Father Damian DuQuesnay, O.S.B., Awarded Doctor of Humane Letters

March 09, 2015

An Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree was awarded to Father Damian DuQuesnay, O.S.B., in a special ceremony as part of Sunday Mass, March 8, at Saint Leo Abbey. He was conferred the honorary degree by the Board of Trustees of Saint Leo University in a resolution dated February 7, 2015.

A full church stood and applauded as Dr. DuQuesnay was hooded by Dr. Arthur F. Kirk, Jr., president of Saint Leo University. Dr. Kirk lauded Father Damian as a “true man of faith” and called him “our hero.”

In accepting his honoris causa (Doctor of Humane Letters), Father Damian said he was humbled by the honor. He told the assembled group that “this is the greatest honor of my life” and that “I guess this award affirms that I wasn’t a failure.” He thanked everyone in attendance for sharing in his special day.

(Pictured: Father Damian and some of his former Saint Leo students.)

Father Damian, who will turn 97 in July, was born in Highgate, Jamaica, in 1918. He holds a BS in zoology from Benedictine College and received his master’s degree from Catholic University of America. He was ordained into the priesthood on the Feast of Corpus Christi, June 20, 1946, in the unfinished Abbey Church. Father Damian was the first Jamaican ever to wear the habit of a Benedictine.

In addition to serving a three-year missionary service trip to Argentina (1963-66) with another priest and two brothers from Saint Leo, which he called “one of the greatest adventures of his life,” Father Damian taught numerous subjects at Saint Leo College including biology, histology, and zoology. He also served two separate terms as department chair of the science faculty.

He was prefect in the prep school for 10 years where he taught algebra, biology, chemistry, French, geometry, Latin, and religion. He thoroughly enjoyed teaching students at both the prep school and the college. When asked what type of teacher he was, he simply said “fair.”

After his retirement from the Saint Leo faculty, he was chaplain to Holy Name Monastery, a responsibility he held for four decades but eventually relinquished at age 90 due to his limited mobility.

He was appointed abbey prior in 1957 and also novice master and brother master. He’s also the abbey botanist (a work he continues to the extent his health and strength allow to this day).

Father Damian occupies the “Bishop’s Suite” in Saint Leo Hall at the abbey. He remains faithful in his daily devotionals and prayers.