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Lahey wins Irish ambassador award
Quinnipiac University President John Lahey was presented with the 2010 Ambassador of Ireland Award from the Holyoke St. Patrick’s Parade Committee on Sunday.
The award is given to individuals who have been influential advocates for Irish-American relations.
Lahey, who does not consider himself a nationally-known Irish-American, was “surprised and honored to receive it.”
Most of Lahey’s exposure is in the greater New York area, but with this award, he is excited to expand to a new geographic area around Boston, where there is a large Irish population.
Lahey was the Grand Marshal in New York City’s Saint Patrick’s Day Parade in 1997. He has made more than 200 speeches on the Great Famine, and has had several articles published in The Guardian, an English newspaper.
Between 1845 and 1850, 1.5 million Irish died from starvation and diseases, and more than 2 million people left the country.
“Fortunately with the immigration to this country and elsewhere, it changed a lot of places for the better,” Lahey said. “The Irish came to this country and helped build our schools and roads, and helped develop the Catholic Church into an influential religious organization. The Irish touched just about every facet of American life.”
Through Lahey’s efforts and generous donations from the Lender family, Quinnipiac has accumulated the largest art collection from the period of the Irish famine, along with a sizeable collection of literature. An Gorta Mor – The Great Hunger is on display in the Lender Family Special Collection Room of the Arnold Bernhard library.
Previous winners include late author Frank McCourt, U.S. Rep.Richard E. Neal, and last year’s recipient Patricia Harty, editor of Irish American Magazine.
“I’ve moved up in class, it seems,” Lahey joked. “It’s a very exclusive group.
“This gives me the opportunity to talk about it with more people and to hopefully continue the education process, so that people never forget what happened in Ireland during that time and that human rights disasters of that kind won’t happen in the future.”