The 21st annual Wall Street 50 dinner was hosted by Irish America magazine last week at the New York Yacht Club. The evening paid tribute to the country’s top Irish Americans working in the financial industry.
The honorees, representing many of the most prestigious financial companies in the world, illustrate how far the Irish have come since those early days when they arrived hungry on the shores of the New World.
Eileen Murray, the evening’s keynote speaker, is herself the embodiment of an American success story. She grew up one of nine children in Dyckman Housing Projects and worked her way up, from her first low-paying job at Peat Marwick in the 1980s, to co-CEO of Bridgewater Associates, the largest hedge fund in the world.
Murray regaled the audience with tales of her childhood – of her extraordinary mother, who grew up in Galway and came to the U.S. on her own at 13, and her father, who was an active military man who fought in WWII and Korea, and had three Purple Hearts, a Bronze Star, and a Silver Star.
“Most of what I learned, I learned between the ages of 10 and 12 from my parents,” she said, adding, “of course, it took me 35-40 years to figure that out.
"My parents taught me Irish curiosity, creativity, determination, common sense, and most important, hospitality, creativity, and generosity... I have to admit, it was sprinkled with a little bit of Irish guilt as well."
Ciaran Sheehan, who spent 1,000 nights as the Phantom in Phantom of the Opera, sang the show’s anthem, “Music of the Night,” and closed with “Galway Bay,” an Irish folk ballad, to honor the Galway roots of Murray’s mother, Bridget.
Another high point of the evening was singer Mary O’Dowd, who had the audience singing along to “When New York was Irish,” her hit song from the late 1970s.