THE UNIVERSITY of San Francisco celebrated its Irish heritage in welcoming Ireland President Mary McAleese to campus and awarding her an honorary doctorate of humane letters in a special ceremony Dec. 11.
USF honored McAleese for her leadership and dedication to justice, equality, and social inclusion— characteristics the university endeavors to encourage in its graduates.
“She is a leader who exemplifies a dedication to reasoned discourse and working for the common good—two skills we strive to instill in our students,” said USF President Stephen A. Privett, S.J.
Re-elected in 2004 to a second seven-year term, McAleese has dedicated her presidency to building bridges. Her presidency is noted for its concern and advocacy for reconciliation, justice, anti-sectarianism, equality, and social inclusion.
McAleese told the USF community that Ireland’s current peace and economic prosperity are due, in part, to its extended Irish family the world over, particularly in the United States, who have sought out higher education.
“Our narrative has changed,” said McAleese, whose visit was part of a weeklong trip to strengthen trade, business, and cultural ties to California, Oregon, and Arizona. “Thankfully, and in this place it is important to say it, one of the reasons our narrative has changed is largely thanks to widened access to education. That has made a huge, big difference to us. I can say, without fear of contradiction in this university, that peace really began to be constructed and to emerge with the best educated and most accomplished generation in our history. It came to us as a feature of our education, of being able to critique ourselves and also construct more imaginative outcomes.”
USF’s Irish roots run deep. Since the school’s founding in 1855, Irish immigrants and their descendants have served as Jesuit priests, trustees, faculty, and staff. Among USF alums of Irish heritage, the university counts three California Supreme Court justices, a lieutenant governor, a U.S. senator, and thousands of leaders in the legal, business, political, educational, religious, philanthropic, and professional communities of the city, state, and nation.