For the month of March (also known as Irish American Heritage Month) IrishCentral is tapping into the heartbeat of the Irish American community. The Unsung Heroes series features inspiring individuals from across the US who do extraordinary work in their communities and respective fields. From advocates to artists, from local legends to dedicated educators, from a high school baseball team to dynamo nuns in their 80s, these people are making a difference and to them we tip our hats in thanks.

Maureen Murphy, Professor of Teaching and Curriculum at Hofstra University in Long Island, NY, is a quiet, wise, and intelligent Irish American who has devoted her life to teaching people about Irish history.

From her position as an educator and historian, she has done amazing work for Ireland and Irish America. She is Co-Director of Hofstra’s Irish Studies program. She was the Director of the Great Irish Famine Curriculum Project in New York, which introduced the curriculum about the Great Hunger into New York’s schools. She has given over 300 lectures in 18 different countries, was a Fulbright Fellow in Dublin 1965-66, and was awarded Honorary Doctor of Letters by the National University of Ireland in 2011.

Much of her research and personal work has helped illuminate the strife and struggles of young Irish women immigrating here during the early 20th century, and she recently directed an exhibition on this topic in the Mission at Watson House at Our Lady of the Rosary Church in lower Manhattan.

On a personal note, she was one of my mentors in college and helped me grow academically and as a person. When all hope seemed lost and I was deep in the shadow of a due date’s extension, she would lend a hand and give me the gentle nudge in the right direction that I sometimes needed.

And I wasn’t the only one. Anyone who has ever taken an Irish Studies course at Hofstra knows who she is. People from outside the minor who take one of her classes often describe her as ‘Y’know that really cool Irish Famine professor?’

Maureen is a truly caring mentor and role model and deserves every bit of this recognition.

Coming to America: Irish Emigration (spoiler) from Mint Theater Company on Vimeo.

To read about yesterday’s Unsung Hero, the Irish arts organization making big waves, click here.