A tribute to Dr. Matt J Duffy

I remember the excitement of walking to your classes during my time at Zayed University like yesterday. You were nothing like the other professors, you walked taller, laughed louder and taught us everything about media laws and journalism with no censorship.

Dr. Matt J Duffy, you will never be forgotten.

You taught me a lot.

You planted a seed of knowledge within me that is continuously growing and I often find myself going back to the roots of everything I learned about journalism and writing from you.

I, like many of your students feel lucky and grateful to have been under your guidance one day.

I will always be your student.

I knew so little about journalism before your classes. In fact, you were the reason I grew a passion for this field. You taught me the basics and continued to build on that. You pushed me to take part in many opportunities reminding me that grades didn’t really matter, experience does. So I enrolled in many programs, wrote more, tweeted more, and read more. You taught me to give voice to the voiceless, tell the truth and always, always ask questions. You taught me what integrity meant and to always give credit where it’s due. Many times, you read to us articles written by journalists from around the world on the UAE, you saw us roll our eyes, sometimes agreeing, sometimes not and told us that this is why the UAE needs Emirati journalists, to tell the other side of the story.

You praised me enough for me to save every email and tweet with encouraging words from you. Many of the assignments I wrote for your classes I kept, not because I ever got an A but because I cherished the amount of knowledge, practice and lessons I gained from them, from you.

You inspired me. You challenged my thoughts. You educated me. You were everything a teacher should be.

Rest in peace Sir.

Your student,



Even after he left the UAE, Dr.Matt always replied to my emails. When I told him I was applying for a MA degree in the UK, he said “WOW” — “You’ll read some really good stuff” and agreed to write me a reference letter too. I used many of his published articles and books in my assignments during that year. I did read some really good stuff, he was right.

I say this often when talking about journalism, that one day, if I found myself on this career path again and found success, I would owe it to two people, Matt J Duffy and David W Bulla. Their teachings are imbedded within the principles of what I believe to be is good journalism.

In his last message to me,
Dr.Matt wrote “Surely our paths will cross again,”

I will never forget this man.

P.s If you were a former student of his, please leave a comment with a memory of Dr. Matt. I am sure it will bring comfort to his family and loved ones during this difficult time.



6 thoughts

  1. From Aml

    Dear Dr Matt,

    I bet every student you taught memorize your name, your truly unforgettable.

    I remember back in the days when my cousin kept forcing me to take a class with you.. you entered the class with your blue eyes and such a beautiful white smile … taking us into the other world of media and everything that has to do with it.

    Although you talked with no censorship yet you literally took us on a real media journey of what to do and what not to do.
    You taught me things that I can type and never get done.

    All I want to say is, thank you for teaching from the bottom of your heart, thank you for always standing for what you believe in no matter what.
    You have been such a great add to us.
    You will forever be remembered.

    May your soul rest in peace,

    Your student,

    Liked by 1 person

  2. As a person who’s so passionate about media, I got to have my first major class with sir Matt. Ever since I entered his class, I always sat in the first row. Enjoying every word said and the endless discussions we had in class. You taught me media basics and I kept building on it from there. Every assignment I’ve wrote in your class is still kept with me. You always believed that I had a journalist in me, I still have the book you gave me. I grew the love of writing after attending your class, you always wished that I would change my mind and be a journalist. We had a special teacher student bond and I had no hesitation in contacting you after you left.
    I remember you wanting to have your own trend so you kept wearing these pants that has one line on the sides. You were hoping people would follow but you knew nobody cared. You did it anyway!

    I remember how I was always so excited about your assignments, i sometimes stay up all night to finish them and attend an 8 am class with full excitement for class discussion.
    Back in the days, Twitter was not very popular but I remember both of us had it. So once you couldn’t make it to class and tweeted me saying that so I can pass it to the class.

    I remember you telling the story behind the name “Duffy” and how it’s your wife’s last name but you took it. We all thought “wow, he must REALLY love her”.

    I believe whoever had even one conversation with you must have enjoyed either a good talk or a great discussion. Your smile, grey hair and blue eyes will never be forgotten. May your Rest In Peace.

    Your student since you first joined Zu,

    Mariam Adel

    Liked by 1 person

  3. As a professor, you never tought me, so i won’t be writing about a sir who taught media, instead i’ll write about a man so distinguishable with his presence, passion and respectful attitude amongst all.
    There was no student who’s head wouldn’t turn the moment you step into the promenade. Walking with hands in your pocket smiling at everyone. Eyes so blue as deep as the ocean you always saw beyond what everyone else saw. I walked into the dean’s office one day to get permission to write about a very sensitive controversial topic. Before the dean could even say a word, you, a man who only heard of my name told me ‘go for it, i support it 100%’ . I wrote it.
    You were fearless and you fought for what you believed in the most: Freedom of Speech.
    Despite everything that has happened, your reputation remained as firm and as tall as a mountain. Not just in Zayed University but in the hearts and minds of many you’ve touched with your intelligence and compassion. Nothing and not even a thousand years ahead would ever change that.
    Your loss is tragic ; beautifully tragic because anyone who thinks of you is not thinking about a man who is gone. They think of a man who gave them so much knowledge, bravery and confidence.

    We know you are in a better place, we know you have found peace, we know you are happy and we are happy for you.
    Thank you for everything, Sir. ♥️

    Sam Sweid


  4. I changed my major 3 times at ZU. That was me, always indecisive and always wandering. It felt like I wasnt gonna find the college I belong to, until Duffy’s class happened. It was one of the longest courses (time-wise) but it was one I did not want to finish. It was very rare, that my friends would have to drag me out of a class long after it was done. Matt would walk in every morning, filled with energy and filled with passion, both of which were very contagious. He filled our souls with excitement to go out, follow our curiosity and bring back ‘very well-written’ stories. It was thanks to him, that I was directed to the path which led me to one of my greatest experiences in life: becoming an Associate Producer at CNN. Every moment of success and of learning I spent there, I would remember Matt Duffy, smile and thank him in my head. Thank you Sir, for giving me the gift of being passionate about what I do, and for showing me the way to the exciting and inspiring world of story telling. May your soul rest in peace, and may peacefullness fall upon the hearts of those who knew you and had to go through the pain of losing such an inspiring soul.


  5. Dear Dhabya,

    Thanks so much for posting this piece on Dr. Matt Duffy. What an inspiration he was. His remarkable reports on the UAE 2010- 2012 suggested it could be a model for the rest of the Middle East on freedom of expression, speech and press. In the years after his departure, so many students told me he was the most inspiring, courageous, energizing and unforgettable teacher they ever had. In his shortened life, he made a far greater mark than others who never dare to “push the envelope.” Keep the faith.


    Jim Buie
    (Now at Elon University in North Carolina, USA)


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