Past and Future

Irish History and Heritage at St. John Fisher College

Over the years, St. John Fisher College has honored Irish history and heritage through its programming, cultural treasures, and most recently by building a relationship with the Waterford Institute of Technology and the City of Waterford, Ireland. The College offers a number of courses that examine Irish history and culture. In addition to these academic offerings, the College has hosted a wide-variety of Irish cultural events, including A Day of Celebration, a cultural show with a focus on Ireland; annual St. Patrick’s Day celebrations; and monthly lectures sponsored by the Rochester chapter of the Irish American Cultural Institute.

Irish history and culture are also celebrated at St. John Fisher College through two memorials. The first is a Book of Kells memorial, a facsimile of the original Book housed at Trinity College, Dublin. The facsimile was a gift to the College and the Rochester community from Irish immigrants, Irish-American descendants, friends, and members of the Monroe County Chapter of the Ancient Order of Hibernians and Ladies Auxiliary. It serves as a memorial to the loved ones of many of the contributors, and in a broader sense to all the Irish who came to the Rochester area and contributed to its richness. The second memorial is the Great Famine Monument, which honors the millions of Irish who died as a result of the Great Famine of 1845-1850. This monument was installed on the College campus in 1997 by members and friends of the Monroe County Ancient Order of Hibernians.

Dr. Donald E. Bain, President of St. John Fisher College, is well known for his successful efforts in promoting Irish heritage at the College. In 2009, the Irish Voice Newspaper and Irish America Magazine named President Bain to its Irish Education 100 list. In 2010, President Bain served as the Grand Marshall at the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Rochester. He is a frequent visitor to Ireland, and was the person most instrumental in founding an Irish Studies Program at the College. In 2011 President Bain and President Tony McFeely, Waterford Institute of Technology (WIT) in Ireland, signed a memo of understanding regarding future collaboration between the two institutions.

The Future Of Irish Studies at St. John Fisher College

It is clear from the interest expressed by faculty and students, as well as members of the Greater Rochester community, that the new Irish Studies Program at St. John Fisher College has received a great deal of attention in the Rochester area. St. John Fisher College is deeply grateful to the Rochester-Waterford Sister Cities Golf Tournament Committee for its support in allowing the college to launch its new Irish Studies Program. Future plans include: to offer more courses in the curriculum; to offer study abroad opportunities for students; to continue to hold an annual conference; to continue to work closely with organizations in the Rochester community such as the local chapter of the Irish American Cultural Institute, the Ancient Order of Hibernians, the Irish Children’s Program of Rochester, the St. Patrick’s Day Parade Committee, the Rochester Irish Festival, and the Colonel Patrick O’Rorke Memorial Society. Ongoing efforts include holding an annual Mass and commemoration at the memorial to the Great Hunger, gifted to the college by the Ancient Order of Hibernians; an annual Colonel Patrick O’Rorke Lecture on the Role of the Irish in the American Civil War; a conference in February of 2013 on “Frederick Douglass in Ireland”; and sponsorship of the Irish Children’s Program of Rochester, which brings young children from Protestant and Catholic homes in Belfast to Rochester to help further the cause of peace between the Catholic and Protestant populations of Northern Ireland “one child at a time.” St. John Fisher College students, faculty and alumni will also continue to march in the annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade as well as participate in the annual Rochester Irish Festival’s Celtic College.

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