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”)

1979 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 over sixty 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.


The Philadelphia Inquirer runs a story covering one of the Irish Studies Program’s trips to Ireland.

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.

Seamus Heaney returns for a second time 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 including:

The Irish Studies Spring lecture series brings poet Eamon Wall, literature professor Adrian Frazier, and poet Paul Muldoon to campus.


The Villanova Center National University of Ireland, Galway is established and 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.
2004 Vona Groarke and Conor O’Callaghan hold the Heimbold Chair of Irish Studies

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.

2006 Sebastian Barry holds the Heimbold Chair of Irish Studies.
2007 Justin Quinn 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 an interdisciplinary, diasporic, global, post-nationalist, and post-revisionist education.

Claire Keegan holds the Heimbold Chair of Irish Studies.


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.

The Irish Studies Program celebrates its 30th anniversary.

Gerald Dawe holds the Heimbold Chair of Irish Studies.

2010 John McAuliffe holds the Heimbold Chair of Irish Studies.
2011 Moya Cannon holds the Heimbold Chair of Irish Studies.
2012        Mary O'Malley holds the Heimbold Chair of Irish Studies.
2016 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.
Periodic: Villanova hosts both regional and national American Conference for Irish Studies (ACIS) conferences.