The Maine Irish Heritage Center (MIHC) is honoring Professor Michael C. Connolly, Ph.D. of Saint Joseph’s College with the Claddagh Award at the annual award dinner Thursday, October 22, 2016 at 5:00 pm. Every year MIHC honors a prominent member of the Maine Irish community in a celebratory evening of food, speeches, music and good cheer. The award recognizes Connolly as a person who has devoted his life to serving the Maine Irish community and who has advanced awareness of and pride in Irish heritage. Professor Michael C. Connolly has been teaching in the Department of History and Political Science at Saint Joseph’s College of Maine since 1984 and was instrumental in creating a partnership between MIHC and Saint Joseph’s College.
A lifelong resident of Portland, Michael was raised in the East End on Munjoy Hill. His senior year of college was spent in a year abroad in Dublin, and he returned to Ireland for his master’s degree in modern Irish history at University College Dublin. His research has focused on Irish and Irish-American history and the labor movement in Ireland and America.
Michael has been involved in dozens of community and academic organizations, including the founding of the Munjoy Hill Neighborhood Association, and he was part of the successful drive to organize the part-time faculty (Part-time Faculty Association – PATFA) under the leadership of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT). To honor their parents’ commitment to education, Michael and his siblings, Mary and Peter, established the Connolly Family Scholarship Fund in 2008 to help deserving students from Portland High School further their education following high school graduation. To date this has fund has assisted 12 PHS graduates by giving each of them an $8,000 scholarship over their four years in college.
An accomplished author, his extensive publications include: “They Change Their Sky: The Irish in Maine” (2004, University of Maine Press); “Seated by the Sea: The Maritime History of Portland, Maine and Its Irish Longshoremen” (2010, University Press of Florida), and “Building Bridges: Connections between Maine’s Governor Joseph Brennan and Senator George Mitchell” (2016, documentary film). He also co-authored a book of essays about Portland native and Hollywood director John Ford, and he conducted dozens of oral histories of first generation Irish.
“A long time champion of the Irish language and of traditional Irish music, Michael has been playing guitar and piano for over 30 years and still plays with the Portland Ceili Band. Michael is a true champion of all things Irish and we are happy to be honoring him with this award,” said Vinny O’Malley, executive director Maine Irish Heritage Center.
Michael still resides on Munjoy Hill with his longtime partner Becky Hitchcock.
Past recipients of the Claddagh Award include Jim Wellehan, Sara J. Burns, Governor Joseph E. Brennan, Senate President Gerard P. Conley, Sr., activist and community leader Cynthia Murray Beliveau, philanthropist Moira Hastings Fuller, TD Bank President William J. Ryan and the architect of the Northern Ireland peace process, Senator George J. Mitchell.
The Claddagh—a beloved symbol to people of Irish descent—represents the ideals of friendship, love and loyalty.