Former Coca-Cola president Donald Keough, philanthropist Chuck Feeney and American Ireland Fund chairman Loretta Brennan Glucksman are among the 10 recipients of the first Presidential Awards for Irish Abroad issued by the Irish government.
In 2011, Tanaiste (Deputy Leader) and Minister for Foreign Affairs Eamon Gilmore made a commitment to establish an Award system which would provide formal recognition by the Irish state to individuals resident abroad at the Global Irish Economic Forum.
“I’m delighted to recognize the distinguished and sustained work made by these ten individuals to Ireland, Irish communities abroad or Ireland’s international reputation by people living abroad. We are honoring individuals who, in their own separate ways, have made a remarkable contribution to this country,” Gilmore said in announcing the recipients.
The awards are divided into five categories -- arts, culture and sport; charitable works; business and education; Irish community support and peace, reconciliation and development.
“It is a great honor, one that means the world to me,” Keough told the Irish Voice. “I am delighted and honored and deeply appreciate the award. Ireland and Irish America are an incredible combination when they work together as the recent Notre Dame success in Dublin shows.”
Speaking to the Irish Voice, Glucksman described the accolade as amazing.
The granddaughter of four Irish immigrants, Glucksman was recognized for her work in peace, reconciliation and development.
“It’s certainly very satisfying and makes me feel wonderful,” Glucksman said during a phone interview on Monday. “My admiration for the Irish people is constantly increasing.”
In 1987, her late husband Lewis Glucksman, a former Lehman Brothers chairman and CEO, brought her to Ireland for her first trip. In 1993, the couple founded Ireland House at New York University and subsequently played a vital role in the pursuit of peace on the island of Ireland.
“I am proud of the fact that Ireland House has become such a base for community meetings and causes,” she said.
“What I love about when I go there is that it seems to have no political identification. Irish Americans of every stripe have come through those doors. That is glorious to me,” Glucksman added.
Other award recipients include Boston-based Sister Leena Deevy, head of the Boston Irish Immigration Center. Canadian Irish leader Pat Kelly from Ottawa was recognized, as was the late Dublin-born Australian Rules footballer Jim Stynes.
In a statement, President Michael D. Higgins said, “Each of the awardees has distinguished themselves by the long-standing service they have given to Ireland and to the Irish community abroad.”
Nominations were made by Irish communities abroad through Ireland’s network of diplomatic missions. The awards will be presented at a ceremony in Áras an Uachtaráin, the presidential residence, on November 15.