The immigrant experience in America is about building a better tomorrow while giving back to society and to those who have helped us along the way. The driving force behind this endeavor is the pride of heritage brought to the US by new arrivals, a pride of heritage that is strong as it spans many generations and can touch countless lives.

The Irish Emigrantin partnership with IrishCentral and the Irish Voice are proud to present the inaugural Irish Leaders of New England Awards, recognizing Irish immigrantsandAmericans of Irish descent who, through their endeavors, have lead the way to a better future for so many others.

Each of our honorees personify all that is good in the Irish American experience. They have shared their wisdom, created jobs, helped those in need, and most important of all, they have made us proud to be Irish.

In a joint statement, Connell Gallagher, Publisher of The Irish Emigrant and Niall O’Dowd, Publisher of IrishCentral and Irish Voice, stated, “We are delighted and honored to present the Irish leaders in New England awards which will be an annual event. The extraordinary accomplishments of this year’s honorees show what a successful, vital, and caring community the Irish throughout New England are.

“We believe this type of recognition is long overdue. With so many individuals and organizations worthy of gratitude and honor, it was a difficult task to narrow the list to just a few recipients. Our congratulations to the Irish Leaders of New England, 2012.”

The Inaugural Irish Leaders List for 2012 is:

Irish Person of the Year - Dr. John L. Lahey, President of Quinnipiac University, CT, Founder, Ireland’s Great Hunger Museum
Leader in Business - Dave Greaney, Synergy Investments
Leader in Law - Aidan Browne, Sullivan & Worcester LLP
Leader in Irish Hospitality - John J. Somers, Somers Pubs
Leader of Tomorrow - Joseph P. Kennedy, III - candidate for congress
Leader in Community Service - Sr. Marguerite Kelly & Fr. John McCarthy, Irish Pastoral Centre
Leader in Bridging Communities - Sr. Lena Deevy, IIIC

Irish Person of the Year

Dr. John Lahey, Quinnipiac University

Dr. John Laheyis the president of Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Connecticut. President for the past 25 years, Lahey has distinguished himself as an innovative and dynamic leader who has spearheaded Quinnipiac’s emergence as one of the leading institutions in the Northeast. (More than half - 53% - of Quinnipiac students come from New England.)

As 1997 grand marshal of the NYC St. Patrick’s Day Parade, Laheydevoted much of his time that year to educating the public about the historic implications of Ireland’s Great Hunger. He has been at the forefront of a movement to require schools to include the Irish Famine in school curricula as a human rights violation.

In September 2012, under Lahey’s leadership, Quinnipiac opened Ireland’s Great HungerMuseum, Músaem an Ghorta Mhóir, which contains the world’s largest collection of visual art, artifacts and ephemera dedicated to this tragic period in Irish history. “The museum will preserve, build and present its art collection in order to stimulate reflection, inspire imagination and advance awareness of Ireland’s Great Hunger and its long aftermath on both sides of the Atlantic,” said Lahey.

Lahey also received the Ambassador of Ireland Award for the Holyoke St. Patrick’s Day Parade in 2010. He was named the 2011 Irish American of the Year by Irish America as a leading educator and keeper of Irish heritage. In 2000 he also was named one of the 10 outstanding grand marshals of the 20th century.

Lahey, a native of Bronx, NY, received undergraduate and master's degrees in philosophy from the University of Dayton, a Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of Miami, and a second master’s degree in higher education administration from Columbia University.

Lahey also is a leader in the community, serving as a member of the Ancient Order of Hibernians, Division 4, New York County; director and vice chairman of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade, Inc.; a member of the Knights of St. Patrick; and on the board of directors for Yale-New Haven Hospital, United Illuminating Company, Independence Holding Company and the Alliance for Cancer Gene Therapy.

Lahey resides in Cheshire, Connecticut, with his wife Judy, and has two sons, Brent and Robert.
Lahey’s paternal grandfather hails from Knockglossmore, Co. Kerry. His paternal grandmother hails from Co. Cork and his maternal grandmother from Co. Clare.

Leader of Tomorrow

Joseph P. Kennedy III, Candidate for Congress

Joseph P. Kennedy III, is a proud member of one of the most well-known Irish-American political families in the United States: the grandson of Robert F. Kennedy and the son of former Representative Joseph P. Kennedy II; two of his great-uncles were President John F. Kennedyand Senator Ted Kennedy.

While having never held an elected office, Joseph Kennedy has spent much of his adult life in public service, both overseas and in his home state of Massachusetts. It’s that experience which he says inspired him to consider running for public office.

“My decision to look seriously at elected office is grounded in a deep commitment to public service and my experience -- both my own and that of my family -- in finding just, practical, and bipartisan solutions to difficult challenges,” Kennedy said.

The 31-year-old candidate for congress holds an undergraduate degree in industrial engineering from Stanford University and a law degree from Harvard Law School. While at Harvard, he worked with the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau, which provides free legal services to low-income people in civil matters involving housing, government benefits, and wage laws.

From 2004 to 2006, Joseph Kennedy spent two years with the Peace Corps in the Dominican Republic, becoming the first member of his family to serve as a volunteer in the organization started by President John F. Kennedy. He held a position as a prosecutor at the Cape and Island’s District Attorney’s office for two years and served as an Assistant District Attorney for the Middlesex District Attorney’s Office prior to resigning his post in order to focus on running for office.

Leader in Community Service

Sr. Marguerite Kelly -Irish Pastoral Centre

Sister Marguerite is a Missionary Franciscan Sister born in Co. Galway and missioned to the United States after pronouncing her first vows. She received her professional training at Villanova University and later on a Master’s degree at Boston College. Her early years were spent as a teacher in various locations – Philadelphia, PA, Chestnut Hill, MA, and Union City, NJ. While she loved the teaching profession and enjoyed a great relationship with her students, she experienced a longing for what seemed to her a more Missionary Franciscan experience.

In those days a Sister did not ask for a particular ministry but trusted that God would provide it when the time was right. And God did! When Sr. Marguerite was invited to join her Franciscan Sisters in their mission in Bolivia, South America, she was delighted to accept.

The situation she encountered in this mission was mind-boggling. A severe bout of altitude sickness (La Paz is 18,000 feet above sea level) made her wonder if her decision had been a mistake. The situation of material poverty in which people were living was just unbelievable. But the friendliness and goodness of the people made everything else seem insignificant. Her ten years of living and working there were a very enriching part of part of Sister’s life, as were a further five years working with the people of Piura, Peru.

In retrospect, all of this may have been a remote preparation for the ministry of working at the Irish Pastoral Centre. Now in her eighth year, she has experienced the growth and expansion of the centre due to the commitment of a dedicated staff and a supportive board. This could only have been done through the generosity and loyalty of benefactors and friends. The Irish Pastoral Centre truly is “a parish without boundaries.”

Leader in Business

David Greaney, Synergy Investments

David Greaney is the founder and president of Synergy Investments. He is responsible for the overall strategic direction of the company. David also oversees the acquisition, equity and investment partnerships. In 2011, the Boston Business Journal wrote, “David Germany has risen from humble roots to build one of the most respected real estate startups in Greater Boston.”

He is a graduate of University College Dublin and a Certified Public Accountant in Massachusetts. He has previously held positions in the investment management groups of Harvard University and PriceWaterhouseCoopers.

David is active in the Irish-American business community and has received the Entrepreneurial Award from the Irish Chamber of Commerce. Additionally, he has been recognized in Irish America Magazine’s “Business 100” and named one of Business & Finance Magazine’s “Most Influential US-Irish Business Leaders.” In 2011, he received the Boston Business Journal’s 40 under 40 Award.

David is a member of National Association of Industrial and Office Properties, the Greater Boston Real Estate Board and the Real Estate Finance Association. He serves on the boards for the Downtown Crossing Business Improvement District and the Downtown North Association. He actively supports a number of other causes including the American Ireland Fund, serves as chairman of Irish Network Boston and as a board member for The Claddagh Fund, the charitable foundation of the Dropkick Murphys.

Leader in Law

Aidan F. Browne, Sullivan & Worcester LLP

Aidan Browne is a partner in the law firm of Sullivan & Worcester LLP. He has been a consultant to Ireland’s largest law firm, A&L Goodbody for over 20 years. Mr. Browne has been involved in U.S. Foreign Direct Investment work with U.S. corporations as those companies enter the global markets through Ireland. He has more than 20 years of experience as a corporate and commercial real estate attorney and consultant in both Europe and the U.S.

Mr. Browne has assisted hundreds of Irish and foreign companies, including banks, investors, venture capital, service and technology companies, now located in the United States, with raising capital, business development, market development, and assistance with corporate partnerships or joint venture opportunities.

A native of Dublin and now resident in Greater Boston, Mr. Browne maintains close ties with Ireland. He is a Board Member and Executive Leadership Institute Participant for the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce, and he is on the Board of Advisors for the Boston Irish Business Association. He is a Board Member of the Boston Irish Wolfhounds, Chairman of the Sugan and Tir Na Theatre, former Chairman of GOAL (a world humanitarian organization), Board Member of Self Help Africa, and currently serves on the Board of Haven for Haiti. He is also a member of the Gasson Society and the Parents’ Council for Boston College and is a founding member of the North American Advisory Board of The Michael Smurfit Graduate School of Business at University College Dublin.

Mr. Browne received his undergraduate degree in Business from University College Dublin. He has two law degrees, having graduated from the Law School of the Incorporated Law Society of Ireland and Suffolk University Law School Boston. He is a member of the Massachusetts Bar Association, Boston Bar Association, International Bar Association, American Bar Association and the Bars of England and Ireland.

Leader in Irish Hospitality

John J.Somers - Somers Pubs

John J. Somers, C.E.O. Somers Companies of Boston grew up on a farm in Finuge, County Kerry. He held a passion for Gaelic Football and played with some of the great Kerry stars such as his long time friend Jimmy Deenihan.

John Joe emigrated to America at the age of 20 with dreams of success. He started his work life in America as a laborer, while perfecting his musical talents. He formed the Irish Band Mason’s Apron. While traveling the country with his band playing in pubs and clubs, he started to think about settling down and even owning his own Irish pub one day.

Along the way he met and married his wife Ann and they have four children; Noelle, Sean, Kristine, and Jillian. With his growing family the pressure was on to fulfill his dream of owning his own pub. “I was blessed for being in the right place at the right time,” and Mr. Dooley’s Boston Irish Tavern was established in 1990.

Mr. Dooley’s, Boston made a name for its authenticity and hospitality to all. Stemming from this, John Joe eventually established The Green Dragon Tavern, Hennessy’s of Boston, Paddy O’s, Mr. Dooley’s in Wrentham and Mr. Dooley’s in Cohasset. This fine Irish gentleman is quick to thank all who have helped him along the way - the Irish and Irish American community, his staff, family and friends.

Mr. Somers is involved in supporting many charities in Ireland including the Cultural Weekend in Finuge; the Literacy Center in Listowel; the historical Lartigue Railroad. The closest to John Joe’s heart is his sponsorship of the Fingue Football Club and the state-of-the-art score board which bears his name.

Mayor Menino has recognized John Joe for his hospitality towards senior citizens. He is a loyal supporter of the Irish Pastoral Center, the Irish International Immigrant Center, The Irish Cultural Center and the Irish Social Club. He is active in community organizations such as Toys for Tots, running golf tournaments for various reasons. He often shares his considerable musical talents with organizations that he supports.

Leader in Bridging Communities

Sr. Lena Deevy, LSA - Irish International Immigrant Center

A native of Crettyard, County Laois, Sr. Lena Deevy, LSA, is the Executive Director of Boston’s Irish International Immigrant Center. Throughout her more than forty-year career in health and human services, Sr. Lena has shown herself to be a passionate advocate on behalf of those on the margins of society.

Before immigrating to Boston in 1989 she worked for two decades as a community organizer in some of the most impoverished areas of Dublin.

In 1990 she became Director of the Irish Immigration Center as it was then known and under her leadership the organization has developed into a nationally and internationally recognized model of multi-service provision. In that time Sr. Lena has earned a reputation as a builder of bridges whether among the many organizations serving the Irish community, among Catholics and Protestants, Irish-born and Irish-American, or among immigrants from diverse backgrounds. Throughout her career she has worked to strengthen the Irish community’s confidence in its own identity believing this to be a necessary prerequisite for true social harmony and cross community cooperation.

A member of the order of the Little Sisters of the Assumption, Sr. Lena has demonstrated a tireless commitment to social justice and progressive community values. She has been the recipient of many awards and accolades over the years including those from the American Bar Association and the Massachusetts Governor’s Office. In 2008 Stonehill College awarded her an honorary Doctorate of Humanities in recognition of her grassroots human rights work. Most recently Sr. Lena was named by the Irish Government as one of ten recipients of the first annual Presidential Distinguished Service Award for the Irish Abroad.