In its twenty-five years of existence, the Keough-Naughton Institute for Irish Studies has firmly established itself as the premier teaching and research program of its kind in the world.
After the then Keough Institute for Irish Studies came into being in 1992 with a gift of Trustee and Laetare Medal winner Donald R. Keough and his wife Marilyn, student response demonstrated that it was planted on fertile ground. Hundreds enrolled in Notre Dame’s Irish Studies classes, including Irish language courses, and the Institute grew from two faculty fellows in 1993 (Professors Seamus Deane and Christopher Fox) to its current roster of 27 permanent faculty fellows, all internationally known leaders in the field, spread across twelve different University academic departments.
Our program and course offerings are regularly enhanced by distinguished visiting professors, some of whom come to Notre Dame as Naughton Fellows from Irish universities in a reciprocal arrangement that sends Notre Dame faculty to Ireland. Other distinguished visiting senior faculty, younger scholars, graduate and postdoctoral students, writers, actors, composers, and public figures come through fellowships funded by individual Notre Dame donors, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the American Society For Eighteenth-Century Studies, the Fulbright Scholar Program, the Government of Ireland, and the Murphy Exchange program with University College Cork.
Little of what has been accomplished here would have happened without the unstinting support of Notre Dame's Ireland Council, formed shortly after the birth of the Irish Studies program in 1993. Under the vibrant leadership of Notre Dame Trustees Donald Keough of Atlanta, Georgia, and Martin Naughton of Slane, County Meath, Ireland, Council members have nurtured the program's growth, expanded the range of our services to students and faculty, and enhanced our contribution to Irish Studies worldwide. To acknowledge the splendid support of Ireland Council members Martin and Carmel Naughton, the newly-named Keough-Naughton Institute for Irish Studies was re-dedicated at Notre Dame on May 21, 2006 by the President of Ireland, Mary McAleese.
Along with the arrival of Irish scholar Seamus Deane as the inaugural Donald and Marilyn Keough Professor of Irish Studies and, more recently, Professor Declan Kiberd in the same faculty chair, there have been many milestones along the way. These have included the funding of other new faculty positions— attracting a stellar group of senior and junior faculty to spark new life and ideas; the establishment of a Dublin program in two historic Irish sites—Newman House in 1996 and O’Connell House in 2002; the visits to campus by Nobel Prize winner Seamus Heaney and former Presidents of Ireland Mary Robinson and Mary McAleese; the award of a permanent multi-million dollar faculty fellowship and library development program by the National Endowment for the Humanities; the hosting of major conferences, including the 2003 “Irish Catholics: Belief, Practice, and Representation" and the 2016 "The Worlding of Irish Studies" (American Conference for Irish Studies); the founding of the first Department of Irish outside of Ireland; the publication of over 100 cutting-edge books; the introduction of such innovative courses as the interdisciplinary "Irish In Us;" and the development of a three-part television documentary on the 1916 Irish Rebellion for PBS and RTÉ under the leadership of O'Donnell Professor Bríona Nic Dhiarmada.
Attracting exceptional faculty and students, splendid benefactors, major funding, and distinguished visitors, the Keough-Naughton Institute has also laid the foundations for a paradigm interdisciplinary undergraduate Irish Studies program both here and in Dublin. It helped establish in 2004 the first Department of Irish in North America under the intellectual leadership of the late Thomas J. and Kathleen O’Donnell Professor Breandán Ó Buachalla and, some years later, the first academic major in Irish outside of Ireland. The Institute has also built exceptional graduate doctoral concentrations in Anthropology, English, History, and Irish.
Since its inception, the graduate summer IRISH Seminar in Dublin has taken on the credentialing function its originators envisioned and become the door through which all serious students of Irish Studies must pass. At Notre Dame, the IRISH Seminar has also become a model for how to link research and teaching in graduate studies with our international centers. Through the Dublin Keough Naughton Study Centre, the undergraduate international experience has become one of the most popular programs on campus.
Additional support from Ireland Council members has helped establish the student Keough Summer Internship Program, student grants for summer Irish language study and for student independent research, a popular undergraduate Archeology of Ireland course, and an on-going archeological excavation off the coast of Galway run by a collaborative team of Notre Dame and Irish faculty and students. The presence of the Keough-Naughton Institute for Irish Studies has also helped Notre Dame's Hesburgh Library secure endowments for major collections and become a destination library in the field, visited by scholars worldwide.
All this has not happened by accident, but has been accomplished with the combined and coordinated support of Notre Dame’s students, donors, faculty and administration. From its early beginnings, the Keough-Naughton Institute’s goal has been clear and unwavering: to bring Ireland to Notre Dame and Notre Dame to Ireland. It is particularly fitting that as our Institute joined the University's newest school, the Keough School of Global Affairs, we have added a third strand to that goal: to bring Ireland to the world. Our 1916 The Irish Rebellion documentary and 2016 conference on the "Worlding of Irish Studies," are exemplars of that strand.
As Director of the Keough-Naughton Institute, I have been blessed from the beginning to be involved in a program that helps strengthen Notre Dame’s lasting ties to Ireland, ties that have only been made stronger by distance and years.
Christopher Fox, Professor and Director