Hall of Fame – 2011 – Irish America https://irishamerica.com Irish America Magazine Thu, 18 Jul 2019 14:56:42 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.10 82361074 Dr. James Watson https://irishamerica.com/2011/01/dr-james-watson/ https://irishamerica.com/2011/01/dr-james-watson/#respond Sat, 01 Jan 2011 15:04:38 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=847 Read more..]]> The Nobel Scientist 

Dr. James Watson helped to unravel the structure of DNA, a feat so stunning that it is considered by most experts as the greatest scientific achievement of the 20th century. Next up for Dr. Watson is a cure for cancer, and he believes he once again holds the key to that extraordinary breakthrough. And who can doubt him? At 82, he is as committed and hardworking a scientist as ever.

James Dewey Watson was born in Chicago, Illinois in 1928 and educated at the University of Chicago. In 1953, while at Cambridge University, he and Francis Crick successfully proposed the double helical structure for DNA. For this work, Watson and Crick, together with Maurice Wilkins, were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1962.

While a Professor at Harvard, Watson commenced a writing career that generated the seminal text, Molecular Biology of the Gene, the best-selling autobiographical volume, The Double Helix, and most recently Avoid Boring People.

Later, while leading the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in Long Island, New York, he was a driving force behind setting up the Human Genome Project, a major factor in his receipt in 1993 of the Copley Medal from the Royal Society that elected him a member in 1981.

Among other honors, Watson was elected in 1962 to the National Academy of Sciences and, in 1977, received from President Ford the Medal of Freedom. He has received honorary degrees from many universities including The University of Chicago (1961), Harvard University (1978), Cambridge University (1993), University of Oxford (1995), Trinity College, Dublin (2001), and Uppsala University (2007).

Watson received the National Medal of Science in December 1997, the City of Philadelphia Liberty Medal on July 4, 2000, and the Benjamin Franklin Medal awarded by the American Philosophical Society in 2001. Queen Elizabeth II proclaimed him an honorary Knight of the British Empire on January 1, 2002.

Watson has served the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in several capacities since 1968 [Director 1968-1994, President 1994-2003, Chancellor 2003-2007] and now is Chancellor Emeritus.

Watson is a third-generation Irish American and takes deep pride in his Irish heritage. His great grandparents came to the Unites States from County Tipperary in the late 1840s, settled in Ohio and then moved to Indiana after his grandmother, Elizabeth Gleeson, was born in 1861.


Click here to read Niall O’Dowd’s interview with Dr. Watson

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Maureen O’Hara https://irishamerica.com/2011/01/maureen-ohara/ https://irishamerica.com/2011/01/maureen-ohara/#respond Sat, 01 Jan 2011 15:03:49 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=850 Read more..]]> Star of the Silver Screen 

As Mary Kate Danaher in John Ford’s classic film The Quiet Man, Maureen O’Hara has engaged the hearts of viewers the world over for over five decades.

Born Maureen Fitzsimons on August 17, 1921 in Ranelagh, Co. Dublin, O’Hara was one of several actors and singers in the family. Her mother was an actress and singer who performed on stage in Dublin, while her father, a clothing retailer, was one of the founders Dublin’s Shamrock Rovers soccer team.

O’Hara began her career with the Abbey Theatre in Dublin. Her 1939 performance in Jamaica Inn, directed by Alfred Hitchcock, so impressed her co-star Charles Laughton that he cast her as Esmeralda in The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Laughton also renamed her, telling her that the name Fitzsimons was too complicated for Hollywood.

O’Hara made a total of 58 pictures in a career which spanned almost 50 years. Her versatility saw her cast as everything from a Castillian to a French adventuress in a series of costume epics. She made a total of five films with John Ford, including The Quiet Man, How Green Was My Valley and Rio Grande. She also gave sterling performances in such timeless classics as Miracle on 34th Street.

In 1998, Maureen realized a long-held ambition when she because the third woman to lead the New York St. Patrick’s Day Parade up Fifth Avenue. Adoring crowds shouted greetings as she marched along proudly.

Maureen, who now lives in Glengarriff, Co. Cork, has written a memoir called Tis Herself, in which she expounds on her early days in Hollywood, her late husband, and love of her life, pilot Charlie Blair, her friendship with John Wayne, and the difficult to work for, but “brilliant” John Ford.

Maureen now devotes herself to the The Maureen O’Hara Foundation which exists to establish a centre of excellence in film studies in Glengarriff.

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Ambassador Jean Kennedy Smith https://irishamerica.com/2011/01/ambassador-jean-kennedy-smith/ https://irishamerica.com/2011/01/ambassador-jean-kennedy-smith/#respond Sat, 01 Jan 2011 15:01:29 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=844 Read more..]]> Activist, Humanitarian and Diplomat 

Often referred to as the shy Kennedy, Jean Kennedy Smith has quietly blazed her own trail while still holding true to the family legacy of public service. The last of the Kennedy siblings still living, Kennedy Smith has devoted her life to advocating for the disabled and working towards peace in Northern Ireland.

In 1993, President Bill Clinton appointed Kennedy Smith the U.S. Ambassador to Ireland. It was a thrilling honor and achievement for many reasons – particularly because it granted her a direct, active role in politics and made her and her father, Joseph Sr., the first father and daughter to serve as U.S. ambassadors. Additionally, as she stated in a previous interview with Irish America, “Next to President of the United States, Ambassador to Ireland is surely one of the best jobs an Irish American can hold.”

Kennedy Smith was appointed ambassador at a crucial moment in the Northern Ireland Peace Process and played a pivotal role in the issuing of a U.S. visa to Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams. In September 1998, seven months after the historic Good Friday Agreement, she resigned as ambassador.

Ireland’s President Mary McAleese praised Kennedy Smith’s “fixedness of purpose” during a ceremony in 1998 which conferred honorary citizenship on the U.S. Ambassador to Ireland as her four-year term came to a close. Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Bertie Ahern paid tribute to Kennedy Smith’s “immense service” during her tenure, saying, “You have helped bring about a better life for everyone throughout Ireland.” The Massachusetts native described her ambassadorial term as “the most remarkable, most exciting, most rewarding years of my life.” Kennedy Smith returned to the U.S. shortly afterward and in May 2000, she developed a cross-border Irish arts festival, featuring dance, music, visual arts, literature and theater.

Kennedy Smith has always kept a lower profile in comparison to her siblings. Now 83, she rarely gives interviews, though she did give one in January in relation to the 50th Anniversary of her brother’s presidential inauguration.

As ever, family is still a priority. In August 2009, Kennedy Smith chose to miss her sister Eunice’s funeral to stay by Edward Kennedy’s side as he was dying of cancer. Now, she is the last of the nine Kennedy siblings, though she does not dwell on that, focusing instead on the here and now.

Since leaving diplomatic service, Kennedy Smith has received numerous accolades for her work to bring peace to Northern Ireland and for her work with the disabled. She has received honorary degrees from multiple institutions. In 2010, she and the late Sen. Edward Kennedy were named the recipients of the 2009 Tipperary Peace Prize. Most recently, Kennedy Smith was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by current President Barack Obama for both her diplomatic service as well as her humanitarian efforts.


Click here to read the full feature article that coincided with Kennedy Smith’s induction into the Hall of Fame


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Denis Kelleher https://irishamerica.com/2011/01/denis-kelleher/ https://irishamerica.com/2011/01/denis-kelleher/#respond Sat, 01 Jan 2011 15:01:23 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=841 Read more..]]> The Wall Street Success Story 

Denis Kelleher is founder and CEO of Wall Street Access. Since 1981, Wall Street Access has combined an independent, entrepreneurial culture with a powerful platform to build and operate a diverse set of successful financial services businesses.

Kelleher, the son of a shoemaker, left his native Kerry in 1958 and landed on Wall Street as a messenger boy with Merrill Lynch soon afterwards. The night before emigrating he had come home late from a dance in a nearby village of Rathmore and found a note from his sister saying that the ticket to America was waiting for him at Shannon Airport. That was all it took, and the next day he left his old life behind forever.

Through dynamic financial talent, he rose dramatically through the Merrill Lynch company ranks until 1969 when he founded Ruane Cunniff and its Sequoia Fund. In 1981 he founded Wall Street Access.

Despite his extraordinary success, Kelleher never lost sight of his humble roots. When the issue of Irish illegal immigration became a major problem in the 1980s, he was one of the chief underwriters of organizations seeking to legalize the undocumented. He has also been a major contributor to the American Ireland Fund and has his own special scholarship fund in his native Kerry to help promising students. He was awarded the Ellis Island Medal of Honor in 1995.

Kelleher is a graduate of St. John’s University, where he currently serves as a member of the board of trustees, previously serving as chairman of the board for eight years. He is director of The New Ireland Fund, member of the board of trustees of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and a member of the Staten Island Foundation.

In 2005, Kelleher was Grand Marshal of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in New York City. He lives on Staten Island with his wife Carol. They have three children and eight grandchildren.


Click here to read the full Hall of Fame interview with Kelleher

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Mary Higgins Clark https://irishamerica.com/2011/01/mary-higgins-clark/ https://irishamerica.com/2011/01/mary-higgins-clark/#respond Sat, 01 Jan 2011 14:54:11 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=838 Read more..]]> The Queen of Suspense 

“As the parade goes up Fifth Avenue I will be thinking of the father who came over with five pounds in his pocket and who died when I was only eleven, the mother who encouraged my dreams of being a writer by treating every word I wrote as though it was scripted by the angels.”

Known as the “Queen of Suspense,” Mary Higgins Clark is one of America’s premier “who-done-it” writers. Her books are worldwide best-sellers. Several of her novels have been made into television dramas and two, Where Are the Children? and A Stranger is Watching, have been made into major movies. Her $64 million five-book deal with Simon and Schuster in 2000 made publishing history, but as one book after another surpasses the million mark sales, the arrangement looks like a bargain.

Higgins Clark always wrote, but the untimely death of her husband, Warren, in 1964 made selling a necessity in order to support her five young children. Every morning she got up at five and wrote until seven, when she had to get the kids ready for school. Her first suspense novel, Where Are the Children? (1975) was a best-seller. That debut of her toe-curling and page-turning talent is now in its seventy-fifth printing.

Her many honors include the 1997 Horatio Alger Award, being named a Dame of Malta, 13 honorary doctorates, and winning the Grand Prix de Literature of France. But for Mary, who is proud to call herself “an Irish storyteller from the Bronx,” perhaps the most meaningful of the honors she received was being named Grand Marshal of New York City’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade in 2011 – a doubly significant honor, as 2011 marked the parade’s 250th anniversary.

Higgins Clark’s father was an Irish emigrant from County Roscommon and her mother was first-generation American. She considers her Irish heritage an important influence on her writing. Her father, who owned Higgins Bar and Grille, a well-regarded pub and restaurant in the Bronx, died when Mary was a young girl. Mary recalled in a recent interview with Irish America magazine that her mother was left with “2,000 and three children,” and for a time had to take in boarders to keep the family afloat. Her mother encouraged Mary’s writing, and Mary was inspired by listening to the stories that her mother’s sisters and friends would tell, gathered in the kitchen of their home. “The Irish are, by nature, storytellers,” she says. Her daughter, Carol Higgins Clark, is also a mystery writer. A graduate of Fordham University, Mary Higgins Clark now resides in New Jersey with her husband, John Conheeney, a retired Merrill Lynch CEO.


Click here for Patricia Harty’s Hall of Fame interview with Higgins Clark

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William Clay Ford, Jr. https://irishamerica.com/2011/01/william-clay-ford-jr/ https://irishamerica.com/2011/01/william-clay-ford-jr/#respond Sat, 01 Jan 2011 14:53:57 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=4068 Read more..]]> The Man Behind the Trademark

The incredible leadership of Ford Motor Company and its executive chairman, Bill Ford, Jr. are hardly surprising when you look at the history of the company and its founder. Henry Ford, whose father was an Irish immigrant from Ballinascarthy, Co. Cork, revolutionized how people physically move around the country – and world. He revolutionized the workplace, particularly altering the way workers are paid and how much they earn. He also forever changed the oil and gas industries, organized labor and even the pace of road and highway construction.

Henry, whose father was an Irish immigrant from Cork, also had a major impact on social and economic conditions in Ireland, when he opened a plant in Cork in 1917, bringing 7,000 jobs to the area.

The Ford family connection to Ireland remains strong. Edsel Ford II and his family visited in 2004. Bill Ford, Jr., the fourth generation to have a commanding role at the company, visited in August 2011.

Ford was born in 1957 (his father, William Clay Ford Sr., in a fitting match, married Martha Parke Firestone of the famous tire family). He graduated from Princeton in 1979 having majored in history, where he wrote a senior thesis for which he had particularly personal insight: “Henry Ford and Labor: A Reappraisal.” He earned an MS degree in management as an Alfred P. Sloan fellow from MIT.

He joined the Ford team in 1979 as a product analyst and held a variety of domestic and international assignments in manufacturing, sales, marketing, product development and finance, before becoming vice president, Commercial Truck Vehicle Center in 1994.  He served as CEO from October 2001 to September 2006. As CEO, Ford introduced a series of environmentally friendly cars, and in 2005, he hired William McDonough to redevelop the once-decaying River Rouge manufacturing facility and turn it into a sustainable operation with the largest green roof in the world. A member of the board since 1988, Ford became chairman in 1999. He also serves as chairman of the board’s Sustainability Committee.

Ford established the William C. Ford, Jr. Scholarship Program, which provides scholarships for children of Ford workers in the U.S. He has donated millions from his compensation to this scholarship program since 2005. He also is very supportive and takes an active role in children’s charities in the Detroit area.

This past November, he and his wife, Lisa, the mother of their four children, served as Grand Marshals of the Thanksgiving Day Parade in Detroit.


Click here to read Patricia Harty’s full interview with Bill Ford, Jr.

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William J. Flynn https://irishamerica.com/2011/01/william-j-flynn-2/ https://irishamerica.com/2011/01/william-j-flynn-2/#respond Sat, 01 Jan 2011 14:52:44 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=835 Read more..]]> The Peacemaker 

“No pessimist ever set foot on Ellis Island, no pessimist ever crossed the prairies, and no pessimist built cities from one end of the continent to the other. These things were done by people with vision and hope.”

William J. Flynn has been a leader in business, a catalyst for peace, and has always been equally committed to his native country and the land of his ancestors. He will always be remembered as the man who broke the mold when he set out in tandem with a few others to dispense with the great taboo that American business should not get involved in bringing peace to Ireland.

Flynn helped build Mutual of America from a small, struggling organization in 1971 into the industry leader and insurance giant it is today. Now, four decades later, he is the chairman emeritus of the company. Flynn was also a key figure in the U.S. delegation that worked tirelessly to broker the first IRA ceasefire in 1994.

As chairman of the National Committee on American Foreign Policy (NCAFP), the first Irish American to hold the position, Flynn’s advice was instrumental in persuading President Clinton to grant a U.S. visa for Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams to attend a ground-breaking cross-border conference hosted by the NCAFP in 1994. Flynn also led two delegations to Northern Ireland to push for economic investment and peace in the region.

A native New Yorker whose parents came from counties Mayo and Down Flynn is a past chairman of the Ireland Chamber of Commerce in the U.S.A. and has been a board member of several organizations, including the American Cancer Society Foundation, Co-Operation Ireland and the Catholic Health Association of the United States. Irish America magazine chose him as Irish American of the Year in 1994, and in 1996, as Grand Marshal, he proudly led the New York City St. Patrick’s Day Parade up Fifth Avenue. In 1999, he was selected by Irish America as one of The Greatest Irish Americans of the 20th Century.

On his visits to Ireland, Flynn always takes time to stand at the graveside of his grandparents in Loughinisland, County Down, just over the border from the Republic of Ireland. His father, Bill Flynn Sr., emigrated from Loughinisland to British Columbia. He moved to Seattle to work in shipbuilding then the mining town of Butte, Montana before landing in New York. In New York, Flynn Sr. met Anna Connors, from outside Castlebar in Mayo. She was a daughter of farmers who had taken the emigrant boat herself. She had a sister in Brooklyn who likely had sent the fare back to her. In 1925 Anna Connors and Bill Flynn were married. A year later, Bill Flynn Jr. was born.

Flynn holds an MA in economics from Fordham University. He married Peg Collins, an Irish-American girl from the Bronx, in 1953. Together they raised four children, two of whom are now deceased, and they are the proud grandparents of ten.


Click here for the full feature article that marked Flynn’s induction into the Hall of Fame


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Michael Flatley https://irishamerica.com/2011/01/michael-flatley/ https://irishamerica.com/2011/01/michael-flatley/#respond Sat, 01 Jan 2011 14:50:42 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=832 Read more..]]> The Lord of the Dance 

Michael Flatley first stepped onto the world stage in 1994 when he created Riverdance. He unveiled his new show Lord of the Dance in 1996 and began a world tour that would break box office records in 5 continents. His name and Lord of the Dance brand have become synonymous with spectacular artistry and grand-scale productions that have mesmerized audiences around the globe. He has created, directed and produced several successful shows including Lord of the Dance, Feet of Flames and Celtic Tiger. In 1998 Lord of the Dance set a record breaking run of 21 shows at London’s legendary Wembley arena and worldwide video sales were in excess of 12 million copies. Feet of Flames was the first show ever to be performed at London’s historic “Route of Kings” in Hyde Park. This show reached new heights as Michael took it to stadia filled to capacity at 120,000. Celtic Tiger debuted in 2005 and began a new era of dance which combined tradition with an international flare. Michael Flatley is also a master flautist for which he has won many All Ireland titles.

Michael has set many Guinness World Records for his phenomenal speed at 35 taps per second and has been recognized by many establishments and received countless awards for his contribution to the entertainment industry and the promotion and enrichment of Ireland, Irish Dance and Music. His support of many causes over the last two decades has aided and encouraged countless people to embrace his motto “nothing is impossible…follow your dreams”.

In 2011 Michael Flatley released the first ever 3D dance movie Lord of the Dance 3D in which he reprised his original role as Lord of the Dance. The show, featuring new sets, lighting, costumes and special effects in breathtaking performances was captured in 3D at London’s O2 and Dublin’s O2 Arenas in the autumn of 2010.

A Chicago native, Michael’s has ancestral Irish roots in Co. Carlow and Co. Sligo from which his mother and father respectively hail. His mother grew up in the picturesque St Mullins. They immigrated to the United States in 1947. Today Michael resides at Castlehyde, Co Cork with his family.


Click here for the full Hall of Fame interview with Flatley


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Charles F. Feeney https://irishamerica.com/2011/01/charles-f-feeney/ https://irishamerica.com/2011/01/charles-f-feeney/#respond Sat, 01 Jan 2011 14:48:47 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=829 Read more..]]> The Quiet Philanthropist 

Charles “Chuck” Feeney has amassed billions of dollars in wealth. However, he doesn’t own an opulent house, a car or a Rolex. He prefers taking cabs, riding the subway, or just walking when he’s in New York. He flies economy, even on international flights. And since the 1980s, he has given away his fortune to humanitarian and educational causes throughout the world. Preferring to give it all away while he is still alive, Feeney wants to better the lives of people around the world in the here and now.

Chuck Feeney was never one for the limelight, but his selfless actions over the years have propelled him into it whether he liked it or not. In 1996, it emerged that he had donated over $600 million, a huge portion of his personal wealth, to create Atlantic Foundation, the fourth-largest philanthropic organization in the U.S.

The co-founder of Duty Free Shops, Feeney, a New Jersey native, was identified as the donor only after the sale of the chain of stores.

Innumerable charities and organizations have benefited from this donation, three Irish universities among them – Trinity College Dublin, Dublin City University, and the University of Limerick.

Feeney holds dual citizenship in Ireland and the United States and has always gone to bat on all things Irish, from lending his considerable support in bringing American involvement to bear on the Irish peace process to supporting efforts to help illegal Irish immigrants.

Born in 1931, Feeney was raised in a working class section of Elizabeth, NJ during the Great Depression. His father, the son of an emigrant from Co. Fermanagh, Ireland, was an insurance underwriter and his mother was a nurse. In 1948, at age 17, Chuck enlisted in the United States Air Force, serving for four years in postwar Japan and Korea. After his military service, Feeney received a GI scholarship and enrolled at Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration, where his flair for business was first discovered.

New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd, writing after Feeney addressed the guests at an Irish America magazine Business 100 luncheon, a rare occurrence for one as publicity-shy, described his desire for anonymity as “startling in an age when people stamp their names on every available surface.”

In 2007, Feeney’s life story was finally told in The Billionaire Who Wasn’t: How Chuck Feeney Made and Gave Away a Fortune Without Anyone Knowing, written by Conor O’Clery.


Click here to read the full feature article about Feeney, marking his induction into the Hall of Fame

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President William J. Clinton https://irishamerica.com/2011/01/president-william-j-clinton/ https://irishamerica.com/2011/01/president-william-j-clinton/#respond Sat, 01 Jan 2011 14:45:28 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=825 Read more..]]> Politician and Peacemaker 

“The [Irish] people want peace; the people will have peace.”
Bill Clinton, Belfast City Hall, 30 November 1995

President Clinton was a major supporter of the Irish peace process. He took the strongest position on Irish issues ever taken by an American president. His Irish roots are from his mother, Virginia Cassidy Kelley, who was the granddaughter of emigrants from County Fermanagh. Clinton was named Irish American of the Year by Irish America magazine in 1996 and was inducted into the Irish America Hall of Fame in March 2011.

Bill Clinton’s first visit to Ireland in November 1995 was truly historic. Huge crowds turned out, and in Belfast an estimated 50,000 people from both sides of the sectarian divide saw him deliver a strong message for peace. It was the first time a US president had been to Northern Ireland.

In 1994, President Clinton granted a U.S. visa to Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams, a decision that prompted the first IRA ceasefire and played a huge role in the Irish peace process. Clinton said at the time: ‘The US cannot miss this rare opportunity for our country to participate in the peace process.’

In September 1998, Bill and Hillary Clinton visited Omagh, a town still reeling from the effects of a bombing the month before. Bertie Ahern, then Taoiseach (Prime Minister) of Ireland, said later during Clinton’s visit to Dublin: ‘The helping hand of the United States was always there in the hour of need. And there were many such hours.’

Clinton played a key role during the crucial lead up to the Good Friday Agreement – a pivotal moment that established the Northern Ireland Assembly. Senator George Mitchell, the man he personally appointed as his peace emissary, brought all of the parties together to sign the historic document on 10 April 1998.

In good times and bad, Clinton has continued to persevere on Ireland, a fact that makes him hugely popular with Irish Americans. As the political parties feverishly worked to make a Northern Ireland government a reality, Clinton was always on hand to pick up the phone – or to remind party leaders what they stood to lose if an agreement was not reached.


Click here for the full feature article that marked President Clinton’s induction into the Hall of Fame

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