Former President McAleese will join BC as visiting scholar
By Ed Forry, March 16, 2013
Former President Mary McAleese will come to Boston College this fall as the Burns Library Visiting Scholar in Irish Studies, the university announced on March 15. The Belfast native, who was the first Northern Irish native to hold the presidency, will teach a course and present public lectures while pursuing research in BC's Burns Library Irish Book and Manuscript Collection.
McAleese — now studying for a doctoral degree in canon law at the Gregorian University in Rome — took office in 1997 and proclaimed “Building Bridges” as the theme of her presidency. She advocated for peace and reconciliation through regular trips to Northern Ireland and by hosting visitors from the North at her official residence.
“Coming to Boston, using that wonderful Burns Library, talking with students and faculty members from a variety of disciplines, including my beloved Irish Studies,” said McAleese, “will be for me a seminal opportunity to enrich and deepen the insights I can bring to my own research and also hopefully to add a little to the insights of others.”
McAleese first visited Boston College in 1998 to formally open Connolly House — the headquarters for the University’s Irish programs — and meet with members and friends of the Irish Institute and the Irish Studies Program. She praised BC for its various initiatives to aid the peace process, including a program to assist members of the new Northern Ireland Assembly in preparing for their roles as leaders in government, and the economic development of Ireland and Northern Ireland.
McAleese was reelected to office in 2004, and in 2011 rang down the curtain on her presidency with a history-making event: She hosted Queen Elizabeth II, marking the first visit by a British monarch to the Irish Republic.
"The life of Mary McAleese represents an abundantly appropriate model for Boston College now celebrating its sesquicentennial year,” said Center for Irish Programs Executive Director and University Professor Thomas Hachey.
Established in 1989 with a grant from the Burns Foundation of San Francisco, the Burns Chair is held by a person who has made significant contributions to Irish culture or intellectual life. Past holders, affiliated with some of Ireland's most prestigious cultural and educational institutions, have represented the fields of history, literature, bibliography, language and art. The Irish Collection of Burns Library, the largest and most comprehensive in the United States, includes materials from Nobel laureates William Butler Yeats, Samuel Beckett, George Bernard Shaw and Seamus Heaney. Additional collections include the work of philosopher Thomas Merton; British Catholic authors Graham Greene, Evelyn Waugh and John Henry Cardinal Newman; Jesuitica including original letters from Jesuit Saints Francis Xavier, Francis Borgia and Robert Bellarmine; and the papers of the former Speaker of the US House of Representatives Thomas P. O’Neill, Jr., and Congressman Edward P. Boland, both 1936 graduates of Boston College.