December January 2011 Issue – Irish America Irish America Magazine Mon, 15 Jul 2019 20:00:35 +0000 en-US hourly 1 82361074 Kelly Green at Notre Dame: Coach Brian Kelly Sat, 01 Jan 2011 12:00:27 +0000 Read more..]]> It is a mid-October Sunday morning at Notre Dame, right after the home victory against Pittsburgh. It was a close-run thing and the sense of relief around the Notre Dame campus is palpable. Nowhere is it more obvious than in Coach Brian Kelly’s headquarters at the Guglielmino complex.

It is easy to see what pressure a Notre Dame rookie coach is under just when you wander into the center. Framed under glass is the 1986 Waterford Crystal National Championship trophy. They built a statue to Lou Holtz near the football stadium for delivering that.
As against that, some of his successors were essentially run out of town for not delivering. This Notre Dame fan base is a tough, impatient crowd and it is easy to see why.

On the walls at the Guglielmino complex are Hall of Famers from Knute Rockne to Joe Montana; all around are artifacts of the most glorious era in college sport when Notre Dame were kings and champions.

Not any more, which is where Brian Kelly comes in. Hugely successful at Valley State, Central Michigan and Cincinnati, he has been brought in to wake up the echoes and restore the glory days.

Like any restoration, uneasy lies the head that wears the crown, yet Kelly seems remarkably unfazed by the pressure. As the new head coach he bears the dreams of millions across America for the glory days to be restored.

Yet on his wall in his spacious office there are no homages to the past. The main artifact to catch the eye is a painting, a striking modernist rendition of ten or twelve faceless workingmen ready to go to work.

This is how Kelly sees his new job, as a member of a team, where no individual is more important than the other, where the blue-collar pail-and-bucket mentality rules and where progress is not measured in headline inches but in yards and inches for the next first down.

In the days following our interview, Notre Dame was rocked to its core when a student, Declan Sullivan, was killed filming football practice when the video tower he was on collapsed.

Kelly, who said that dealing with the death was especially painful because he had gotten to know the 20-year-old personally, was among the many mourners who traveled from Notre Dame to the Chicago suburb of Buffalo Grove for the funeral. Notre Dame’s vice president for student affairs, the Rev. Tom Doyle, delivered the homily. The service was closed to reporters but AP reported that Doyle asked attendees “to let go of the things that give you pain and ascend to a stream that will give you joy.” Sullivan was also remembered in the game against Tulsa, when both Notre Dame and Tulsa players wore helmet decals in the shape of a shamrock with the initials DS in the middle. Notre Dame also wore the decal against Utah.

Kelly knows what adversity is like. His wife Paqui has battled breast cancer and has undergone a double mastectomy. It is a battle she and he are committed to winning, not just for their three kids, but also for American women everywhere. They have established a foundation to raise millions for the cause. So Brian Kelly knows it is about far more than X’s and O’s and where the next spread formation comes from. But he’s also a college coach in the best or worst job in the nation. The will to win and desire are evident. He will tolerate nothing less.

Born in Chelsea, Massachusetts, Kelly was a linebacker at Assumption College, where he graduated with a degree in political science in 1983. His father Paul was a politician – a Boston alderman – and Kelly could have followed in his father’s footsteps, but football was his true passion and after a run at working in Democratic party politics, he was back at Assumption as a linebacker coach and defense coordinator.

In the following years, at Valley State (1991-2003), Central Michigan University (2004-06), and University of Cincinnati (2006-09), Kelly developed a reputation for building winning teams. We began our conversation by talking about the win over Pittsburgh the day before. Despite the victory, Kelly is quick to say that the team is a work in progress.

Coach Kelly: We are in it for the long haul. We are in it to build it and sustain it for many years. So these are just short steps along the way. I knew when I got into this business – that when 18-to-21-year-olds were going to decide whether I could pay my mortgage – I already knew I was crazy. So from there it makes it easier, as long as you start with that perspective. The big picture is that you’re developing a program, and when you’re building a successful business or organization, you don’t measure it by what happens at the end of the month, you measure it by where you’re moving to over the long term, and that’s really the perspective that I have.

Niall O’Dowd: An Irish coach and Notre Dame is a pretty good mix. What’s the heritage – how far back do you go?
My great-grandparents were from Ireland. My grandfather was a Boston cop for 35 years, and my first introduction to Irish culture was talking to him about the where the term Paddy Wagon came from. We lived in Chelsea, Massachusetts, which was a naval pier town where all the Navy guys would come in and they’d have some beers and then the police would be called in to round them up. They [the police] drove an open-air police truck and it was so cold at night that the guys who drove it had to have a little Irish Paddy [whiskey] to stay warm and that’s why they called it the Paddy Wagon. Whether it’s true or not, I have no idea. But it’s a good story, and that’s why I tell it.

We have a family name that has an Irish story to it as well. My youngest son is Kenzel Kelly, and we got that from my great-grandparents. When they came over from Ireland and they were traveling through downtown New York as the Passion Play [depicting the passion of Jesus Christ: his trial, suffering and death] was being put on. It was directed by a Father Kenzel and they liked that name. So my grandfather was [christened] Kenzel and my dad is Paul Kenzel and the last chance at keeping a Kenzel in the family was when my youngest boy was born; my dad bribed my wife, who wasn’t a big Kenzel fan, and said, listen, if you go with Kenzel and keep the name alive, you get the house on the Cape. So the name Kenzel is still alive.

Tell me about your dad.
Dad comes to all the games. He’s a bit of a celebrity. He’s on TV all the time. He’s a Notre Dame [fan] – it was all Notre Dame [growing up].
He was a big influence. I think you are who you are based upon your life experience. He grew up as an Irish Catholic in Boston, going to church and being part of the community, and all the things that he was taught growing up were passed on to me and now to my family and that was that the church was important, community service was important, and we all played sports and were involved in athletics.

And like your dad, I know you went to work for the Democratic Party. That’s an interesting departure for a college coach…
Well, it didn’t start that way. Actually, when I graduated college I went to work in the State House of Boston and worked for a state senator. Gary Hart was running for president and the state senator that I worked for in Massachusetts endorsed Gary Hart. So he lent me to his campaign. After that campaign ended, I wanted to go back to the thing that I wanted to do all along, which was coach. I probably wasn’t courageous enough to say it at the time [I graduated], which was “[I’m sorry] that you used all this money to send me to school and I want to be a football coach.” Didn’t seem like the right thing to do at the time. So I went into politics for a couple of years, I enjoyed it, it was a great experience but it wasn’t what I was passionate about.

What did you learn from that time?
I would probably say relationship building, how important it is, trust, and also knowing how to work with the media. I was working with the media on a day-to-day basis. So I think it helped me at an early age to work with the media and reach out as best we could to build good relationships.

So when you started coaching, what were your initial plans?
Just to be good at what I was doing, more than anything else. I thought I had a lot to give and the ability to communicate the game and teach it.

Where did that come from?
I think it was being in the back yard playing basketball with my brother, or going out in the street playing stickball. I think just competing. Today, everything is all planned for kids. When I played, it was just – let’s go play. And you played because you loved to play. You didn’t play for any other reason. Everything is so planned now. Sometimes, I think today, we’ve got kids just playing to play.

So I had that inside, that I was passionate about playing and loved the game and felt like if you’re passionate about something you should be able to teach it.

Who were your football heroes?
I loved watching Joe Montana when I was an Irish fan growing up. I’ve never been enamored with just one person. The great ones have always caught my attention.

So when you’re coaching Notre Dame obviously it is an incredible responsibility. It is like no other job, is it?
Well, I think if I thought about that every day I’d jump out the window. So I try to think about the process. Like I said earlier when we began the conversation about winning and losing. Obviously winning is much better than losing, but it’s a process. I focus more on the process of developing a program than on all the things that could make this overwhelming. That’s how I operate on a day-to-day basis. I’m confident in the plan and that the people that I have around me will accomplish those goals, and sometimes those goals take some time to reach.

Anything surprise you so far?
I think anytime you take over a new business or a new organization you go in there and you try to find out where the air’s coming out of the tires, so to speak. We’ve got a good idea of where it was and we’ve been able to address that. I was pretty well-schooled on the fact that there was going to be a lot outside of the game itself – whether it be the media or alumni or development, whether it be Thursday night shows, Friday luncheons, Saturday walk to the basilica, there’s so many things. I was prepared for that.

I think the surprising thing, more than anything else, was the players and some of the things that they were missing just in the game itself, and so that was a bit of a surprise. But nothing surprises me too much. That’s the Irish in me. I’ve always been this way.

What did your wife say when you came home and said ‘I’m going to Notre Dame?’
She did give me a blank look, like, ‘are you sure?’ My daughter, Grace Kelly, said, “Dad, I know it’s your dream job, but I’m crying now because I’m sad for me, because I’m going to miss my friends. I’m happy for you, I’m just sad because I’m moving again for the fourth time in six years.”
I think that’s how the whole family felt. Now that they’re here and they’re settled and they’re around Notre Dame and I can share the things that Notre Dame has with them, it makes it all worthwhile.

How do you cope with the stress?
There’s a lot of stress. I’ve worked hard to take care of myself and getting fit and getting check-ups and all those things because I worked 20 years to get here, I don’t want to have a heart attack while I’m here, you know? I think that’s absolutely a concern and I’m taking it seriously.

Do you get time off at all?
No. This is my time off [doing the interview with Irish America]. You guys get to spend it with me. How lucky are you? No, you get a couple hours here and there. I’ll have dinner with the family tonight – you just pick your spots and when you get a couple of hours, make it quality time.

The painting hanging on your wall with the faceless workers is very striking.
You can see they’re Irish…I look at that [and I see] the Irish immigrants who came over and lost their lives and dug the canals. When I first saw it I said, “I’ve got to have that picture.” It also is about where we want to bring our football team – back to its Fighting Irish roots. Back to faceless and nameless. It’s not about superstars but about a team, about trust and commitment and all the things I was taught growing up from my family, from my Irish Catholic roots, and we’re trying to bring Notre Dame back to that, and that’s kind of the full circle here.

That’s the job and the process. When you’ve been in it and it’s ingrained in you and you know where you want to go with it, you don’t get derailed too easily.

You seem very strong in yourself; you’re not worried what people think.
There’s going to be plenty of opinions. There’s never a shortage of opinions in this business. That’s the great thing about Notre Dame. As long as you understand that, and this is where my background helps me, when I was at University of Cincinnati, nobody cared enough. Here people care too much. It allows me to keep perspective on it, as well, and I know what we want to do. I know what our plan is, and they’ll all be on the bandwagon sooner or later, so I just always reserve room for them.

Anything else surprise you here?
There are some things at Notre Dame you have to get used to and one of them is TV time-outs. We have to pay the bills, so to speak. It’s hard to keep flow and momentum. It is choppy and I’m working through that right now. I think I’d like to get our players to see their head coach is involved in the game and he’s not just walking up and down the sidelines but he’s invested in it. The coaches that I played for were like that and I enjoyed that.
Now, there’s this line that you can’t cross, but I’ve always felt that that’s the way I’ve played the game and that’s the way I’m going to coach the game.

How do you feel about the game in Ireland – Notre Dame against Navy in 2012?
I can’t wait. I’m so excited. Just can’t tell you how, for me, to go to Ireland to take an American football team to Ireland, how special that’s going to be.
Three years ago, I spent two weeks up and down the West Coast. We golfed, enjoyed all the great courses and all the lively conversation in the pubs. It’s always good to go into a pub and start a conversation about politics. You’re either going to get somebody to buy you one or you’re going to have to leave. [Laughs].

What was it like to go back to Boston – against Boston College?
For me, we just needed to win the game. My family loved it. They had 100 people tailgating. Cousins, aunts, uncles, cousins I didn’t know, wanted tickets too. Everybody was my cousin that weekend. I know they had a heck of a time and really enjoyed it, but I’ve been back there twice to play.
When I was at Grand Valley State we went and played Bentley College which is just outside of Boston and beat ’em pretty good, and then came back and beat BC, so I’m doing pretty good in Boston right now.

So what’s your secret to creating a winning team?
I think winning starts with you – [but] you all have to be in it. It’s a team game first of all and it’s not just a bunch of individuals. Those that win at the highest level win as a team, and once you’re able to develop that structure of a team where people care about each other you can then go to work on all the other principles.

Until you have a team that cares about each other you have no chance of winning. When we got here, this was not a team. This was a collection of individuals that played at Notre Dame, and that’s what we’re changing and it’s coming together pretty good.

You seem deeply aware of the Notre Dame history and its mystique.
Yes. As a football program, we’re getting back to our traditional roots. It should be fun. We’re going to unveil the green jerseys for that game too, (against Army in New York on November 20th) the green is recognizable in certain parts of the country. Green does not work very well here, but in New York green is a good thing. We’re going to be using that helmet right there with a shamrock on it, next year when we play the University of Michigan. We’re going to be using throwback uniforms. We’re going to play the first ever night game at the University of Michigan.

It goes deep. I didn’t know all the history until I read about four of the books, and learned a lot about Notre Dame and how Notre Dame was perceived. It is an incredible history and imparts a great sense of mission. It is just great to be here.

Thank you, Coach Kelly.

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The First Word: Putting the Fight Back in the Irish Sat, 01 Jan 2011 11:59:49 +0000 Read more..]]> Niall O’Dowd returned from interviewing Coach Brian Kelly with a story of a cab driver he met – an immigrant from Africa who had seen little of America outside of South Bend, Indiana. When the cabbie learned that Niall was Irish, he exclaimed with admiration, “You Irish, you own everything over here!”
Watching the televised game between Notre Dame and Utah and witnessing the sea of green that surrounded the win by coach Kelly’s team,  one could only concur with the cab driver’s summation.

We sure have done a great job of branding. The Mad Men component of our Business 100 would agree. The fact that Notre Dame is actually in Paris is a mere technicality. The Irish own the brand.

(Astonishingly, the famous school that educated so many Irish Catholics and set them on the road to top careers, including a major percentage of our Business 100, didn’t have an Irish Studies program until our Irish America Hall of Fame honoree Donald Keough made it happen. But that was 20 years ago, and today, Notre Dame is home to one of the finest Irish Studies programs in the world.)

How the Irish went from being a maligned immigrant group (when Barney McGinniskin became the first Irish police officer in Boston in 1851, commentators of the day suggested that it was “a cultural conflict”), to one of the most vital, colorful and successful groups in America, is a story that has many strands.
Education was certainly one of the major factors. Also, a steady stream of new immigrants from Ireland kept the brand alive, and the Irish American dream aloft.

Alas, these days the story of the Irish in America is most often told in the past tense.
A debate on immigration  telecast live from the University of San Diego on Nov. 16 focused exclusively on Hispanics and the issues they are facing. There was nary an Irish face present with the exception of the moderator Lawrence O’Donnell. The Irish were mentioned but only as the primary example of an immigrant group who had succeeded despite a poor start.

I wish all our troubles were in the past. But Ireland is again in time of crisis. And with America’s closed-door policy, the safety valve that the Irish found here has been nailed shut. Soon, those Irish Studies programs may be the only way for Irish Americans to learn about Irish culture and heritage – they won’t learn it firsthand from their immigrant cousins.

It is hard to come to terms with the fact that Ireland once again needs help. And as in the past, the Irish at home are reaching out to Irish America.
As we were about to go to press on this issue, I received a phone call from a woman in Ireland I will call  Mrs. H.  “Can’t you do something for the banks in Ireland?” she asked in a voice of a mother commanding a child  to “clean up your room, immediately!”

It was about 4.30 in the afternoon here so it was night time in Ireland. I’m guessing Mrs. H. was watching the news and the situation in Ireland had her panicked.

“It’s an awfully big problem,” I offered, a bit brusquely, as I began to mutter about being in a meeting, but Mrs. H. wasn’t about to let  me off the hook. “Surely someone in New York can help?” she insisted. “Don’t you know Brian Moynihan?”

Mrs. H. was still talking as I hung up. Now I feel guilty about giving her such short shrift.  And I feel guilty also because I haven’t answered an e-mail from a young Irish college graduate who is looking for a job in publishing and wants my advice. Her boyfriend has an Irish law degree and passed the New York bar first time out. He’s interested in aviation law but would take anything. He just wants a job too, like his girlfriend.
Perhaps Mrs. H. is right, and some of you on our Business 100 list can help. We can’t let Ireland go down without a fight. Maybe you can offer an internship for an Irish college graduate at one of your companies, maybe you can do more. One thing is for sure, if something doesn’t happen soon, Ireland stands to lose its economic sovereignty and jeopardize its corporate tax incentives, which would severely limit its ability to attract new business (that’s according to a friend of mine who understands such stuff).

The intricacies of high finance are beyond me but  I think I have come up with a brilliant way to help Ireland and have fun doing it. Let’s all go for a visit!

After all, no matter how far-flung we may be, we are family. So let’s head on over there – believe me, a busload of Americans would receive a welcome like never before.

Mrs. H., put on the tea kettle.

Interested in an Irish America reader’s trip to Ireland? Contact or speak to Kerman at 212 725 2993 x 150.

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Dennehy Honors Irish American Writers and Artists Sat, 01 Jan 2011 11:58:59 +0000 Read more..]]> Brian Dennehy receives the 2nd annual Eugene O’Neill Lifetime Achievement Award.

October 18 marked the Irish American Writers and Artists’ second annual Eugene O’Neill Lifetime Achievement Award Cocktail Reception, honoring actor Brian Dennehy. Dennehy won a Best Actor Tony in 2003 for his performance in O’Neill’s Long Day’s Journey Into Night, and has been nominated for six Emmys for performances in other O’Neill plays.

Author Mary Pat Kelly served as Master of Ceremonies at the reception, and IAW&A co-founder Peter Quinn delivered opening remarks. T.J. English, Conor McCourt and Joe Grifasi also shared congratulations.
Of his special relationship with O’Neill’s work, Dennehy has said: “I think that my being Irish American, the grandson of a factory worker in Bridgeport, Connecticut, and my being raised in a real Irish-American climate in Brooklyn and Long Island and New York in the 1940s and ’50s goes a long way towards explaining it.”

Dennehy won a Tony Award and Golden Globe in 1999 for his performance as Willy Loman in Arthur Miller’s classic Death of a Salesman. He has appeared in over one hundred feature films, dozens of dramatic TV series and many made-for-TV movies. His varied roles have included numerous true-life characters, including Clarence Darrow, Teamster boss Jackie Presser, basketball coach Bobby Knight and serial killer John Wayne Gacy, to name a few. One of the evening’s highlights was a video montage of Dennehy’s many roles onstage and onscreen.

Last year’s honoree, William Kennedy, presented Dennehy with the award. He remarked, “I saw Brian interviewed on Charlie Rose, talking about his role in Death of a Salesman, and he said, ‘When theater is done right it is the author speaking to us.’ But I must add that we don’t necessarily perceive the author’s intention without translation by a great actor, who also translates what’s not there, who reads between the author’s lines, who intuits, who invents, who imposes his own personality, his own wisdom, his own wit wherever he sees the need. Brian said this himself: ‘Great actors of Hamlet – they all play it differently, and they play it differently every night.’ I believe that the talent for doing this comes from the actor’s authentic sense of himself – knowing he’s like nobody else. In some deep center of his being, he knows exactly who he is and who else he might be – which is where the greatness comes in. … We know that something excellent is happening here – a profundity of talent on display, or an unusual depth of understanding and expression of human behavior. Without any doubt there’s a singular presence up there on stage, and we relish it, we marvel at it, we want to applaud. And we do applaud. And the actor we’re reveling in, relishing, applauding – tonight it’s that big fellow over there – Brian Dennehy.”

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An Irish Tune-Up for Cuba: Una Corda, The Soft Pedal Sat, 01 Jan 2011 11:57:05 +0000 Read more..]]> Since 2006, many visitors traveling from Ireland to Cuba have carried slightly heavier than usual suitcases. In addition to their clothes, toiletries and other necessities, they have been carrying piano parts and tools for tuning and repair. They have transported a total of more than 500 pounds, to date, all of which has been given to Havana’s National Workshop for Musical Instrument Repair.

This courier program is run by Una Corda, an Irish non-profit organization, and is recognized by the Centre of Coordination for International Collaboration of the Cuban Ministry of Culture. Una Corda, which takes its name from the piano’s soft pedal, is dedicated to reinvigorating the National Workshop –  to giving Cubans the tools and skills to repair the many pianos that have started to deteriorate due to Cuba’s isolation and its hot, humid climate. In addition to the courier program, the organization sends Irish musicians and piano tuners over to Cuba with the aim of not only helping to repair pianos in the workshop, but also of teaching people how to make repairs themselves and pass on the knowledge.

When David Creedon went to Cuba in 2008, he carried his own luggage, some glue and sandpaper from Una Corda, and an additional item: a Canon 1ds Mark III camera. The Cork photographer has exhibited internationally and received much critical acclaim for his last show, Ghosts of the Faithful Departed: haunting, evocative shots of the interiors of abandoned houses in Ireland. It first exhibited in Chicago, with the help of Sarah McCarthy, a Chicago woman who was fascinated by Creedon’s work, and was one of the largest touring shows in Europe in 2008.

Creedon first heard about Una Corda when he caught the tail end of a 3:00 a.m. radio program in his car. At the time, he was working on a series of images of 57 Steinway pianos purchased by the Irish government, so the snippet about the project in Cuba naturally piqued Creedon’s interest.  He then got in touch with Ciaran Ryan, the program’s founder, who encouraged him to make the trip to Cuba. After a long wait for his visa, the photographer was on his way. He fondly recalls his first trip to National Workshop for Musical Instrument Repair, located off the beaten track in Santo Tomás, between Árbol Seco and Subirana in Centro Havana: “Not many tourists venture to this part of town and when I arrived I felt unsure about the location as there seemed to be nobody about, but my driver was insistent that this was the right place. I was uncertain if I should stay in the car or get out when a man peeked out of a doorway and quickly disappeared only to return thirty seconds later waving the Irish Tricolor.”

Creedon’s latest exhibition, Una Corda – the Soft Pedal, features photographs he took during his ten days at the National Workshop. His arresting, large-scale images are on display at the Irish Arts Center in New York until January 9th. The thirteen photographs take viewers inside the workshop for an intimate look at the pianos in the midst of or in need of repair. In one, dusty piano keys sit on a table in a crooked line. In another, an old, ornate piano leg is just visible in a dark corner, surrounded by tools and worktables. In other shots, Creedon moves closer to the pianos, focusing on almost unrecognizable components of the instrument that make for stunning abstract images. By featuring the pianos both wholly and in pieces, his photographs almost mimic the disassembling and reassembling that takes place in the workshop.

Surprisingly, Creedon hadn’t initially considered exhibiting the photographs he took in Cuba. But when Joanna Groarke, the program and production manager at the Arts Center, saw the images, she encouraged Creedon to consider collaborating on a show. Anyone who sees Una Corda will be very glad she did. Gallery hours are Monday-Friday 10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. Call 212-757-3318 ext. 203 for an appointment.

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’Tis a New Challenge for Cathie Black Sat, 01 Jan 2011 11:56:40 +0000 Read more..]]> Changes are in store for both Cathie Black and the New York City public school system. On Tuesday, November 9th, Mayor Michael Bloomberg formally announced his decision to name Black, who is currently the chair of Hearst Magazines, the next New York City schools chancellor, a role held by Joel Klein since 2002. Pending approval from the State Education Commisioner at the time of writing, Black will lead a school system of  1.1 million children, 80,000 teachers, and the administrators who support them.

One of our Business 100 honorees in this issue, Black was raised by her Irish Catholic family on Chicago’s South Side.

After graduating from Trinity Washington University in 1966, she began her career by working with several magazines such as Holiday and Ms. and went on to blaze a trail of success through what was then a male-dominated industry. Black became the first female publisher of a weekly consumer magazine when she joined New York in 1979. After turning USA Today into the national newspaper as we know it and serving as the vice president of marketing for Gannet, she became the first woman president of the Newspaper Corporation of America. Black then joined Hearst in 1996 as the first female to head Hearst Magazines. First as president and now as chairman, she oversees fourteen of the magazine industry’s most popular titles, including Harper’s Bazaar; Cosmopolitan; O, The Oprah Magazine; and Town and Country. Black is also in charge of the 200 international editions of those magazines, which run in over  100 countries. She has also authored a best-selling book, Basic Black: The Essential Guide for Getting Ahead at Work (and in Life), which is in its eighth printing and has been translated for publication in twelve countries.

In her new position, Black will become the first woman chancellor of the city’s public schools. Though her prior experience does not lie in the field of education, Bloomberg is confident that Black’s four decades of experience in media and business have provided her with the skills she needs to be an effective leader.

With all her accomplishments, it’s no surprise that Black has frequently appeared on our Business 100 list. In 2000, our editor and co-founder Patricia Harty conducted an interview with Black and it is interesting to note, especially given her new role, that back then Frank McCourt, the beloved educator and writer, was on her mind.


Excerpts from Patricia Harty’s 2000 interview with Cathie Black:
“I think my Irish heritage is very important, and I think it gives me a feeling of roots and history and hopefully all the good traits that come with that – a sense of humor and not taking things too seriously and realizing that life is short: enjoy it.”

“Having a woman in the job has given a lot of women in this company, and in the industry, a great shot in the arm. I want guys to think that they are going to do equally well in the company but to realize that they are competing on equal levels with a lot of terrific women too.”

With all this good advice to offer, would [Black] ever consider writing a book?
“I probably will someday,” she muses. “I just had a note from a literary agency and I thought, you know, maybe I should start thinking about that again.” In the meantime, there’s all that reading she has to do. “If I can get through all of our magazines, I want to read Frank McCourt’s new book, ‘Tis, she states. “He gave a lecture and he was just brilliant.”
It’s a word that describes her equally well.

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Those We Lost Sat, 01 Jan 2011 11:56:25 +0000 Read more..]]> Leo Cullum
A cartoonist at The New Yorker for over 30 years, Leo Cullum succumbed to cancer after a five-year battle on October 23 at his home in Malibu.  He was 68.
Much of what would become Cullum’s iconic cartooning began in airport terminals. A full-time TWA pilot for 34 years, Cullum would draw during layovers and on days off. Cullum sold his first cartoon to Air Line Pilot magazine. He received rejections from The New Yorker for some time before finally breaking the binding and making the pages in 1977. He would contribute 819 cartoons to the magazine before his death, his last appearing in the October 25 issue.
Cullum, according to his brother, Thomas, who spoke to Roz Chast at The New Yorker, had been funny since he was a little kid. “At the dinner table one night during a summer vacation when Leo was seven and Thomas nine, their father complained that his stomach had got a little sunburned. Leo said, ‘Well, you know, Dad, things that are closest to the sun burn first.’” Fortunately, his father laughed.

Leo attended the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts. After graduation he served in the Marine Corps. He flew in over 200 missions during Vietnam. In addition to his brother Thomas, Cullum is survived by his wife of 31 years, Kathy Cullum, as well as his two daughters, Kaitlin and Kimberly, and son-in-law Marcus Berry.
– T.D.

Patricia Herzog
Born Patricia Reid Chamberlain in Japan, Herzog came to the United States at age ten. She worked at a California factory building Hellcats and torpedo bombers during WWII, and moved to Santa Ana with her first husband, Charles Herzog, in the 1950s. They divorced in 1960.
In the early 1950s, Herzog was working as a newspaper reporter when she signed up for law classes through Chicago’s LaSalle Extension University. She passed the bar in 1957, and by 1960 led her own practice.

In 1978, Herzog took a case that turned out to set a precedent in California marital law. Janet Sullivan was seeking part of the value of her husband’s medical practice in their divorce, on the grounds that she was working as an accountant  while her husband attended medical school. California’s lower courts ruled against her, but Herzog filed an appeal in 1982 with the California Supreme Court. In 1985, California’s marital property law was amended to authorize courts to reimburse divorcing individuals for supporting their spouses, in what was known as the Sullivan Law.

Herzog is survived by two children from her first marriage, two stepchildren, four grandchildren, and one great-grandchild. Her husband of 44 years, Haskell Shapiro, died last year.
– K.R.

Daniel Kelly
Daniel Kelly, president of Kelly’s Furniture, died on October 14 at age 82 after a short illness. One of the seven children born to Patrick and Mary Furey Kelly, he was born in Brooklyn but raised in Frosses, Co. Donegal, where he graduated from the Christian Brothers Academy. Kelly served in the U.S. Army during the occupation of Germany after WWII. He spent much of the remainder of his life in Westchester. In 1959, Kelly and his brothers founded Kelly’s Furniture, one of the leading furniture retailers in the Metro NY and Westchester area.  Kelly’s decision to place his store in the South Bronx helped revitalize the area and sustain it during rough times. Kelly used his own brand of hire purchase to enable his clients, many of whom were Hispanic, to buy their furniture on a payment plan. He was much respected as businessman and employer. Of his many honors, he was most proud of being named Man of the Year by the Hispanic community.

Kelly received several Papal Knighthoods from Pope John Paul II, including Knight Commander of Malta, the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher, the Order of Saint Sylvester and the Royal Savoy Orders of Maurice and Lazarus. He was the past president of the Donegal Association of NY and a member of the AOH.  He is survived by family members including his brother and business partner Clyde, three nieces and four great-nieces.
– P.H.

James MacArthur
Actor James MacArthur, who played Detective Danny “Danno” Williams in the TV series Hawaii Five-O, died October 28 in Florida at age 72. For 11 of the show’s 12 years, from 1968-1980, MacArthur played the sidekick to Jack Lord’s Detective Steve McGarrett, who consistently uttered the show’s catchphrase, “Book ’im, Danno!” when the criminal was caught. He left the show in 1979.

Born in Los Angeles in 1937, MacArthur was adopted at seven months old by playwright Charles MacArthur and his wife, the actress Helen Hayes, with whom MacArthur acted in one episode of Hawaii Five-O. He appeared in the 1955 TV production of John Frankenheimer’s Deal a Blow, then in its big screen 1959 remake The Young Stranger. MacArthur acted in Disney movies Kidnapped and Swiss Family Robinson, as well as TV shows Gunsmoke, Bonanza, The Love Boat and The Untouchables. It was his work alongside Clint Eastwood in 1968’s Hang ’Em High that caught Hawaii Five-O creator Leonard Freeman’s eye.
MacArthur is survived by his wife Helen Beth Duntz, four children and seven grandchildren.
– K.R.

Maurice Neligan
Groundbreaking cardiac surgeon Maurice Neligan, pictured below, who pioneered Ireland’s first coronary bypass graft operation in 1974 and its first heart transplant in 1985, died October 15 at the age of 73 at his home in Dublin. Neligan also led the development of open-heart surgery in children, and over the course of his career performed approximately 14,000 to 15,000 open-heart surgeries, many of them on children. He served as consultant cardiac surgeon at Dublin’s Mater Hospital from 1971 until 2009, and at Crumlin Children’s Hospital from 1974 to 2002. He was a founder of the Blackrock Clinic. After his retirement, he remained involved in the medical community.

eligan’s funeral mass was held October 19 at the Church of the Assumption in Dublin. He is survived by his wife Pat, also a doctor, three sons, and three daughters. A fourth daughter, Sara, was murdered in 2007.
– K.R.

Vincent Nolan
Vincent Nolan “The Salmon King,” passed away on October 22, 2010. He was 87.
A much-loved Dublin character, Vincent took over Nolan’s Irish Seafood from his father Harry, a Belfast fish salesman, and turned it into an international brand distributed to over 20 countries. Nolan’s smoked salmon even found its way to the White House where it was served for official functions, a tradition that began in the Kennedy administration and continued under President Johnson.
Apart from his love of fish, Vincent also had a passion for music and golf. He played piano with Hoagy Carmichael, and was a lifelong Frank Sinatra fan. Each year, Sinatra received a batch of Nolan’s salmon on his birthday.

Vincent’s passion for Sinatra was shared by his good friend the former governor of New York Hugh Carey, as was his passion for golf. He also counted Mutual of America’s chairman emeritus Bill Flynn among his golfing buddies and close friends. One golfing story that made the rounds is of the time Vincent played with the actor Sean Connery. Vincent matched the Scotsman shot for shot, but his short game, chipping in particular, let him down.
Vincent hated to lose and Connery decided to rub salt in the wounds. “I hear you’re in the fish business,” he said. “Yes, I am,” replied Vincent. Connery thought for a moment, then turned away to walk towards the clubhouse while saying, “Well I hope your fish is better than your chips!”
Vincent, who was preceded in death by his wife Yvonne, is survived by his sons Harry, Edward, George, Vincent and David, grandchildren and great grandchildren, his close friend Kay, relatives and friends.
– PH

William Norton
Hollywood screenwriter William Norton died Oct 1 at age 85 of a heart attack in Santa Barbara, California. He enjoyed a successful career writing feature films starring John Wayne, Burt Lancaster and Angie Dickinson, including 1968’s The Scalphunters and 1975’s Brannigan. Born in Utah, Norton was interested in his Irish ancestry and moved there in 1985, where he became directly involved in religious conflicts in Northern Ireland. He and his wife Eleanor shipped guns purchased in California to France, intending to help Catholics defend their homes, but were arrested in France. Norton was imprisoned for two years, then moved to Nicaragua with his wife to avoid charges in the United States for illegal exportation. Their home in Nicaragua was invaded by robbers, one of whom Norton shot and killed, but no charges were filed.

Norton, a former Communist Party member, moved to Cuba in the early 1990s, then traveled to Mexico, from where his first wife, Betty, and their daughter Sally successfully smuggled him across the border into Los Angeles. He spent his final years in Santa Barbara, painting and continuing to exercise his passion for social activism through writing letters to politicians.

Norton is survived by his son Bill, daughters Sally and Joan, wife Eleanor, their adopted daughter Teresa, eight grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. – K.R.

Charlie O’Donnell
Charlie O’Donnell, whose off-screen voice was a definitive aspect of American television in shows like Wheel of Fortune, To Tell the Truth and American Bandstand, as well as the Oscars, the Emmys, and the Golden Globes, died on November 1 at his home in California. He was 78.
O’Donnell was born in Philadelphia in 1932 and began his career on radio as a teenager at WCHA in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania. He began working in television as the announcer for American Bandstand in 1958. He went on to become a disc jockey and news anchor in Los Angeles, then served as an announcer for the Rolling Stones and the Beatles during 1960’s California performances. However, O’Donnell was best known for voicing the audience warmup, opening announcement, and commentary during Wheel of Fortune from 1988 until October 29, 2010. O’Donnell is survived by his wife Ellen, two sons, two daughters, and two grandchildren. – K.R.

Bill Shannon
Baseball historian Bill Shannon died early on October 26 in a house fire in West Caldwell, N.J. Neighbors reported that Shannon’s 92-year-old mother, Mildred, was rescued through the front door, but Shannon was unable to break the window on the second floor to escape. He was 69 years old.
A veteran sportswriter for the Associated Press and official scorer for decades of Mets and Yankees games, Shannon began as an official scorer for the American League in 1979. He graduated from Columbia University and served in the Army, then served as head of PR for Madison Square Garden from 1965-1973. An editor of The Official Encyclopedia of Tennis of the United States Tennis Association, Shannon was also the author of The Ballparks, a history of major league baseball stadiums.
– K.R.

Ray Sheeran
Michael Raphael “Ray” Sheeran passed away in the care of his family and friends in Cazadero, CA on November 14 after an eight-month battle with Melanoma. He was 54.

A passionate sportsman, Sheeran won many medals and trophies with his local hurling club, Camross, and his county team Laois. He also played rugby with Portlaoise, and soccer with The Pike of Rushall.

Sheeran was born October 23, 1956 in Coolrain, Mountrath, Co. Laois. He emigrated to San Francisco in February 1982 and married Catherine, his wife of 26 years, in San Francisco in 1984. They had known each other from home in Mountrath.
Sheeran played hurling with the Rangers Hurling Club and was a founding member of Na Fianna Hurling Club, which became one of the most successful clubs in North America. Sheeran played his part in winning their first Senior Championship in 1990. He was also a founding member of San Francisco Irish RFC, which subsequently merged with the San Francisco Golden Gate Rugby Club and developed one of the best underage programs in the USA. SFGG Rugby Club has renamed their Home Club and Grounds as The Ray Sheeran Field.

Sheeran is survived by his wife Catherine, their sons Ryan and Eoin and their daughter Maeve, and by his mother Maura, three brothers and four sisters.
– K.R.

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Irish America Hall of Fame: Donald Keough Sat, 01 Jan 2011 11:53:45 +0000 Read more..]]> On November 30, Donald Keough was the first honoree to be inducted into the Irish America Hall of Fame, which has just been established by Irish America magazine. The following is a glimpse of Mr. Keough’s extraordinary life story from poor but proud farm family in Iowa to an international business career as president and COO of Coca-Cola. Through all his corporate success he never lost sight of his Irish heritage.

A Life in America
The rise of the Keough family from the prairies to the pinnacle of Wall Street is the story of Irish America in microcosm. If the immigrant Michael Keough could see his great-grandson today, what would he think? He would recognize in Don Keough the classic Irish immigrant values of commitment to family and faith, community and country, hard work, determination, good humor, lack of pretentiousness, unflagging energy, an ability to adapt to fresh challenges, an attitude that people should wear out, not rust out. The poet Robert Frost said of America: “Our most precious heritage is what we haven’t in our possession – what we haven’t made, and so have still to make.”  Don Keough embodies the possibility of America, its dynamism, its optimism and its can-do spirit.

Donald Keough’s great-grandfather Michael Keough left County Wexford in the 1840s and arrived in America where he married Hanora Burke. Then only seventeen years old, Hanora gave birth to a son, John, the year they married. The courageous young newly-weds went on to have nine children between 1848 and 1875, settling on the prairies of northwest Iowa to become sodbusters, farmers and cattlemen.

No doubt it was the notion of stepping off their own acreage that brought Michael and Hanora to the plains, yet they must have felt lonely for the hills, trees and mountains they left behind in Ireland. It would be almost a century before any of their descendants made it back to the land of their birth.

The Iowa winters were harsh and Michael and his sons had to drive their horses miles to chop down wood so that the family would survive. Then there were the grasshopper plagues of 1874, 75 and 76 that swept across Iowa like a biblical swarm of locusts. But Michael Keough was tough and so were his sons. By the time he passed away on October 2, 1904, the family had solid roots in America.

John continued homesteading, growing oats and potatoes and raising cattle after his father passed away. He married Kate Foley, the daughter of a businessman, and they had four sons: Leo, Lloyd, Verne and Frank.

Later in life, John’s sons recalled that their father had worked them almost to breaking point, not out of harshness, but the need to survive. When John expired just one week after building “a fine new modern home” for his family, the responsibility for the farm fell on Leo, the eldest son. It was on this farm that Donald Keough was born in 1926, the youngest of Leo and his wife Veronica’s three sons.

Don remembers his father Leo as a man of sunny outlook, a disciplined, hardworking man who never let his family down. After a fire burned the family home to the ground and everything was lost with the exception of Hanora’s Irish wedding shawl and the family Bible, Leo moved the family to Sioux City where he found work in the stockyard.

“He had the ability to look at forty head of cattle and the intuitive knowledge to know within five pounds what each weighed,” Don recalled in an interview with Niall O’Dowd.

As a 15-year-old, Don learned the sales patter and how to negotiate and close a deal. When he got suckered in a small deal, he learned a valuable lesson:

“Watch the cattle, not the man,” his boss told him. In other words, know what you are buying and don’t be influenced by the hype of the person selling. “There is no question that everything I know about business I learned in that stockyard. I learned how to weigh someone up, to know the weakness and strength of your own position, and realize the fundamentals – that he wants to sell and you have the money to buy, and leverage that,” he told O’Dowd.
Don’s mother, a schoolteacher, was determined that her sons would have the best education possible. “My mother was tough but loving,” Don remembered. “She never spared you because she knew we were in tough circumstances and that education and self-reliance were the way out.”

Striking Out on His Own
In August of 1944, just shy of his 18th birthday, Don left for the Great Lakes Naval Training Station. His brothers had already enlisted. Emmett was serving under George Patton in Europe and Wayne was in air force. In a strange twist of fate, Don was not shipped overseas but to a Navy psychiatric hospital in Newport, Rhode Island where he would care for soldiers who were traumatized by war.

It was a lot for an 18-year-old to absorb, but Don quickly developed a rapport with the men, and found that a little kindness went a long way. “I learned to respect people’s dignity. No matter how far they had fallen these were brave men caught up in something that was far greater than themselves.”

After the war, Don moved to Omaha, Nebraska and entered Creighton University on the G. I. Bill. Among his neighbors in Omaha was Warren Buffet, who became his life-long friend. Following graduation, Don started a career as a talk-show host in Omaha, and just before he started on his chosen career, he got married.

Marilyn “Mickie” Mulhall, who had family on both sides from Iowa, took his eye. It was love at first sight. The couple married at St. Cecilia’s Cathedral in Omaha on September 10, 1949 and honeymooned in Chicago, a rushed five-day affair because Don was due back at WOR where he had landed the assignment of being the commentator on the first ever televised transmission of a live sports event west of Chicago.

It was a National Football League preseason game between the Los Angeles Rams and the New York Giants. “Luckily there were only a few hundred television sets in the area at the time,” Don recalled with a grin.

Soon he was making the acquaintance of the other television newcomer, John Carson.  The friendship blossomed when Keough, Carson and their wives found themselves living opposite each other in a local apartment building.

Carson’s show directly followed Keough’s “Coffee Break,” and he often found himself producing it. “He was just shaping his own unique humor; he found humor in everything,” Don remembered.He might well have gone to a successful television career like Carson, but he realized that he wanted to spend more time with his wife and growing family. He’d had enough of working “football weekends.”

Carson moved to Los Angeles and Keough to a company called Butternut Coffee where he was instrumental in the company’s sponsorship of Carson’s first ever television show.

Within a few years, Butternut was acquired by Duncan Foods, which in turn was taken over by Coca-Cola.  “Suddenly, we were part of a whole new ball game,” Don remembers.He found himself as number two to a legendary Coke hand, Luke Smith, who saw something in the young Midwesterner. Meanwhile, Charles Duncan, Keough’s mentor, was a major success in his assignments for Coca-Cola.

In 1971 Duncan was elected president of the company. Luke Smith, who was Keough’s immediate superior, was called back to Atlanta, and Don was elected head of Duncan Foods, which was renamed the Coca-Cola Foods Division.

Keough went on to a brilliant career. He was appointed as head of all the Americas for Coca-Cola in 1976, and in 1981 he was appointed president, chief operating officer and director.

He enjoyed running the iconic company, he told Niall O’Dowd. “I had passion for what I was doing. I always believed that you have to have people at the top who are passionate about their company, and that that is communicated down through the ranks.” He went on to say, “The task of leaders in business is to convince the people who work for you that what you are suggesting for them is in their best interest. It is like a perpetual marriage, you get along to go along, you have difficulties, spats, but you have to sit down and say we are going to work this out.”

Waking Up the Irish Echoes

It is typical of the prescience of Don Keough that after a career in corporate America, he turned to a venture of a different kind, one that would pay tribute to the land of his ancestors.

When he retired as president and COO of Coca-Cola in 1993 (he would retain a seat on the board of directors), Don turned his focus to Notre Dame and, with an endowment of $2.5 million, established the Keough Institute of Irish Studies, and the Keough Notre Dame Centre in Dublin, Ireland.

“Notre Dame didn’t have any type of academic Irish Studies program. It just seemed like a natural fit to me,” Keough said at the time.

Since then, with Don driving it on, and backed by Andy McKenna and Patrick McCartan, his friends and successors as Chair of the Trustees, Irish Studies at Notre Dame has gone from strength to strength, attracting world-class scholars such as Seamus Deane, Breandán Ó Buachalla and Declan Kiberd. Don also forged a close partnership with Martin Naughton, insisting that for an Irish-American partnership to work properly, it had to have a balanced leadership.
From the beginning, Don Keough wisely insisted that Notre Dame could only forge a strong relationship with Ireland through a genuine immersion in Irish life, and through close collaboration with Irish partners. Notre Dame operates a trilateral partnership with University College Dublin and Trinity College Dublin, and almost one thousand Notre Dame students have studied there. Their positive Irish experience encourages them to become what Don Keough has always been – a lifelong advocate for Ireland. It is typical of Don’s vision that he was so quick to realize how significant the nurturing of these linkages would become.

Don has always stressed that, as we seek to enrich other people’s lives, we really enrich ourselves, and that that motivation lies at the heart of all philanthropy.

That is the true measure of a charismatic man who has greatly impacted thousands of lives, who has brought wise counsel, good humor, vigor and momentum to strengthening the relationship between Ireland and America, and who has enriched us all through his generous leadership. Don Keough has a unique ability to make people feel valued and appreciated, and to spur them on in their endeavors.

An old Irish proverb says “Beidh sé molta da mbéadh mé i mo thost” (‘He would be praised even if I were silent’).

When he was granted Irish citizenship in 2007, the President of Ireland, Mary McAleese, presented Don with a vellum inscription which included a phrase from the Book of Sirach, chosen by Don’s good friend Fr. Timothy Scully CSC:

“A faithful friend is a sturdy shelter: He who finds one finds a treasure.”

For all those who know, love, admire and are inspired by this great man, Don Keough has surely been a ‘sturdy shelter’ and when you are with him, you are indeed in the presence of an American and an Irish treasure.

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Boxing Buddies: George Bernard Shaw and Gene Tunney Sat, 01 Jan 2011 11:53:30 +0000 Read more..]]> The unlikely friendship between prizefighter Gene Tunney and dramatist George Bernard Shaw is explored in a new book by the boxer’s son, Jay Tunney. 

There are many books about famous literary friendships.  John Keats, Lord Byron and Percy Bysshe Shelley have more than a few dedicated to them, as do Edith Wharton and Henry James; Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald. While these relationships are certainly interesting to dedicated readers and valuable for scholars, the bonds between writers and their non-writer friends can be even more compelling because of their unexpected nature and their basis in something outside of literary pursuits. For instance, T.S. Eliot and Groucho Marx exchanged letters for years; Mark Twain was a close friend of the Standard Oil magnate Henry Huttleston Rogers. As the recently published The Prizefighter and the Playwright explores, such a friendship existed between the great Irish dramatist George Bernard Shaw and Gene Tunney, the two-time World Heavyweight Champion.

“The things that brought them together were boxing, a love of literature…and a few negative comments,” the author Jay Tunney explained during our conversation in his Manhattan pied-à-terre. Jay, the third son of Gene Tunney and Polly Lauder Tunney, had wanted to write a book about his father for quite some time, but struggled to figure out an angle from which he could approach the story. After many years working on a successful entrepreneurial venture in South Korea, where he introduced premium ice cream to the market, Jay sold his company and returned to the United States. It was then that he approached his mother with the idea of a book about Tunney, who had passed away in 1978.

“I was ready to do something else, to do a book about Dad, but Mother was absolutely the most private person who ever walked the face of the earth and didn’t really want that,” Jay recalled. She was, it turns out, very justified in her fear of the public eye: during his boxing career Tunney was the target of much ridicule and skepticism from the press because of his literary interests – considered rare for a pugilist – and the Tunneys had been excessively stalked by reporters around the time of their marriage, after word got out that the heavyweight champion was engaged to an heiress from Connecticut.

But mother and son eventually reached a compromise. “In the meantime, there were other biographers who wanted to come in and do [official] biographies of Dad, but Mother especially didn’t want that.” Luckily, a family friend suggested Jay focus on Tunney and Shaw. As Jay remembers it, “the former U.S. ambassador to Sweden, Frank Fosberg, who was a great friend of my father’s, suggested I write about Shaw; he thought it would be a wonderful story. I thought it was a great idea, I checked that with Mother, and she was very happy…She thought that a book about Shaw and Dad’s friendship was the solution.”
Next came the research. About twelve years ago, Jay began interviewing his mother, who, as he discusses in the book, proved to be a valuable but complicated source of information. “Our mother wanted the story of their friendship shared because she knew how much our father valued Shaw’s friendship…” he writes in the epilogue. But, he adds “to our mother, everything was personal.” He fondly describes how she was, at times, forthcoming with information, even giving her first and only broadcast interview for a BBC Radio 4 program Jay co-wrote in 2000. At other times she wanted to call off the project, but still played a vital role in Jay’s writing until her death in 2008, twelve days before her 101st birthday.

For further information, Jay began going through the many letters between Tunney and Shaw. He conducted extensive interviews with his siblings, other relatives, and any friends of his parents and the Shaws who were still alive. He compiled photographs of Tunney at significant points throughout his life and career, and rare images of Tunney and Shaw together – many of which are reproduced in the book. He sought out various resources on each of the men and immersed himself, as he put it, “in a crash course on Shaw.”

This was a real learning process for Jay. As a child, he recalled, he knew of Shaw on three peripheral levels: as the man in one of the two John Lavery portraits that hung in the family’s living room, as the torso captured by a Jo Davidson bust a few feet away from the painting, and as the driving force behind the lack of bacon in their household. (Shaw, a vegetarian, was responsible for putting Tunney in touch with Curtis Freshel, the man who would become Tunney’s business partner in marketing Bakon Yeast, a powdered bacon substitute). But that was about it. It wasn’t until Jay was older that he began to understand who Shaw was and the effect he had on his father, and it wasn’t until Jay began his research that he came to realize just how great that effect had been. A love of words and literature, for example: they had always been there, but Jay’s work makes it clear that Tunney’s relationship with Shaw augmented these interests, turned them into real points of developed knowledge and pride. This was dedicated work, and from it all emerges a much broader picture of the prizefighter, the playwright, and their surprisingly deep friendship.

Life Imitating Art   
As Jay explains in his writing, the connections between the two men started before they knew each other – before Tunney was even born.
In 1882 Shaw wrote his fourth novel, Cashel Byron’s Profession. The book, the most nearly successful of his five unsuccessful novels, details the life of Cashel Byron, an unlikely boxing champion. Cashel, a restless Irish youth without much of a future, leaves school and paves his own way to success. His smart, clean, and to-the-point fighting skills eventually earn him two consecutive world championship titles, but he then makes the unexpected move of retiring in order to pursue Lydia Carew, a beautiful heiress. The two marry and have four children, and Cashel finds success outside of the ring as well.

The book is not, by any means, one of Shaw’s most popular or provocative works. It was written very early in his career, only a few years after he had moved to London. He was still dependent on his family for support, as he spent his days reading and writing, and his nights socializing with the London intelligentsia. He was still in the process of turning himself into a writer, thinker, socialist and wit – still becoming George Bernard Shaw as we think of him today.

Nevertheless, Cashel Byron is an important piece. It complicates our understanding of Shaw by highlighting his little known love and knowledge of boxing; it has at its crux the idea of social transformation that is so central to many of his later works. In addition, the novel holds great significance as the impetus for one of Shaw’s most meaningful but seldom discussed friendships.

About thirty years after Shaw wrote Cashel Byron, the life of James Joseph Tunney, a poor Irish Catholic kid from the Lower West Side of Manhattan, began imitating art. Like Shaw’s Cashel, Tunney never finished at his Christian Brothers school: he had to leave at fifteen to help support his family. Gene, as everyone called him, began learning how to fight from the local boxing legends like Willy Green, and further honed his skills in the ring during his time as a Marine in World War I. He developed an intelligent, “scientific” fighting style that served him well, was fair to his opponents, but sometimes earned him scorn from the press  – Tunney went for the win, not the kill. At the end of an impressive career of professional fighting, in which he lost only one match (to Harry Greb), the “Fighting Marine” went on to reign as the World Heavyweight Champion from 1926-1928. Two weeks after his second championship win in the memorable “long count” fight against Jack Dempsey, Tunney permanently left boxing following his engagement to Mary “Polly” Lauder. They went on to have four children and, after the Second World War, Tunney found further success as a businessman.

In the midst of all these striking coincidences, as Tunney unwittingly lived out elements of the fictional life Shaw had created for Cashel, the two men became close friends.

But, as Jay recounted during our discussion and relates further in his book, Tunney and Shaw got off to a bad start. In hopes of securing himself a post-boxing career as an actor, Tunney approached the producer Lawrence Langner in 1926 about the possibility of starring in a stage version of Cashel Byron’s Profession. Langner posed the idea to Shaw, who gave various noncommittal answers before rejecting the offer. Hurt, Tunney took a verbal swipe at Shaw while in conversation with a reporter, making negative comments about the novel.

Fortunately, as Jay told me with amusement, the playwright was not offended by the boxer’s remarks. In fact, they had quite the opposite effect: “Shaw said, ‘my God that young man must have some taste, I’d love to meet him.’ And that got back to Dad.”

They didn’t actually meet until a few years later, in 1928, when the Tunneys were honeymooning after their wedding in Rome. As Tunney traveled throughout Europe trying to escape the press, Shaw repeatedly tried to contact him but kept missing him by little more than a day. Finally, when the couple arrived in London in December, Shaw and his wife Charlotte (also an heiress) invited them to a luncheon at their apartment in Whitehall Court.

The lunch, which Jay re-creates in detail from his mother’s perspective, marked the beginning of a long friendship between the Tunneys and the Shaws. Each couple developed a great appreciation for the other, and Tunney and Shaw began to realize how much they actually had in common: G.B.S, as he insisted his friends call him, shared Gene’s love of boxing, and Tunney showed his deep interest in literature. A few months later, in April of 1929, the two couples reunited for a month-long stay on Bironi, a small island in the Adriatic Sea.

This stay makes up the heart of Jay’s book. While some chapters span a few years, Jay devotes the better part of five chapters to the month in Bironi. As we come to learn, Cashel Byron’s Profession was far from the only thing that connected the prizefighter and the playwright. From their time in Bironi on, after their many talks and a dramatic period with Polly’s health that solidified the bond between the Tunneys and the Shaws, the two men were also very good friends who communicated on spiritual and intellectual levels. The fact that Shaw’s novel more or less foreshadowed Tunney’s career was merely one of the many coincidences and points of interest that drew the two men together. Time slows down as Jay carefully describes the long daily walks Tunney and Shaw took together and the lasting effect their talks had on both men, on Tunney in particular. Shaw, Jay remarked, “was a great outdoor teacher. That was how their relationship worked: Shaw was the teacher and Dad the pupil.”

The Bookish Boxer
In America Tunney had been told that his profession as a boxer and his love of reading and intense personal discipline were incongruous and strange. The idea of a boxer who read a lot and led a principled, highly ascetic lifestyle did not sit well with many boxing fans and sportswriters. Opinions, Jay told me, were divided: some people thought it was all an act, they didn’t believe that Tunney actually spent his spare time reading rather than, as Jay put it, “having a few beers at night and running around with the girls at the training camps.” Others balked at the idea of a boxer with his nose stuck in a book and were put off by the extent to which Tunney kept to himself. “Reporters would say ‘how can he be a bigger lover of books than we are? We’re the wordsmiths, who does he think he is?’” Jay added, “Dad really didn’t understand that part. He could probably have been more empathetic, but he just didn’t.”

In Europe with G.B.S., however, it seems that the bookish boxer was able to reconcile these two parts of himself and to further his learning. Both men were more or less autodidacts, and Tunney had much to learn from the playwright who was forty years his senior. He came to, as Jay aptly phrased it, “build his intellect like he had built his muscles. He knew that both were buildable things.” According to Jay’s account, they talked about everything from the theories of the 18th-century French naturalist Jean-Baptiste Lamarck, to the music of Richard Strauss; everyone from Ibsen to H.G. Wells. “Shaw was a real spiritual and intellectual father to Dad; his own father never really made the grade. Dad thought Shaw was a saint.”

The versions of George Bernard Shaw and Gene Tunney that we see in The Prizefighter and the Playwright are departures from the way history remembers each of the men. People considered Shaw to be “kind of a didactic guy, someone who talked down,” Jay said. They had a hard time separating the writer from his works. Through talking with his mother, however, Jay came to realize that the Shaw his parents knew was very different. “It was through her that I came to find that Shaw was actually full of affection… He had a wonderful, devilish, Irish sense of humor that people often ignore. Dad did too, that’s probably part of why they got along so well.” Jay also presents a more complicated rendering of Shaw’s self-proclaimed atheism, exploring the spiritual discussions G.B.S. frequently had with his younger, more devout friend. This difference in belief is not portrayed as an issue of contention, but as something from which both men learned a lot.

Taking readers beyond the bad press his father once received, Jay shows Tunney to have been a complex and highly admirable man.  “Dad had a lot of character, always did. He had a strong Irish Catholic upbringing and he was very moral, very principled. His whole approach to life was from that angle.” We see Tunney as a boy, sitting at the kitchen table at night, lining up one hundred matches, end to tip, and then reversing them — all to teach himself patience and discipline. We see him in his twenties as a dedicated boxer genuinely confused by the public’s reaction. We see him, older, as a dear friend, visiting Shaw for the last time at Ayot St. Lawrence, his house in England, before the playwright’s death in 1950. We see him, later, as a father, quizzing his children on Shakespeare and encouraging them to keep journals of word definitions – just as Tunney did throughout his life.

In this sense, there does seem to have been a corrective effort behind the book, an attempt to set the record straight, though it does not necessarily come at the expense of objectivity. Jay admitted that it was initially hard to be his father’s narrator: “The experience was awkward at times. I had to watch my subjectivity.” But he ultimately found that “it had a lot to do with voice. Referring to Dad as ‘Gene Tunney,’ referring to him in an objective way, allowed me to see him in a more objective way.” Indeed, Jay’s portrayal of his father comes across as extremely considered, realistic, and fair.

That a kid who grew up in a cold water flat in the West Village and left school at fifteen to work in a butcher’s shop would grow up to be a two-time World Heavyweight Champion, husband of a smart and beautiful heiress, and close friend to George Bernard Shaw, is nothing short of amazing. But that very trip down an unlikely path to success is actually the heart of Jay’s book and was, possibly, the cornerstone of the bond between Tunney and Shaw.

As Jay put it, “Shaw was drawn to Dad because he just loved supermen. He loved winners, and Dad was a champion. He transformed himself, he literally transformed himself.” This is key in Shaw’s works too, in characters from Cashel Byron to the flower girl Eliza Doolittle. Thanks to Professor Henry Higgins’ lessons in elocution, Eliza goes from having a thick cockney accent to possessing the manner of royalty — but that isn’t really the important part. Eliza turnss herself into an independent being, one who, in the end, doesn’t need Higgins. As Jay elaborated, “The biggest idea in all of this is reinvention of oneself. You’re going to need your Higgins but you’re also going to have to do it yourself. And Eliza did do it herself.”

He also sees the idea of reinvention as being central in Shaw’s life: “Shaw was the image of self-reinvention, of re-creation. Little timid Shaw arrived in England at the age of twenty. One of the first things he did was write five novels, all of them unsuccessful, but he kept going.” To keep going was no easy task, but it’s something that, significantly, Tunney, Shaw, and many of Shaw’s best characters were able to do. “It’s easy,” Jay added, “for us to be romantic about it, but it really was that way. We’re mostly given the freedom to make things out of ourselves, do something different than what our father or grandfather did, but it wasn’t like that then. Dad broke out of that European trap, so did Shaw.”

At the end of our conversation, Jay concluded, “It really is all about transforming yourself.” Then, with an ease that would have made both Shaw and his father proud, Jay quoted the serpent’s great line from Shaw’s play Back to Methuselah: “You see things; and you say ‘Why?’ But I dream things that never were; and I say ‘Why not?”


This article was originally published in the December / January 2011 issue of Irish America♦

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Celtic Thunder’s Global Appeal Sat, 01 Jan 2011 11:52:34 +0000 Read more..]]> The latest Irish invasion offers a cross section of music from traditional to pop – to everyone’s delight.

As I sit down in Radio City Music Hall, I think I know exactly what I’m getting myself into. I’m here on a Friday night to see Celtic Thunder, yet another Irish musical export that has exploded in popularity across the United States. Since their formation in 2006 by creator-producer Sharon Browne and composer Phil Coulter, Celtic Thunder has released four extremely successful albums and appeared on numerous PBS specials. Like their female counterparts Celtic Woman, they seem to have particularly captivated the Irish-American audience, with their careful balance of Irish traditional songs and updated classics.

So I was legitimately surprised when I sat down in the theater next to a couple gushing about Celtic Thunder in Italian. When I spoke with Thunder member Keith Harkin, I asked him if he thought the Irish-American connection had been particularly integral to the band’s popularity. While he can’t deny the sheer numbers – Celtic Thunder’s latest release, Celtic Thunder Christmas, is at #1 on the Billboard charts – Keith explained that Celtic Thunder appeals to everybody, regardless of Irish blood. “Irish music is a real old music, everyone knows Irish music…no matter where you’re from there’s always an Irish bar, there’s always an Irish connection. So it’s not just about the American connection, because Irish is everywhere.”

In the age of music mass marketing, it wasn’t until after the concert that I really believed Celtic Thunder had the global appeal Keith described. While they have only toured in the U.S and Canada, Celtic Thunder’s DVD of their first show, Act One, recently went gold in Australia. Once they get done with a whopping 78 dates [this is as of early October] left on their current tour, they’ll hopefully expand touring to Australia and Asia. And it’s all because, as Keith says, Celtic Thunder is “not a one-trick pony.”

“There’s a wide variety of people who come to the show, not just people with Irish connection,” said Keith. “The music spans from the 20s to the modern selections. You’ve got Paul [Byrom] doing the Fred Astaire numbers, Damian [McGinty] doing the sort of swing, Rat Pack numbers, myself doing the 60s Beach Boys numbers, Ryan [Kelly] doing modern classics and George [Donaldson] doing 80s and 90s music, so everybody’s going to take something from it.”
The current tour features two halves to each concert, which are nearly distinct enough to be separate shows. The first, “Tradition,” is a collection of traditional Irish songs. Beautifully sung and well-arranged, “Tradition” acts as an introduction to each of the members’ singing styles and voices through the medium of the music with which they are most familiar. “The first half is the music that us Irish guys all grew up listening to,” said Keith. “My dad’s a musician and I grew up hearing him play a lot of those songs the same way the other boys’ parents would’ve done…In the first shows a lot of people really loved the Irish stuff so we decided to do one half completely Irish traditional.”

The second half is an impressive showcase of songs that range from operatic to classic rock and roll to modern pop hits, such as Coldplay’s “Viva La Vida.” Each of the men’s strengths as a singer is again brought out through the song selections. Keith explains that while they do not have final say on what they get to sing, there is discussion with the producers about what is the most fitting style for each of the members.

And then there are the group numbers – though few and far between during the second half of the concert, they remind the audience of the strong dynamic and stage presence of the combined group over any one individual. “Ireland’s Call,” a song composed by Phil Coulter and the official Irish Rugby Union anthem, marked the finale of the Radio City Music Hall show. Clearly a fan favorite, the rousing anthem brings the entire crowd to its feet, and by the second chorus the audience has picked up enough of the words to enthusiastically sing along.

Producer Sharon Browne styled Celtic Thunder after Celtic Woman, the all-female singing group created in 2004 to unbelievable success in the United States and around the world. For Celtic Thunder, auditions were held in Scotland and Ireland to find the best singers and performers to fit Browne and Coulter’s vision of the group. For Keith Harkin, the chance to sing in the Celtic supergroup was almost accidental. “I was working with Andy Wright at the time writing music for him and doing music for other people and myself, and I came that day from London, the day they were holding auditions for Celtic Thunder, and I had no idea what Celtic Thunder was or who Sharon Browne was…I went to have a beer with my dad and he paid for my cab ride to the bar and I had no idea why he had paid, walked into the audition still with no idea what I was doing there, and sung a few songs and they liked me. And here I am sitting here today in Springfield [Illinois, on tour].”

Besides Damian and Keith, both natives of Derry, who had performed at some local charitable events in their hometown and had met briefly, the men were all strangers when they were chosen for Celtic Thunder. However, they all shared the thread of a deep devotion to musicianship, even from a very young age. Damian McGinty has been involved with Celtic Thunder since he was fourteen. He won his first singing competition at the age of six. George Donaldson is a well-known Glaswegian flautist, guitarist and singer, and Paul Byrom, from Dublin, is also a long-time professional musician, releasing his solo album “Velvet” in 2005. Ryan Kelly has been actively involved in theater and performed on BBC concert specials before the formation of Celtic Thunder.

Keith told me he had been singing and playing music since he was four, a talent that became a professional pursuit as he blossomed into a solo musician and translated music for the BBC on the Irish language show Two Tongues (Dhá Theanga), in which he was also the lead actor. Keith’s solo career has continued – he created his own music label called Busty Music Ltd in 2009, to which he has already signed his sister. His song “Lauren and I,” a catchy, acoustic pop rock single, is also part of Celtic Thunder’s performances.

The members’ ages span from 18 to 42, a disparity that saves them from being considered an “Irish boy band” and instead, on stage, makes them look like a family. Keith described them as “brothers,” especially since they often spend most of their year together, touring, promoting and filming new concerts and specials.

“The five of us guys get on pretty well and we’ve been together for three years. This is our fourth tour of America and Canada. So we’ve been living with each other like brothers for the past three or four years.”

The group is backed by the Celtic Thunder Band, which is front and center throughout the show and equally integral to the quality of Celtic Thunder’s performance. Keith concurs that they are “as much a part of the band as anyone else on stage.” In fact, most of the members can play any and all of the instruments used in the show’s arrangements, switching between fiddles and harps while making agile leaps across the stage in time with the singers. Recently, Neil Byrne, the guitarist in the band, has been invited to perform some songs along with Celtic Thunder as well as provide backing vocals in various recordings.

With three years of success and accolades under their belts, Celtic Thunder is not stopping anytime soon. Fans can look forward to special performances of Celtic Thunder’s holiday album at the end of the year as well as a PBS Christmas special in December. Though Celtic Thunder can easily draw the globe into Radio City Music Hall, the men still have much of the world left to conquer.

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Dublin Fair City: A Look at Dublin, Ohio Sat, 01 Jan 2011 11:52:20 +0000 Read more..]]> Cycle along the outer streets of Dublin and farmland and grassy fields are still visible beyond rambling stone walls; drive through the round-abouts into the city and catch a show at the Abbey Theater; end your evening in a snug at the Brazenhead, pint in one hand, and in the other, tickets to the OSU game? Well, you are in Dublin – Ohio, that is.

This is not just a case of an American city with a European moniker. In  Dublin, Ohio just outside of Columbus, residents live on Innisfree Lane and Phoenix Park Drive, play links-style golf at the Golf Club of Dublin and root for the Shamrocks, Irish, and Celtics – all local high school teams. They frequent the Shoppes of Athenry and relax in Balgriffin and Trinity parks. The Dublin Community Recreation Center offers classes in Irish Dancing and named its theater after the famed Abbey in Ireland. Fire hydrants are painted green and the shamrock adorns everything from city signs to local business advertisements. The city has embraced the Irish culture for the fun and uniqueness of it … yet the care and attention paid to these Irish touches are indicative of the careful planning and attention to detail that has enabled Dublin to go from a small farming village of just under 700 in 1970 to a city of over 40,000 today without losing its close-knit community feel – or its continuing homage to all things Irish.

First inhabited by Native Americans, then settled by the Sells family in 1810, the limestone-rich land along the Scioto River began as a strong farming community named for land surveyor John Shields’s hometown in Ireland. The village developed slowly at first, but carefully. Wood and stone collected from cleared forests and fields were used to build homes, bridges, and stone walls that still survive. Some of the names of the original families – Sells, Karrer, Coffman, and Pinney – can still be found in the phone book as well as on streets and schools named in their honor.

In the mid 1970s, life for this small village began to change rapidly after a trinity of events which deputy city planner Dana McDaniel says “set the standards for quality early on.” Construction of Interstate 270, the ‘outer belt’ around Columbus, drew more of the city population to the surrounding suburbs. It also brought the headquarters of Ashland Chemical, which in turn convinced Ohio to add an I-270 Interchange in Dublin. Ashland was the first corporate headquarters to locate in Dublin, followed by Wendy’s, the OCLC (Online Community Library Center), and later, Cardinal Health.

Around this time, world-renowned championship golfer and Columbus native Jack Nicklaus chose Dublin as the future site of a world-class golf course and tournament on par with Augusta National, site of the Masters. Nicklaus named the course Muirfield Village Golf Club, after Muirfield in Scotland, the site of Nicklaus’s first British Open title. The course is home to Nicklaus’s Memorial Tournament, and will host the President’s Cup in 2013. The quality of the course attracted residents to the Muirfield Village subdivision, which broke ground in 1974.

As the town grew, the Irish touches took on a life of their own … the original limestone walls were continued throughout the town. Developers adopted Irish place names for subdivisions like Waterford Village and Donegal Cliffs. The shamrock, the popular symbol of Dublin for years, was officially adopted in 1973. Ten years later, Ha’Penny Bridge Irish Imports opened its doors in Dublin.

While there was no directive from the town to incorporate Irish culture, according to community planner Sandra Puskarcik, “it was easy for Dublin, Ohio, to align with Dublin, Ireland. There is such a richness and diversity in the Irish culture that you can apply it in a respectful way to the fabric of the community. Some of those things were here naturally – like the stone walls – and some we had to learn and continue with.”

With expanding boundaries and population, Dublin, Ohio officially became a city in 1987, and celebrated its first anniversary the same year that Dublin, Ireland was celebrating its millennium. To mark the occasions, the 1/1000 Committee was formed and hosted a year of Irish celebrations including performances by actors from the Abbey Theatre in Dublin, Ireland and musical legends the Chieftains, in their first Central Ohio appearance.

The year-long celebration was the impetus for creating the Dublin Irish Celebration, a group of about ten people with strong connections to Ireland. When the Columbus Feis moved to Dublin in 1988, the beginnings of the group put together some entertainment to keep attendees busy between the dancing. That first year “there was a hay wagon, a keg of beer, and an Irish band,” says Tom Murnane, a member of the Dublin Irish Celebration. The next year the founding group worked with the City of Dublin to keep the festival Irish. The Dublin Irish Celebration continues to be a resource for the city. “We rely upon this core group of people to keep us focused on that which is real and cultural.  We’ve had some luck along the way, but it’s like this (now) by design,” says Puskarcik.
These days, the Dublin Irish Festival draws over 100,000 visitors to the three-day experience, where every conceivable Irish element can be seen, heard, tasted, and touched. Children flock to the Wee Folk area to play, make crafts, and compete in contests including ‘Reddest Hair’ and ‘Most Freckles.’ Adults can participate in the whisky tasting and enjoy pints of Dublin Irish Festival Stout – a specialty brew created exclusively for the festival. Those who wander the 29 acres are treated to craft workshops, food, shops, and endless entertainment. Music is heard at every turn; Tommy Sands, Moya Brennan, Solas, and Lunasa were highlights this year, as well as returning favorite Gaelic Storm. New to the festival were master fiddler Natalie MacMaster and Girsa, an all-female group combining traditional Irish tunes with modern favorites. The Saw Doctors closed the festival Sunday night – a rousing finish to a long weekend packed with step dancing, hurling matches, bagpipers, Celtic canines, and re-enactors.

Dublin gets a jump on the festivities Thursday evening with a 5K run and Pub Crawl in the city’s Historic District, with extended shop hours and live music. Classes in Irish language and instruction in bodhran, fiddle, flute, and uillean pipes are offered at area hotels for locals and visitors alike.
“We start planning the festival in February and are constantly scrutinizing the entertainment, vendors, etc.  Other festivals have come to us to find out how we do things,” says Murnane. The festival has consistently been named a top 100 event in North America by the American Bus Association and last year alone received ten awards from the International Festival and Events Association.

Building on the popularity of the Irish culture with residents as well as visitors, the city continues to embrace its Irish connections. The two newest high schools kept alive the tradition set by the Dublin Coffman High School ‘Shamrocks’ by naming themselves the ‘Irish’ and the ‘Celtics.’ Outside the entrance to Dublin’s links course is a replica of an Irish stone cottage ruin. Historic Dublin establishments like the Dublin Village Tavern have included Irish fare on their menus, while the Brazenhead, also the name of the oldest pub in Dublin, Ireland, took it several steps further. Opened in 1997, this authentic Irish pub was designed by an Irish architect and built by Irish carpenters. They included ‘snugs’ – cozy private rooms with fireplaces, decorated with accessories from Ireland. The bar itself was brought in pieces from Ireland and assembled by an Irish crew.

St. Brigid of Kildare, the Catholic parish in Dublin, was founded in 1987. St. Brigid, or ‘Mary of the Gael’ as she was known to the Irish, was a fitting choice considering Dublin’s city traditions. The church was completed in 1991 and modeled after the 13th-century Church of Ireland Cathedral in Kildare, Ireland. The Altar of Sacrifice contains stone from St. Brigid of Kildare Cathedral in Ireland, and the reliquary contains relics of St. Brigid. The pulpit is an Irish lawyer’s desk from the 1800s, with four Book of Kells-inspired painted panels on the front depicting the four Gospel writers. Students at the Catholic school learn the story of St. Brigid and how to make St. Brigid crosses, and are welcomed by a bagpiper on the first day of school.

A few years ago, Dublin went through a branding process to figure out what the perceptions of Dublin were outside the city. Whether it was new residents or visitors, the common first thought of what to expect was ‘Irish stuff.’ According to Scott Dring, Executive Director of the Dublin Convention & Visitors Bureau (CVB), “The whole city has gravitated to this Irish theme. It distinguishes us from other communities in the area.”

Hotels in the city have given Irish names to their restaurants and conference rooms and changed their décor and logos to include shamrocks and plenty of green. The Holiday Express even offers wake-up calls with a brogue. “Because it’s been so successful,” says Dring, “people continue to embrace and build upon it.” For example, Slainte Thursdays invite residents to stroll through Historic Dublin to enjoy the special offers at shops, outdoor dining, and live music. In their efforts to give visitors a unique Irish experience, the Dublin CVB offers 20 ‘Irish Experiences’ including an afternoon with a seanchai, Gaelic language lessons, Irish dance demonstrations, and fiddle music at an Irish pub.

At its core, Dublin is still a close-knit community with their home-town pride and hospitality easy to see and feel. As Tom Murnane, a resident since 1980, says, “This community really really cares – about everything. There’s a lot of pride here. Halloween, Fourth of July, Christmas, St. Patrick’s Day – it’s all a big deal. The perception of Dublin is that everything they do, they do right.”

One of Dublin’s most forward-thinking achievements has been its city-wide wi-fi network. Not only does it enhance public safety and city operations, it provides mobile internet access to the entire city, whether you’re in a public park or your own backyard. “It’s the next generation infrastructure that is necessary to support our residents and our businesses,” says deputy city planner McDaniel. “This kind of infrastructure supports the knowledge-based job, and it has certainly got us international recognition.”  In 2009, Dublin was one of only two U.S. cities to be named one of the Top Seven Intelligent Communities around the world. In the year since its creation, the Dublin Entrepreneurial Center is now home to forty new businesses. “People are just amazed at how quickly that’s taken off,” says McDaniel. “It’s a reflection of our community and our entrepreneurial spirit.” Perhaps it’s this spirit that in 2009 prompted Business Week to name Dublin the Top Small City in Ohio to start a business, and Fox Business News to name Dublin the Top Small City in the U.S. to start a business.

The residents of Dublin definitely feel they are lucky. Out of hundreds of cities across the country participating in a National Citizen Survey, Dublin had by far the highest rankings the National Research Center (NRC) had ever recorded. Dublin received the highest ranking in the nation as a place to live, in economic development, emergency preparedness, city services, and quality of new development, to name just a few, and ranked second highest as a place to raise children, in public schools, services for youth, and recreation centers or facilities. “We knew we had satisfied citizens, but this blew us away a bit,” says McDaniel. agreed, and in 2009 named Dublin one of America’s 25 Best Places to Move.

The end of 2010 marks the completion of Dublin’s bicentennial year. The past two hundred years of forward thinking, careful planning, and commitment to Irish culture have made Dublin a remarkable place. The Irish attributes that Dublin embraces – gregariousness, hospitality, ingenuity, gratitude – enable the city to stand out and ensure its success for the next two hundred years.

The spirit of Ireland is alive and well in Dublin.

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