Feb 17, 2000 - By Stephen O'Reilly
Connelly Center was transformed into an elegant banquet hall on Feb. 16 to celebrate the appointment of Peter Fallon as the first recipient of the Charles A. Heimbold Jr. endowed chair in Irish Studies.
Among those welcoming Fallon into the University community were President Rev. Edmund J. Dobbin, O.S.A., dean of Arts and Sciences Rev. Kail C. Ellis, OSA and James Murphy, Ph.D., director of Irish Studies. Each of these speakers stressed the point that the University is striving to broaden the perspectives of students and produce well-rounded graduates.
To accomplish this goal, the University is beginning to focus on incorporating an international dimension to the current curriculum.
"Peter Fallon is the first of many gifts that Heimbold has given to Villanova," said Murphy. Heimbold's contributions will allow the University to continue its support for these academic areas by steadily acquiring distinguished professors such as Fallon.
Fallon is a well-known Irish poet and publisher, as evidenced by the enthusiasm exhibited by the audience, which consisted of students, faculty and administrative personnel. Fallon's accomplishments in the field of Irish literature have gained significant recognition, both domestically and abroad. He is not only the founder of The Gallery Press, the largest literary publishing house in Ireland, but he has also become known as one of Ireland's pre-eminent poets of the late twentieth century. According to Dr. Helen K. Lafferty, University vice president "this event may be the beginning of a new energy and commitment."
The University has had a strong connection to Irish Studies throughout its entire history. The sons of Irish immigrants were among the first students at the University and its Augustinian founders were deeply tied to the friars of Dublin, Ireland. But more recently, the University has committed itself to the advancement of its prestigious program in Irish Studies. Not only have numerous professors from Ireland been welcomed by the University, but significant numbers of students have gone to Ireland through study abroad programs. For this reason, the chair will be seen as a position that goes back to the roots of the University.
Of course, one might expect that Heimbold, being the chairman and chief executive officer of Bristol-Myers Squibb, one of the largest health care companies in the world, would focus his attention more towards the business programs at the University. But Heimbold, a former graduate of the University, made it known that he endowed this chair simply out of his love for literature. This endowment shows a clear support for Fallon's efforts to spread the work of great Irish writers to other cultures.
When it came time for Peter Fallon to accept his medallion and plaque to officially bring him into the University faculty, he was welcomed with a warm applause. He then proceeded to address his audience and explain that he treated this appointment as a responsibility. Although he has worked for over 30 years to spread Irish literature, he emphasized through this comment that he will continue in his pursuit.
Among other things, Fallon plans to teach a course in creative writing during his time at the University. It was his suggestion to offer such a course because of his firm belief in the value of original thought and free thinking.
Appropriately, at the closing of his inaugural lecture, he delivered an original poem, symbolic of his entrance into the University community.
Participants witnessed a formal introduction by members of the Naval ROTC, performances from the Villanova band and Pastoral Musicians, as well as the attendance of numerous high-ranking faculty members.