NUI Galway Academic Receives Ireland-US Distinguished Alumni Award

Mary McPartlan, NUI Galway receives her Distinguished Alumni Award from Vincent McCarthy at the Irish United States Alumni Association Awards Ceremony in Dublin. Photo: Sean Curtis (
Jan 30 2019 Posted: 10:31 GMT

Mary McPartlan from the School of Humanities at NUI Galway was honoured with the Ireland United Sates Association (IUSA) Distinguished Alumni Award, which recognizes alumni for their achievements and demonstrated exemplary leadership in the IUSA alumni community. The award ceremony was part of the IUSA Conference and Alumni Awards held in Dublin last Thursday, 24 January.

Mary McPartlan received the award in recognition of her professional excellence, her commitment to the Irish-US relationship, and her outstanding contribution to culture, education and music. The award was presented to Mary by Emmy-winning former CNN correspondent and anchor, Gina London along with a second recipient for the Emerging Leader Award, Ben English, co-founder and former CEO of the Dublin Tech Summit.

Mary McPartlan received a Fullbright Scholarship in 2013 to Lehman College (CUNY) and Berea College in Kentucky. While in New York, she taught a module on ‘The History of Irish Traditional Culture and Women Traditional Singers since the 1950’s in Ireland’ and a series of lectures on ‘Irish Contemporary Plays and Playwrights’. She undertook research in Irish song material in New York and a study of the great American Folk singer and song collector, Jean Ritchie from the Appalachian Mountains, Viper, Kentucky. In New York she collaborated with the renowned jazz pianist, Bertha Hope, experimenting with American jazz and Irish folk music, culminating in a series of concerts and an album partly recorded in New York in 2015. During that time Bertha Hope came to Ireland to perform with Mary on two occasions.

From her research at Berea College and her close collaboration with artists and academics in association the International Affairs Office at NUI Galway, Mary developed close ties between Berea College and NUI Galway, which culminated in the ‘Jean Ritchie MA Scholarship’ for a student from Berea College to undertake an MA at NUI Galway. The Jean Ritchie Scholarship is now in its third year and has firmly established a student exchange programme between Berea Drama Department and NUI Galway’s O’Donoghue Centre for Drama and Theatre Performance, fostering deep academic and cultural ties between Ireland and the US.

Along with her academic role, Mary is also the Creative Director of the hugely successful Arts in Action Programme at NUI Galway, where the creative arts are fully embedded into academic programmes and students from all disciplines across the country take modules, receive credits and experience excellence at an international level in all of the creative arts. Mary is also the producer of the University’s Medical Orchestra, formed in 2011.

Mary is also a well-known professional singer, with albums including the critically acclaimed The Holland Handkerchief, Petticoat Loose and From Mountain to Mountain. She is also known for her outstanding contribution to traditional Irish music and has produced many significant national cultural events, including the TG4 National Traditional Music Awards, a twelve-part music series for TG4 founded and produced by the award winning theatre company, Skehana Productions.

The IUSA Awards are bestowed upon alumni of US Government exchange programs who have demonstrated excellence in their chosen profession; who are committed to promoting the special relationship between Ireland and the US; and who have made an outstanding contribution to philanthropy to their communities or to greater society. The IUSA Annual Conference and Alumni Awards 2019 theme, ‘Looking Forward: US – Irish Relations, New Europe and New Challenges’ looked forward with hope and confidence to the challenges and opportunities ahead for Ireland along with prominent speakers setting out their view on the current state of the world and our potential future.

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