Friday 24 November 2017

Irish-American philanthropist Loretta Brennan Glucksman awarded Kennedy-Lemass medal

Loretta Brennan Glucksman
Loretta Brennan Glucksman

Dearbhail McDonald Group Business Editor

Loretta Brennan Glucksman, the prominent Irish-American philanthropist, has become the second recipient of the Kennedy-Lemass medal.

The medal honours a US Leader of Irish heritage that has helped strengthen the Irish-US relationship.

Ms Brennan Glucksman, Chairman Emeritus of the Ireland Funds, was awarded the medal for her outstanding contribution to US-Ireland relations by the Board of the American Chamber of Commerce Ireland at its annual Independence Day lunch in Dublin this afternoon.

More than 700 people attended the ceremony.

Dignitaries included Reece Smyth, Chargé d’Affaires of the U.S. Embassy who said that the philanthropic efforts by Ms Brennan Glucksman in the educational and cultural space were “profound”.

"If we are looking for a testament to the fine traditions of Irish America, we need look no further than Loretta Brennan Glucksman," said Mr Smyth.

Tributes were paid by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar who, in a message read out at the ceremony, said Ms Brennan Glucksman had made a remarkable contribution to Ireland.

"She has inspired us all and it is very fitting she should be honoured in this way," said Mr Varadkar.

A message from Anne Anderson, outgoing Irish Ambassador to the U.S., was also read out.

Ms Anderson described Ms Brennan Glucksman as a "towering figure in Irish America".

Ms Brennan Glucksman, who attended the ceremony with her daughter Kate and son John, said she was "overwhelmed" by the award.

Ms Brennan Glucksman paid tribute to her close friends, broadcaster Gay Byrne and his wife Kathleeen Watkins, who also attended the ceremony.

Addressing current changes in global politics, Ms Brennan Glucksman said: "We will prevail, we have prevailed through so many tumultuous times."

The inaugural Kennedy-Lemass Medal was awarded last year to Kevin O'Malley, the former U.S. Ambassador to Ireland.

During her 18 year tenure as Chairperson of the American Ireland Fund, Ms Brennan Glucksman  oversaw contributions of over €300 million - of some more than €500m raised to date - in support of peace and reconciliation, arts and culture, education and community development on the island of Ireland.

The Chamber made the announcement of the award on May 29th last to coincide with the centenary of President Kennedy’s birth.

Chamber President James O’Connor said the medal was awarded to Ms Brennan Glucksman to recognise her leadership in education and skills, her work as a champion of the creative arts and  for her work removing barriers between communities.

“She has worked tirelessly to deepen the ties between our two countries,” said Mr O’Connor.

“In the spirit of those great leaders, Kennedy and Lemass, she embodies the idea of our kinship.

Alongside her late husband Lewis, Ms Brennan Glucksman has been a generous supporters of the University of Limerick for over 20 years, helping to fund many key projects and serves as Chairman of the University of Limerick Foundation.

She has served on numerous boards including IDA Ireland, The National Gallery of Ireland, The National Library, The National Concert Hall, The Abbey Theatre, Trinity College, University College Cork, The Royal College of Surgeons, Smurfit School of Business at the University of Dublin, and Cork Airport Authority.

In his address, Mr O'Connor highlighted the many opportunities that exist for Ireland in its central role driving connections between the United States and Europe. However, he remarked that amidst these opportunities that will continue to exist also lies risk. 

“Brexit will bring changing relationships between global trading blocks and the threat of protectionism. We are in no doubt this could cause real harm to the extraordinary transformation that has occurred since President Kennedy set out his powerful vision for alliance between the US and Europe," said Mr O'Connor.

In the face of this challenge, we believe our country must remain focused on improving the elements that we control and which will help us to maintain our key position at the forefront of Foreign Direct Investment.

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