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Iona’s Memorable 83rd Birthday


It was on this day last year that Iona College announced it was becoming a university. Today, the 83rd anniversary of Iona University’s founding, it was announced by President Seamus Carey that Iona had purchased a 400-acre estate at Westport House in County Mayo, Ireland. A stunning landscape on the Wild Atlantic Way, this is another addition to the school’s growing portfolio, having also recently acquired the grounds of Concordia University to house its new nursing program. 

Iona is the only higher-education institution in the tradition of the Edmund Rice Christian Brothers. Edmund Rice was a wealthy merchant who began the order in County Waterford in 1802, a revolutionary act in itself because of the British penal laws then in effect which forbade the establishment of Catholic religious orders and the education of Catholic children. The growth of the Christian Brothers coincided with the increasingly educated Irish Catholic youth – British authorities later noted that their books and lessons, developed separate from the state’s materials, were “pervaded by a fervid nationality.”

One of the students influenced by the teachings of the Christian Brothers was Martin J. Keogh of Waterford. When he was 20 Keogh emigrated to the US, where he became a respected judge, and a discreet activist for the IRB. In 1916, with his wife Katherine Emmet, Keogh invited the Christian Brothers to establish a school in New Rochelle.

The offer was accepted, and Brother Joseph Dooley became the inaugural president of the Iona School – named after the island the Order’s patron saint Columcille (Columba) went to after leaving Ireland. From humble beginnings the school grew, building a reputation as a quality educational facility; the Brothers went on to establish Iona College in 1940. From the Keogh’s invitation to the present day, the Iona community has maintained a strong connection with its Irish-Celtic roots. Exemplified by the Iona Pipe Band, Irish Dance Team, and Gaelic Society, and Irish-Gaelic library collection, in a few months Maggie Timoney (‘89 and ‘92MBA) will join the esteemed ranks of Iona alumni who have led the New York City St. Patrick’s Day Parade, and future generations will undoubtedly uphold the tradition with the new “Iona Ireland” venture in Westport.

Contributed by James McGlashin. Click here to read “New Rochelle: Her Part in the Irish War of Independence.”

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