New Look for Irish Programs

New Look for Irish Programs

By Sean Smith
Chronicle Editor
The Center for Irish Programs at Boston College recently announced key administrative changes in the Irish Studies Program, the Irish Institute and the BC-Ireland Office in Dublin.

Irish Studies Director Assoc. Prof. Kevin O'Neill (History), who with the late Adele Dalsimer co-founded the program in 1978, has stepped down to devote more time to research and teaching. The program will be headed by Adj. Assoc. Prof. Robert Savage (History), who had served as associate director since 1995, and Assoc. Prof. Marjorie Howes (English).

Ireland-born administrator and scholar Mary O'Herlihy was appointed director of the Irish Institute, the executive-education arm of the Center for Irish Programs. O'Herlihy was formerly the director of publications and research associate at Boston College's Social Welfare Research Institute.

In addition, Brian Kane, who had been acting director at the institute, was named director of the Center for Irish Programs Dublin office.

Changes in the leadership of BC's Irish Programs include the hiring of Mary O'Herlihy (left) as director of the Irish Institute and the appointment of Robert Savage and Marjorie Howes as co-directors of the Irish Studies Program. (Photo by Lee Pellegrini)
"Boston College is exceptionally fortunate to have been able to recruit such outstanding replacements for those departing administrators who were so essential to the center's success," said Center for Irish Programs Executive Director Thomas E. Hachey.

"In Rob Savage and Marjorie Howes, we have two veteran teacher-scholars who will ensure that Irish Studies will continue to prosper. Mary O'Herlihy is an exceptionally quick study, a thorough professional in whose hands the Irish Institute will be well served. And the Center for Irish Programs Dublin operation could not have been given a more dedicated and talented young administrator than Brian Kane.

"Transitions are, at the very least, time-intensive, and I am grateful for the fact that the fortunes of our Irish Collections at the Burns Library will continue to remain in the capable hands of Robert O'Neill, an administrator and librarian whose experience and sagacity have served the center, and Boston College, unfailingly well.

"With these appointments, I am confident that Boston College will continue to offer a mix of complementary, and interdisciplinary, Irish programs unmatched anywhere in North America."

Hachey said that the co-director positions for Irish Studies - the original model used from the program's beginning until Dalsimer's death three years ago - will be rotated among program faculty every few years.

"It is not that our Irish Studies faculty lack the staying power to remain indefinitely as program administrators," he said, "but rather that there are so many activities, from lecture series to publications to special events, requiring much time and attention. As important as these might be to the promotion of Irish Studies, we also want our faculty to enjoy their teaching and research interests free of administrative work after a reasonable time spent as director."

Savage, who joined the University faculty in 1993, was recently named the Irish-American Cultural Institute's Fellow in Irish Studies at the National University of Ireland, Galway for 2004. He has served in editorial and administrative capacities for a number of Irish Studies journals and associations, and shared his expertise with the Boston Globe, the New York Times, the Irish Times, and the Times of London, National Public Radio's "All Things Considered" and local radio and television stations.

His books include Ireland in the New Century: Politics, Culture and Identity, for which he served as editor, Seán Lemass: A Biography (1999), and Irish Television: A Political and Social History (1996). He has published a number of scholarly articles on 20th-century Irish history, media, and visual arts and is currently researching a political and social history of Ireland in the 1960s.

Howes, who came to BC in 2001 from Rutgers University, is the author of Yeats's Nations: Gender, Class, and Irishness; co-editor of Semicolonial Joyce; editor of Bram Stoker's Dracula, and contributing editor of The Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing, Volume 4. Her teaching interests include modern Irish literature and poetry, Yeats and Joyce, and post-colonial Ireland. She received her doctorate from Princeton University in 1990.

"Over the past 25 years Kevin O'Neill and Adele Dalsimer developed a program that earned an international reputation for excellence," said Savage. "I look forward to working with my colleague Marjorie Howes and all of the Irish Studies faculty to build on the strengths of a remarkable interdisciplinary program."

O'Neill said it had been "a rare privilege" to serve as co-director and director of Irish Studies. Reflecting on his professional and personal relationship with Dalsimer, he said, "Adele and I most treasured the colleagues that have joined our program, and it gives me immense pleasure and confidence to hand the reins to Rob Savage and Marjorie Howes. It was out of such interdisciplinary collaboration that this program was created and nurtured, and in these very capable hands it will continue to prosper."

A native of Cork, Ireland, new Irish Institute director O'Herlihy holds a bachelor's degree in English and German and a master's degree in English from the National University of Ireland, Cork. She first came to Boston College in 1995 as a recipient of a graduate fellowship in English, then returned to BC in 1998 for doctoral work in English following a year spent teaching English and German at Bruce College, Cork and two years as a teaching fellow at University College Cork.

"I am extremely pleased to work on behalf of this internationally renowned center of excellence for the study of Irish history, culture, politics and current affairs," said O'Herlihy. "Boston College has always maintained close ties to Ireland. It is a tribute to how the relationship has evolved, that we are now able to provide educational opportunities to 21st century Irish and Northern Irish leaders, who have the option of realizing their destinies at home."

O'Herlihy believes her experience at SWRI will serve her well at the Irish Institute. In May, she delivered a seminar offering an overview of US philanthropy with comparisons to Ireland and Northern Ireland as part of the Irish Institute's Nonprofit Management and Development Program.

"Ireland's recent experience of economic success is well-known. But as the country has generally become more affluent, its societal needs have not diminished," O'Herlihy said. "The successes of the Good Friday Agreement, for example, have brought to the fore the role of underlying social problems in giving rise to sectarianism in Northern Ireland: unemployment, poverty, segregation of communities and housing, and so on. In the future, as has happened in the US, we are likely to see more responsibility being taken by nonprofits and private philanthropy in addressing these needs through smaller scale, more creative strategies.

"In fact, one of the programs we are planning for the coming year focuses precisely on helping nonprofit CEOs gain the fundraising and strategic planning skills to help them work more effectively with donors and more efficiently to realize their missions."

Information on the Center for Irish Programs is available at


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