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Provost Receives Irish Top 100 Award

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James McCarthy"I’m still not sure exactly how they got my name," says Baruch College Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs James McCarthy. That mystery and his humility notwithstanding, the Irish Voice newspaper could not have chosen a more deserving honoree to include in its 2009 Irish Education 100 list. The list recognizes North America’s top 100 education professionals of Irish descent. (The publication also compiles annual "top" lists in the categories of business, finance, law, and women.)

Born in Waterbury, Connecticut, and earning bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees from distinguished U.S. universities, McCarthy easily traces his heritage back to Ireland: All four of his grandparents hailed from County Kerry, and several family members still live in Dublin. But McCarthy has more immediate ties to Ireland than heritage alone. He holds dual citizenship in the U.S. and Ireland and has conducted some of his most important research while a visiting academic at famed Trinity College, Dublin. He describes his year there as "one of the most enjoyable and productive of my life."

An authority on adolescent and reproductive health care and on demography, McCarthy was Heilbrunn Professor of Public Health and director of the Heilbrunn Center for Population and Family Health at Columbia University in 1994 when he decided to take a sabbatical to work on a book project. He sought a visiting professorship at a university with a great library, located several time zones away from New York, and in a city with good, English-language public schools. Dublin was chosen because, as McCarthy explains, "it had all those attributes and, not unimportantly, our family had vacationed there and we all loved it."

In Ireland, McCarthy continued the demographic and public health research he’d been conducting since the mid-1970s, focusing on the determinants of fertility and the development and evaluation of community health programs in disadvantaged communities.

While he doesn’t claim to be a cross-cultural expert, McCarthy has been a frequent visitor to and keen observer of Ireland for many years. "Before the current economic downturn, Ireland was among the most affluent countries in the world, with economic indicators considerably stronger, for example, than the U.K.’s. That economic boom brought a wave of immigration. People in the U.S. would be surprised to know that Ireland now has substantial populations of recent immigrants from Africa and Europe, especially Eastern Europe. It’s fairly easy to find Polish stores in central Dublin."

Right now, back in the States, the provost is focusing on working with faculty, deans, and others at Baruch to fulfill the College’s mission to provide the best educational opportunities to all New Yorkers. At the same time, he maintains his professional linkages to Ireland. In September McCarthy presented the keynote address at a conference on aging, held at Queen’s University, Belfast.

Diane Harrigan