On Tuesday, December 10, Irish America magazine hosted its 34th annual Business 100 awards luncheon at the Metropolitan Club in New York City.
The best and brightest Irish-American business leaders, representing some of the nation’s top corporations, were honored.
Mike Clune, founder of Clune Construction and chairman of the board of the Irish American Partnership, received the “Dreamer of Dreams” award, and Paul Boskind, the CEO of Deer Oaks, a behavioral health organization, served as the keynote speaker.
Coming in from all over the U.S. and some from Ireland, and representing a range of generations from 5th- to Irish-born, the impressive group of honorees, 52 of whom were in attendance, included such notables as Brian Ruane, CEO of BNY Mellon; Kathleen Murphy, president of Fidelity Personal Investing; John Greed, chairman, president, and CEO of Mutual of America; Susan Davis, chairman of Susan Davis International; and Kevin McManus, Andrew O’Flaherty and Ted Sullivan, all high-level executives at SAP.
Paying tribute to the ancestors is an important part of Irish America’s events, and editor and co-founder Patricia Harty, emphasized this in her opening remarks. She further expressed her delight that Peter Murphy, great-great-great-grandson of the patriot Thomas Addis Emmet (brother of Robert Emmet) was among the honorees.
Prefacing the inaugural “Dreamer of Dreams” award, being presented to Michael Clune, Patricia cited a few words of the Arthur O’Shaughnessy poem that gave the award its name:
“We are the music makers,
And we are the dreamers of dreams,
Wandering by lone sea-breakers,
And sitting by desolate streams; —
World-losers and world-forsakers,
On whom the pale moon gleams:
Yet we are the movers and shakers
Of the world for ever, it seems.
With wonderful deathless ditties
We build up the world’s great cities,
And out of a fabulous story
We fashion an empire’s glory…”
Geraldine Byrne Nason, Ireland’s ambassador to the U.N., presented Mike Clune with his award. She cited Clune’s philanthropic efforts, especially his work as chairman of the Irish American Partnership, which gives grants to schools in the north and south of Ireland. The ambassador, who had earlier discovered that it was Clune’s 70th birthday, led the crowd in a rousing chorus of “Happy Birthday.”
In his remarks, Clune shared the yardstick by which he values his accomplishments. “My father told me that the measure of success is the quality of the people that you are surrounded with,” he informed the gathering. He went on to say that his family and work colleagues, some of them with him for years, were the measure of his own success.
The Consul General of Ireland in New York, Ciarán Madden, also welcomed the honorees and noted that, like Paul Boskind, more and more people were discovering that they were Irish through DNA, and how Ireland was welcoming them home with open arms.
Before introducing Paul Boskind, Consul General Ciarán Madden pointed out the impressive phenomenon of such a close-knit ethnic group outside the land of their shared heritage. “You are part of a community – something bigger than yourselves,” he said. “Even with these stunning individuals being honored and their impressive careers, it takes work and leadership to knit you together in community. Patricia Harty does this. She and the team at Irish America do that work, and provide that leadership.”
The true highlight of the gathering was Boskind’s touching keynote address. Boskind, the subject of the cover story in the December 2019 / January 2020 issue of Irish America, gave an inspiring account of his life’s journey, kicking things off with the opening words to George Gershwin’s “Fascinating Rhythm.” He went on to share how learning when he was 20 that he was going blind caused him to get his act together and become a psychologist and successful businessman, how coming to terms with his own homosexuality led him to become a national LGBTQ activist and a producer of gay-themed plays, and how discovering through a DNA test that he was Irish led him to become the owner of a 15th-century castle in Ahascragh, a rural village in County Galway.
Boskind received a standing ovation, as did Niamh Hyland, from County Leitrim, who, accompanied by Sku Namamura on guitar, provided the entertainment. Niamh sang “Fields of Gold,” and, picking up on the theme of Paul’s speech, “Fascinating Rhythm.” She closed out the event with “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” with the guests joining in the chorus.
A great time was had by all. ♦
See photos and video footage of this year’s Business 100 below!