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1842 Irish Augustinians establish Villanova College
1844 College remains on a state of alert after nativist anti-immigrant and anti-Irish rioters in Philadelphia burn St. Augustine’s Church and vow to destroy Villanova.
1940 Joseph McGarrity, an 1890 Irish emigrant turned successful businessman, donates his rare books to the Falvey Memorial Library.  Now called the library’s most used special collection, the McGarrity Collection contains 10,000 items ranging from books, periodicals, and pamphlets to music, handwritten Irish-language manuscripts, and personal correspondences.  Highlights include the U.S.’s most complete set of Walkers Hibernian Magazine and a full run of the now-digitized Irish Review 1911-1914.  Continually updated, the collection rivals those at major universities with Irish Studies programs, like Boston College and Notre Dame.
1948 Villanova’s “Irish Pipeline” begins at the London Olympic Games, when Irish quarter-miler Jimmy Reardon befriends Villanova competitors George Guida ’49 and Browning Ross ’51 in the male athlete barracks originally built for WWII American troops.  Based on Reardon’s athletic ability, Villanova’s head track coach, Jumbo Elliot, offers him a scholarship.  Reardon becomes the first Irish runner and international athlete to accept an American track and field scholarship and graduates from Villanova in 1953.

Twenty-five Irish athletes come through the “Irish Pipeline,” including twelve Olympians and six world record-breakers:

Ron Delaney ’58, wins gold in the 1956 Melbourne Games for the 1,500 meter run.
Eamonn Coghlan ’76, four-time Olympian sets the world indoor mile record in 1983, which stands for 13 years.
Sonia O’Sullivan ’91, three-time Olympian wins the silver medal at the 2000 Sydney Games in the 5,000 meter run.
Marcus O’Sullivan ’84, four-time Olympic miler and Villanova’s head track coach since 2000, runs the mile in under four minutes 101 times (he says, “All Ireland was influenced by Villanova track”)


Villanova establishes its Irish Studies Program, one of the first interdisciplinary offerings.  Led by Dr. James Murphy, the program expands from the English and History Departments to include courses from Political Science, Theater, Irish Film, Art History, and Business. 

Over the years, a solid international exchange between Galway and Villanova allows Villanova students annually to study in Galway, two Martin McGuinn scholars from Ireland to study at Villanova, and a number of faculty exchanges with the National University of Ireland, Galway.


Villanova University’s first Fulbright Scholar-in-Residence, Diarmuid O’Muirithe of University College Dublin’s Department of Modern Irish, joins the Irish Studies Department.

The first Villanova University in Ireland Program takes place over the summer at National University of Ireland, Galway.

1988 Irish poet and Nobel Laureate Seamus Heaney visits Villanova.
1991 One of Ireland’s leading poets, Derek Mahon, teaches at Villanova and serves as a writer-in-residence for the spring semester.
1993 Villanova University hosts the American Conference for Irish Studies annual conference.

Seamus Heaney returns to Villanova and gives a reading in the Connelly Center.  He is joined by wife Marie, who speaks on Irish mythology.

Mick Moloney, one of Ireland’s premier ethnomusicologists and traditional musicians, serves as a Villanova visiting professor and greatly influences both the Philadelphia music scene and Villanova’s Irish Studies Program.

1999 Alumni Association Travel Program allows graduates to travel to Ireland, led by Dr. James Murphy.

The Charles A. Heimbold, Jr. ’54 Endowed Chair of Irish Studies is inaugurated and becomes one of the most prestigious Irish Studies positions in the U.S.  Poet and editor Peter Fallon serves as the first Heimbold Professor and receives an honorary degree.  Nobel Laureate Seamus Heaney joins Fallon for a joint reading in celebration of the Chair’s inauguration.  Since then, every spring semester a distinguished Irish writer teaches two undergraduate seminar courses, one in Creative Writing and one in Irish literature, allowing Irish Studies students to have the enriching experience of a close classroom instruction from an honor roll of Irish writers.

Paul Muldoon reads at Villanova as part of the Spring events series.


The Villanova Center National University of Ireland, Galway is established and Dr. Mary O’Malley Madec, a University of Pennsylvania linguist and Galway poet, becomes its Director.

Charles A. Heimbold, Jr., ’54, endower of the Heimbold Chair of Irish Studies, is nominated by Presdient George W. Bush to serve as Ambassador to Sweden.

A gala dinner held at the Berkeley Court Hotel in Dublin for Irish alumni, including the “Irish Pipeline” athletes, celebrates the formation of the Irish Chapter of the Villanova Alumni Association.

Nuala NiDhomhnaill holds the Heimbold Chair of Irish Studies.

2002 Poet Eamon Grennan holds the Heimbold Chair of Irish Studies.
2003 Marina Carr holds the Heimbold Chair of Irish Studies.

Vona Groarke and Conor O’Callaghan hold the Heimbold Chair of Irish Studies.

Dr. David Cregan (OSA) is hired by the Theatre Department to teach Acting, Directing, and Irish Theatre.

Dr. Joseph Ryan (OSA) is hired to teach by the History Department to teach 19th century history with a focus on Irish immigration to the United States.


Irish poet Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin reads as part of the annual Villanova Literary Festival.

Irish writer and musician Michael Coady holds the Heimbold Chair of Irish Studies.


Sebastian Barry holds the Heimbold Chair of Irish Studies.

Dr. Craig Bailey is hired by the History Depatment to teach British and Irish history.

2007 Justin Quinn holds the Heimbold Chair of Irish Studies.

Claire Keegan holds the Heimbold Chair of Irish Studies.

Dr. James Murphy is selected as one of Irish America’s Top Irish Americans for his enormous achievement in pioneering  interdisciplinary, diasporic, and global education.

Dr. Megan Quigley is hired by the English Department to teach British and Irish literature.


Martin McGuinn ’64 A&S, ’67 J.D., inaugurates the McGuinn Irish Scholars Program, which provides a scholarship for two students from the National University Ireland, Galway, to attend Villanova University for a semester.

Villanova Irish Studies celebrates its 30th anniversary.

Gerald Dawe holds the Heimbold Chair of Irish Studies.


John McAuliffe holds the Heimbold Chair of Irish Studies.

Seamus and Marie Heaney return with Peter Fallon to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Heimbold Chair. 

Dr. Joseph Lennon is hired by the English Department as Director of Irish Studies, following the retirment of Dr. James Murphy.


Moya Cannon holds the Heimbold Chair of Irish Studies.

Colum McCann reads as part of the events series and Villanova Literary Festival.

Patrick Mason, former director of the Abbey Theater, delivers a lecture on Irish Theatre.

The Abbey Theatre, the National Theatre of Ireland, and Villanova's Irish Studies Program initiate an exchange program for staff, students, and faculty.


Hugo Hamilton holds the Heimbold Chair of Irish Studies.

William Kennedy reads as part of the events series and Villanova Literary Festival.   

Irish Studies receives its first grant for an Irish language instructor from Ireland, sponsored through the Fulbright Language Teaching Assistant (FLTA) Program, to teach introductory courses in Irish at Villanova.     

Falvey Special Collections, partnering with Irish Studies, archives the recordings of the Philadelphia Ceili Group, launching a series of community digitization projects.


Mary O'Malley holds the Heimbold Chair of Irish Studies.

Irish Studies and Africana Studies jointly host a semester of events, including lectures by Mick Moloney and Lenwood Sloan on Irish and African American music and dance.

Dr. William Desmond (Philosophy) delivers a distinguished lecture on Irish Thought and begins teaching Irish Studies.


Eamonn Wall holds the Heimbold Chair of Irish Studies.

Irish Studies partners with contemporary Kensington artists and immigrant children in memorializing the 1844 Kensington Riots.

The Abbey Theatre and Irish Studies launch the Summer Studio, an immersive summer theatre program in Dublin, directed by Dr. David Cregan and Dr. Joseph Lennon.

Abbey Theatre Director, Fiach MacConghail, delivers a lecture on Ireland's National theatre.


The Society of the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick, led by President Joseph Heenan, endows a scholarship fund for Experiential Education in Ireland in memory of Stephen P. Stanton.

Claire Kilroy holds the Heimbold Chair of Irish Studies.

Dr. Rebecca Winer joins the Irish Studies faculty to teach Medieval British and Irish history.

Dr. Mary Mullen is hired by the English Department to teach British and Irish literature.

Dr. Craig Bailey (History) serves as Interim Director of Irish Studies for 2015-16.



The Connelly Foundation establishes the Villanova Center for Irish Studies with a one-million dollar gift.  The Director's position is named the Emily C. Riley Director of Irish Studies in recognition of their enormous generosity.

Glenn Patterson holds the Heimbold Chair of Irish Studies.

The Center for Irish Studies hosts its first conference, "Who’s/Whose Irish?: Philadelphia Stories from Penn to the Present," October 15, 2016, which opened with an Abbey Theatre performance of The Plough and the Stars.


The Jackie Clarke Museum and Library in Ballina, Co. Mayo receives the first two of many Villanova interns, sponsored by the Connelly Foundation grant, to help archive and create exhibitions at the JCC Museum and Library in Ballina.

The Society of the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick endows a second scholarship fund for Experiential Education in Ireland in honor of Colonel Denis T. Heenan of the 116 PVI Irish Brigade.

Owen McCafferty holds the Heimbold Chair of Irish Studies.

Dr. Jennifer Joyce is hired as Assistant Director of Irish Studies and joins the Irish Studies teaching faculty.




The Kelly House, represented by Susan Kelly von Medicus, and the Center for Irish Studies launches a partnership with the Kelly House, in East Falls, Philadelphia, former home of Grace Kelly and her family.

Dr. Jennifer Joyce launches the Learning Community Abroad-Dublin summer program for Villanova University freshman.

Colette Bryce holds the Heimbold Chair of Irish Studies.

Dr. Cera Murtagh is jointly hired by Political Science and Irish Studies to teach Irish and Comparative Politics.

The Center for Irish Studies hosts the Mid-Atlantic American Conference for Irish Studies, "Navigating the Betweens of Irish Studies," November 8-10, 2018.




Mike McCormack holds the Heimbold Chair of Irish Studies.

Falvey Library's Special Collections and the Center for Irish Studies launch the digitization of the archives of the Society of the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick.

Alan Drew and Dr. Tsering Wangmo led a Center for Irish Studies program in Belfast, "Writing Through Conflict," a course with an embedded travel component, organized in collaboration with the Seamus Heaney Center of Queens University Belfast, directed by Glenn Patterson.

Dr. Valerie Joyce, Chair of Theatre, directs the Irish Theatre Summer Studio in Dublin.