faculty of Music at University College Cork are deeply saddened by the passing of Professor David Harold Cox last Tuesday evening on the 18 August 2020.

David was a much beloved colleague and teacher, whose leadership as Head of the Department of Music, University College Cork, fostered an incredibly vibrant and welcoming learning and creative environment for UCC students and staff, as well as artists in the wider community. David’s outstanding leadership qualities were central to the growth of new paradigms of Music education at third level at that time, combining excellence in performance, composition, and scholarship. His legacy is still keenly felt to this day, and his vision for the Music Department inspired and enabled students and staff alike.

David Cox took up his position as Professor of Music at University College Cork in 1994. A Yorkshire man, he came to UCC from a position of Senior Lecturer at Sheffield University. He was subsequently appointed Dean of the Faculty of Arts (2003) and became the first Head of the College of Arts, Celtic Studies and Social Sciences (2006-2010). He was an extremely accomplished composer. He wrote many works for choral, chamber and orchestral combinations. Some of his commissions included those from the Sheffield Chamber Orchestra, the Arts Council of Great Britain, the Cork International Choral Festival, and the Arts Council of Ireland. He was also a member of the Cobh Cathedral Carillon Committee and composed many pieces for carillon and he was a great friend to many performers and composers in Cork and across Ireland. Two very dear and devoted friends of his, Adrian and Liz Gebruers of Cobh, recall David’s enduring professional and personal impact in the region: “David, and his wife Roslyn who predeceased him, became our close friends from when they moved to live in Ireland. Our professional association mainly revolved around the Cobh Carillon, for which David was inspired to compose four significant modern works – The Torch of Learning, Exodus, The Sacred Metal (commissioned with sponsorship from The Arts Council) and The Golden Dance - but parallel with that developed a deep friendship between the four of us. We miss them greatly and shall never forget them.”   David’s devoted wife Roslyn sadly passed away in 2013 after a long illness. Roslyn worked in the Publications Section of the Office of Media and Communications and she will also be fondly remembered at this sad time by all her colleagues and friends at UCC.   

Upon his appointment as Professor of Music at UCC, David Cox adopted an open-door policy to both his students and staff and his door remained open to all. As Professor he introduced many new and innovative courses and he championed all aspects of music. He became an active member of the artistic community of his new city of Cork, forming a community of composers and making it his business to reach out and to get to know those involved in artistic endeavours. He was very supportive of the Cork Choral Festival and many other artistic and cultural activities and events in the city.


Dr. Tríona Ní Shíocháin, current Head of Department of Music at UCC and a former student of David Cox, remembers the truly incredible environment fostered by Professor Cox’s leadership while a student in UCC in the late 1990s – the openness and collegiality, the engaging environment and extracurricular performance activities, and the inspiring combination of scholarship and creative practice: “his vision for Music at UCC was utterly holistic and his dedication to his students immense.” Dr. Paul Everett, a former Head of Department at UCC, recalls David’s exceptional ability as a manager and advocate who embraced and fostered the pioneering culture of curricular change in the Department on his arrival in 1994. He recalls his effectiveness in advocating for the Discipline of Music at university level, which culminated in his negotiation of the Music Department’s move to its new premises in the former St. Vincent’s Monastery on Sunday’s Well Road. David was heavily involved with the architects as regards the renovations to the Building and the final move to Sunday’s Well took place in February 2000. 

David was a highly effective yet personable and inclusive leader, steering the university on its new path of Schoolification during his time as Dean of Arts and then Head of College at a time of significant reform for the university. Colleagues across the faculty remember him with great fondness. Professor of Performing Arts at the University of Limerick, Mel Mercier, was a colleague of David’s for many years in the Department of Music, UCC, where he says he benefitted greatly from David’s generous mentorship: “I appreciated his style and humour, and his support and advocacy for a broad inclusive music education that honoured both local and global traditions of practice. I remember him as a warm, avuncular man who brought rich professorial colour to the department’s early years in Sunday’s Well.” It was during that time that Professor Mercier would become the first Head of School of Music and Theatre in 2009 during David Cox’s period as Head of College at UCC.

Former colleague, Mary Mitchell-Ingoldsby, Director of the Traditional Music Archive and Lecturer in Music at UCC, remembers David Cox very warmly as an open minded, creative person who greatly enriched the Music Department. His clear thinking and down-to-earth manner endeared him to many. He was very supportive of Irish traditional music and he had a particular love for the harp and the bagpipes. Lecturer in Jazz, Paul O’Donnell, says of David Cox on his appointment as Professor in 1994 that he was “a breath of fresh air” who was instrumental in the elevation of the status of Jazz and Popular Music performance within the Department alongside well-established traditions in Irish traditional music and Western Art music performance: “I feel that our ethos of diversity and inclusivity, today, owes a lot to David, from his time at UCC.”  It was during this time also that the study of Carillon, under the expert tutelage of Adrian Gebruers, was incorporated into the curriculum of the Department of Music.

David’s unique contribution to Music at UCC endured throughout the extremely productive years he spent as Head of College, and his continued interest in and support of Music colleagues is remembered fondly by UCC Lecturer in Music, Dr. Melanie Marshall: “David was Dean of Arts when I started at UCC’s Music Department, and although he was rarely in the Music Building as he was now Dean of Arts and then Head of College, he was still very much a presence there; he would often be fondly referenced in meetings and casual chats in the corridors. I found David to be generous with his time and advice. I think he managed to make time for meetings in person by keeping his email replies extremely short. More than once he used his experience and droll humour to help me navigate institutional politics. I valued his guidance, his creative approaches to challenges, and his openness.”  

The College Manager, Majella O’Sullivan, recalls David’s enormous contribution during the process of Schoolification at University College Cork, and the clarity of ideas which underpinned his decision making, the inclusivity he fostered, and his genuine interest in and engagement with everyone’s thoughts and opinions. He is described as having had a great sense of vision during his time as Dean and Head of College, as well as showing complete selflessness in his dedication to the university. He was a very sociable and outgoing person and really enjoyed College and Departmental events and parties. David was a very warm person, and this is remembered very fondly by both staff and students. Dr. Michelle Finnerty, as both a student and then a colleague, remembers the incredible support that David gave his students, and the pride he took in their successes and achievements. Michelle speaks of fond memories of convivial staff parties over which David presided with wit and good humour. Dr. Finnerty, herself an expert in Music Education inspired by David Cox’s leadership, says that David’s open door approach and his keen understanding of the central importance of creative spaces beyond the classroom, and of community engagement for Music education at university, were ahead of his time, and that he was first and foremost a great educator: “An inspiring, passionate and charismatic educator, David was inclusive and student-centred in his pedagogical approach. His leadership was critical to the development of music education and community music at local and national levels.”

Dr. Eva McMullan-Glossop, Director of the UCC Choir and a former student and later a colleague of David’s, also echoes the incredible student-centred approach fostered by David during his time as Professor of Music at UCC: “He was an incredible mentor and his student centred approach to education was inspirational. David was fair, yet encouraging, and always found a way to motivate and help you achieve your goals. I am indebted to him for my love of choral music and his extensive knowledge of repertory and leadership have considerably influenced my approach to choral conducting. However, I will not only remember him for his excellence in teaching, but his kindness.”

Carmel Daly, who worked closely with David for many years as Senior Executive Assistant for Music, says that “during our time working together in the Rectory and St Vincent’s we had some interesting times with many changes. I enjoyed his quirky sense of humour and we had some great laughs. To me he was a fair and understanding Head of Department. He was a great supporter of the Dónal 'Doc' Gleeson Awards, and he attended the concerts held each year and he still supported them into his retirement. Personally, I will always remember him for his unique and inventive Christmas presents, always given with good humour. He will be missed.”

David’s generous and warm-hearted disposition, his good humour and wit, and his collegiality made a lasting impact on all who had the privilege of working with him. His students and colleagues will remember Professor David Cox with great fondness as an inspirational leader, an accomplished composer, and a gifted educator.


We offer our deepest condolences to his family, David, Caroline, and Ruth Hancock at this sad time.


Leabaidh i measc na Naomh agus ceol suaimhneach séimh síoraí na bhFlaitheas go raibh aige.


The Department of Music, University College, Cork

21 August 2020

Department of Music

Roinn an Cheoil

T23 HF50