In 1896, 8 years after Catholic University of America (CUA) was founded in Washington, DC, the AOH provided a gift in the amount of $50,000 to endow a Chair in Gaelic Languages and Literature. That endowed fund still exists at Catholic University today, under the title AOH Chair of Gaelic Language and Literature. The AOH endowment was looked at with great suspicion by some at CUA when it was originally provided. It was a unique and extremely generous gift at the time and it was only the second endowment the University had ever received, the first being in 1893 (in the amount of $30,000) by U.S. Catholic Bishops. The only other Celtic department in the United States at that time was at Harvard. Many at the University were suspicious of the AOH at the time actually frowned upon the gift for a Chair calling the organization a “secret society”. One historic reference in a University correspondence of 1892 expressed the view that “this University Chair ought to labeled the ‘Murderers’ Chair.”
In 1983, Catholic University established The Center for Irish Studies which organized lectures and other co-curricular events relating to Irish history, literature, and culture. Subsequently, a Master’s Degree in Irish Studies program started in 1991. The degree program required study of modern Irish language but enrollment in courses for that language included students who were not in the Irish Studies Master’s Degree program. In 2009 the AOH discovered that Catholic University had shut down (if only temporarily) their Irish Studies program because of a shake up and abrupt departure of the acting chair of the department and other associated staff.
Vice President Brendan Moore (a Catholic University alum) and National Director Keith Carney recently met with representatives of Catholic University in Washington, DC to discuss the status of the AOH endowment at the University. The meeting included the Dean Larry Poos of the English Department, Bob Sullivan – the head of Development for Catholic and Dr. Coilin Owens a professor currently teaching an undergraduate Gaelic Language class at CUA. Many options are on the table on how to deal with the AOH endowment and CUA is determined to maintain the fund for use as close to its original intent as possible. Director Carney had requested a status of the endowment provided by the AOH and was provided with a status of the account in October of 2010 – that account currently holds (according to the University’s document) over $215,000.
While the amount of money currently in the endowment is significant, it is not enough to pay to hire a full time dean to run a Gaelic Studies program. The University could not comment on the accounting of the fund over the years but readily admitted that they had not invested “any” endowments well over the years (until recently). Catholic University has several other endowments that support Irish studies, including the Rose Saul Zalles Chair in Celtic Studies, the John F. Kane Fund, and the Mary Moran Chair in Celtic Language. The two former funds were the chief sources of funding for The Center for Irish Studies activities. While no conclusions were drawn at the meeting, the combining of the other endowments (similar in purpose) to better pool resources in order to fulfill the original intent for the funds was proposed.
The Washington, DC AOH recently organized a Division at Catholic University, named the Sons of Saint Aiden Division and have over 40 members (all college students) that is serving as a model for other College students looking to start divisions.