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Gift from professor emerita boosts Irish studies program

- September 24, 2007

A new fund in support of the Irish Literature Program in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences will help the program grow and attract top graduate students.

Janet Moriarty, an associate professor emerita who earned three degrees from UConn, has established the Timothy F. Moriarty Award in Irish Literature to support activities such as conducting research at Irish institutions and attending academic conferences in the U.S. and abroad.

The fund is in memory of Moriarty’s grandfather, who was born and raised in Ireland.

“I’ve been wanting to give to UConn for a long time,” says Moriarty, who retired in 1997 after 27 years teaching modern and classical languages at the Greater Hartford campus.

When considering how her gift might be most effective, she turned to her former colleague Thomas Shea, an associate professor in the English department who specializes in Irish literature.

In the Irish Literature Program, Moriarty saw an opportunity to help expand a program close to her heart.

The program, which offers a concentration in Irish literature, has seen a recent surge in enrollment and commitment, Shea says.

In the past three years, the University has recruited two assistant professors: Mary Burke in the English department and Brendan Kane in history.

Both previously held the prestigious National Endowment for the Humanities Keough Fellowship at the Keough-Naughton Institute for Irish Studies at the University of Notre Dame.

UConn is now considering a proposal to transform the literature program into an official minor – a step toward eventually establishing a broader Irish studies major.

Janet Moriarty has established an award in Irish literature.
Janet Moriarty has established an award in Irish literature.
Photo by Patrick Woods

“It just intrigued me,” says Moriarty.

“It’s a developing program, and I thought that was where the money could be put to good use. This was also a way to honor my grandfather.

“My goal is to help anybody who could use the money to further their education,” she adds.

“I’m a strong believer in the power of education. And my ultimate goal is to have the program develop into an Irish studies program.”

Shea anticipates increased interest in the English Department’s graduate program as a result of the Moriarty fund.

“This is the kind of thing that’s very welcome news throughout the field,” he says.

“Graduate students ask what kinds of library resources, what kinds of financial backing your program has. And now we can tout this. It will definitely attract students.

“I think it’s a major plus,” Shea adds.

“It helps us recruit competitively with the top institutions featuring Irish Studies.”

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