Magazine honors professor

Maggie Mallon

Dr. James Murphy, director of the Irish Studies Program at Villanova, was recently named one of the top 100 Irish Americans by Irish America.

He will be featured in the April/May edition of the magazine.

Murphy has been a professor at Villanova since 1963 and began the Irish Studies Program during 1979.

The magazine will feature a brief biographical sketch of Murphy, as well as information about his involvement in the Irish Studies Program.

“There are so many Irish Americans,” Murphy said. “It’s a nice honor.”

Irish America considers its list a “who’s who” of Irish Americans.

All the men and women included share a common pride in their ancestry, and previous honorees include President William Jefferson Clinton, Senator Edward Kennedy and author Frank McCourt.

Murphy was contacted by e-mail in November of 2007 about inclusion on the list.

At first he was unsure if he had simply been nominated or was definitely included as one of the top Irish Americans.

Publisher Niall O’Dowd spoke at Villanova last year, and it was then that he and Murphy discussed the ever-growing Irish Studies Program.

Since its beginnings, the program has developed into one of the largest and successful on campus, with over 60 students studying abroad at the National Univeristy of Ireland, Galway during the three semesters each year.

Martin McGuinn, a Villanova alumnus, recently gave an endowment for a scholarship to bring Irish students to Villanova.

After being contacted last November, Murphy spoke with editor Patricia Harty.

The story was then assembled and will be featured along with several full-length articles on other prominent Irish Americans.

The issue of Irish America will be published to commemorate St. Patrick’s Day.

It will highlight the impact Irish Americans have had on the country, as well as the extensive history of their Irish ancestors, something that Murphy has incorporated into the Irish studies program.

“The Irish Studies Program gives students a perspective on Ireland apart from green beer,” Murphy said. “This portrayal [of green beer] cheapens and clichés a rich history.”

Murphy, the son of two Irish immigrants, grew up in Brooklyn.

He received his undergraduate degree at Manhattan College, followed by a master’s degree at Niagara University.

He received his PhD at Temple University, completing his doctoral dissertation on the writings of James Joyce.

Growing up, Murphy said he did not have a great appreciation for the struggles his parents endured when immigrating to the United States.

His mother was 16 years old when she left Ireland, his father was 22 years old.

Forty-five years after leaving Ireland; Murphy’s father traveled back, bringing Murphy with him.

Although he had never physically been there, Murphy felt he had, mentally.

“My interest in Irish studies was cemented,” Murphy said of the trip.

Murphy is not the only professor at Villanova with such an interest in Irish studies.

When he first proposed the program nearly three decades ago, he generated interest across several departments.

When discussing his inclusion in the list of top Irish Americans, Murphy said that it is not simply recognizing him but recognizing the entire program, both here and at NUI, Galway.

Murphy believed Villanova was a logical place to start the program with the University’s Irish roots.

He attributes the program’s continued growth to the popularization of Irish culture, through things like YouTube, poet Seamus Heaney and River Dance.

Murphy and the other 99 Irish Americans will be honored at an awards dinner tomorrow in New York City.