The University of St. Thomas in Houston has been earning plaudits in recent years for its pioneering Irish studies center which has brought a new appreciation of Ireland and Irish America to the southwest.
As well as hosting visits by a series of speakers who represent the cutting edge of Irish culture and politics, the center now also offers classes in Irish language taught by a native speaker.
Financial backing for the center’s Irish programs have come in large part from the generosity of the Irish Society of Houston but now director Lori Gallagher is spearheading a $1 million fundraising drive to name the center after Bill Flynn, this while simultaneously creating an endowment.
“Our campaign to honor Bill Flynn by naming the Center for Irish Studies after him not only recognizes his contribution to the Northern Ireland peace process, but also ensures that we continue to promote the key elements of that process,” Gallagher told the Irish Echo.
“That, of course, includes the importance of sitting everyone down at the conference table to dialogue and to find common ground.”
Contributions to the funds drive, which, despite the economic downturn, has passed its mid-point, have come from across the country and from, according to Gallagher, people who believe in the importance of promoting Irish heritage and culture and promoting peace and reconciliation.
But the bulk of the subscriptions has been made locally, most notably by Irish community stalwarts Colleen and George McCullough.
Viewed as the premier institution for Irish studies in the southwest, the center is dedicated to the pursuit of truth and knowledge about Ireland and Irish history, politics, literature, law, fine arts, culture, language and the Irish American experience.
Launched in 2003, its academic program covers Irish history, politics, drama, art and the Irish language while students also get an opportunity to travel to Ireland on a study aboard course.
Over the years, the center has gathered an impressive collection of Irish materials in the university library. Professor Aoife N