Summer 2001

New Lehman Home for Scholars Of Hibernians on the New Sod



n April 4-a few weeks after Christopher Cahill put down his mike as an annual commentator on the St. Patrick's Day parade for NBC (last year he garnered an Emmy nomination for his performance)-his attentions were devoted to another feast of Hiberniana.

Professor of English Maureen Waters reading from her memoir at the inaugural event of the CUNY Institute for Irish American Studies.

As director of CUNY's new Institute for Irish American Studies, he assembled a dream cast of Irish-American writers on April 4 at Proshansky Auditorium in The Graduate Center to inaugurate the Lehman College-based Institute, which is the first ever to be devoted specifically to study of the Irish diaspora in the U.S. On May 11, the Institute's first symposium focused on the heart of its mission with an all-CUNY discussion on the Lehman campus of "A Redefinition of the Irish Diaspora."

Cahill, who also edits The Recorder, the journal of the Irish American Historical Society on 5th Avenue, felt the literary emphasis of the Graduate Center festivities was apt: "One of the most enduring cultural contributions of Irish-Americans has been their love of language and their gift for story-telling. . .This newest generation of writers continues to foster that tradition."

The newest generation was represented by Karen Duffy, whose first novel, Model Patient: My Life as an Incurable Wise Ass, appeared last year. Older hands were the high-flying poet (and Lehman English professor) Billy Collins, the NYPD officer (stationed in the South Bronx) and author Marcus Laffey, and the well-known writer and historian of Irish America Peter Quinn. Completing the sextet of scribes were Queens College Professor of English Maureen Waters, the author of a critical study titled The Comic Irishman, and novelist and short story writer James McCourt, whose most recent novel, Delancey's Way, has been praised by Harold Bloom and Susan Sontag. The funniest novel about opera fan-dom ever written, Mawrdew Czgowchwz, is also to his credit (note the similarity of the title character's initials to those of a famous diva).

Particularly pertinent, given the Institute's Bronx home, was Maureen Waters' reading from the narrative of her childhood there, Crossing Highbridge: A Memoir of Irish America, forthcoming from Syracuse University Press. An excerpt from it is offered here. For further information on the Institute and its events and programs, visit its Web site (www.lehman.cuny.edu/irishamericanstudies/) or call 718-960-6722.