Institute Remembers Donald R. Keough

Author: Margaret Lloyd

The Keough-Naughton Institute for Irish Studies mourns the death of its first and faithful supporter, Donald R. Keough, who died Tuesday, February 24, 2015.  In 1992, through Keough’s generous financial support and wise counsel, Seamus Deane was hired as the Donald and Marilyn Keough Chair of Irish Studies, launching the Irish Studies program at Notre Dame. A prominent Irish American and parent of Notre Dame graduates, Keough saw the need for a tangible link between Notre Dame and Ireland. 

“It seems superficial to say that the Keough-Naughton Institute for Irish Studies would not be here without him.  But we would simply not be here without him," says Christopher Fox, Director of the Keough-Naughton Institute.

Under Keough’s leadership, the Institute opened the Keough Notre Dame Centre in Dublin, where Notre Dame students experience Irish culture and study at Irish universities. He funded a second Chair in Irish Studies, the Keough Family Chair in Irish Studies, held by Professor Barry McCrea, in addition to the first Chair in Irish Studies, currently held by Professor Declan Kiberd. Keough-Naughton summer internships have placed hundreds of Notre Dame students in positions in Dublin relating to Irish politics, commerce, culture and society.

At a celebration of the Keough-Naughton Institute’s twentieth anniversary, Keough acknowledged how far the Institute had come, but cautioned that it needed to “stay hungry” and continue its work as one of the premiere international Irish Studies programs.

Evidence of Keough’s great influence abroad is seen in the accolades pouring in from Ireland.  The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Charlie Flanagan T.D referring to Keough’s roots in Co. Wexford, notes “he never lost sight of his Irish heritage… he was a greatly valued member of the Global Irish Network of Irish people and friends of Ireland.”

Taoiseach Enda Kenny said, “A great Irishman and a great American, he will be sorely missed by all who knew him and leaves an enormous legacy including through his philanthropy. As one of Ireland’s greatest friends, Keough built lasting business, cultural and education connections with Ireland which have helped thousands celebrate their own roots and forge new partnerships.” 

In recognition of this friendship, Keough was awarded Ireland’s Presidential Distinguished Service Award in 2013.

Closer to home, Fox relates “he was a great friend and mentor to me, to the Institute that bears his name, and to those of us who were blessed enough to come into contact with him at Notre Dame.”

The Keough-Naughton Institute for Irish Studies expresses its deepest condolences to the Keough family, his wife Marilyn and six children, grandchildren and great grandchildren.