HAILED recently as one of America's top corporate women, the author, businesswoman and philanthropist Tina Santi Flaherty recently gave the Writing Center at Marymount Manhattan College $100,000 to launch an important new lecture series called "Irish Voices." It's exactly the kind of financial shot in the arm that can revitalize a college department and excite the interest of a whole new generation of American readers to consider Irish themes and culture.

Working closely with Marymount Writing Series Director Lewis Frumkes, Santi Flaherty has confirmed that the college has secured the participation of legendary Irish writers like Edna O'Brien, Mary and Carol Higgins Clark, Alice McDermott and Nuala O'Faolain, all of whom are scheduled to speak at the college this autumn.

In an interview with Irish Voice Santi Flaherty said, "I want to honor strong women who are creative. Each of the women in this lecture series has, in their own way, displayed the kind of alpha woman tendencies that helped them get where they are.

"But also I am very involved with the American Ireland Fund and of course I am interested in honoring women of Irish heritage. To begin the series we honor two Irish writers who were born in Ireland and two Irish writers who were born here in the United States."

On September 18 at 7 p.m. at the Writing Center at Marymount College, author Mary Higgins Clark will give a public lecture and then participate in a public discussion led by Santi Flaherty, who has worked as a television journalist, and who will interview each writer with a question and answer session to follow.

"The overall name of the lectures series which will occur over the next five years is 'Irish Voices.' But for the autumn opening it will be called 'Irish Women, Irish Desires - Songs from the Soul,'" she says.

"I think that, being half Irish and half Italian myself, these particular writers are both open and strong and can speak directly from the heart, the soul if you will. Not every one is willing to do that, and I find that Irish men and particularly the women are willing to do so. That's one of the reasons that I wish to do it."

O'Brien and O'Faolain are rightly celebrated for their achievements as creative writers, yet the impact of their work as commentators and social critics has yet to be properly acknowledged. It is to be hoped this new series may go far toward addressing those achievements.

"I think each of these women has been celebrated for their strength, but less so for their sensitivity, which is the hallmark of their work. They make it obvious that they bleed too. They eschew all the common stereotypes. They have trail blazed and lit the way for others," says Santi Flaherty.

Santi Flaherty has been a trailblazer herself. She was the first female vice president at three of America's leading corporations, Colgate-Palmolive, GTE and Grey Advertising, where her primary responsibilities included corporate advertising, financial relations and public affairs.

In the process she learned a thing or two about the opportunities and the snares awaiting independent businesswomen in a man's world. Her experiences led her to write two award-winning books, The Savvy Woman's Success Bible, and Talk Your Way to the Top. In 2000, she was named by America's Elite as one of "100 Amazing Americans," along with such luminaries as President George W. Bush, Oprah Winfrey and Diane Sawyer.

The "Irish Voices" series is scheduled to run over a five-year period. On Tuesday, September 18 at 7 p.m., Mary Higgins Clark and her daughter Carol Higgins Clark will lecture. On Wednesday, October 17 at 7 p.m., Edna O'Brien will lecture.

On Wednesday, November 14 at 7 p.m., Nuala O'Faolain will lecture. On Thursday, December 6 at 7 p.m. Alice McDermott will lecture.

The series, which includes a presentation by each author, will be proceeded by an interview conducted by Santi Flaherty. To reserve free tickets, call the Writing Center at Marymount Manhattan College at 212-774-0708.