It was 1997 and the cold, dreary March weather of New England pelted the stained glass windows in Veritas Auditorium with sleet. The weather was enough to keep most people off the road that night. Most people. Inside Veritas Auditorium, however, there wasn't an empty seat as people gathered to watch a documentary by an Irish filmmaker about Ireland's Blasken Islands.

Sr. Judy Kappenman to Retire

Tue Nov 6, 2012

It was 1997 and the cold, dreary March weather of New England pelted the stained glass windows in Veritas Auditorium with sleet. The weather was enough to keep most people off the road that night. Most people. Inside Veritas Auditorium, however, there wasn't an empty seat as people gathered to watch a documentary by an Irish filmmaker about Ireland's Blasken Islands.

More than just the sheer volume of Irish descendents in attendance that evening, it was the passion for Irish culture that spurred the creation of the Irish Cultural Center at Elms College in 1999. Of its three directors spanning its 13-year existence, the last nine have been under the direction of Judy Kappenman, SSJ.

In that time, Sr. Judy has brought to the center numerous Irish poets, artists, authors, historian, and politicians, including then President of Ireland, Mary McAleese. Sr. Judy even authored a book about her grandfather, To Dakota and Back: The Story of an Orphan Train Rider.

However, her proudest accomplishment has been keeping the passion alive and growing, which makes the task of selecting her successor that much more daunting.

After a nearly decade-long stint as executive director, Sr. Judy will be stepping down but plans to remain active at the center. She still lives within walking distance of the campus and continues to work with the Springfield Republican on their book series The Irish Legacy: A History of the Irish in Western Massachusetts.

To honor her service, the board of directors of the Irish Cultural Center at Elms College is hosting a gala celebration at The Wherehouse? in Holyoke, on November 17 at 6:30 p.m.

"The most wonderful thing is that I've gotten an education. I've gone to lectures, book readings, films, concerts. I've been enriched in so many ways," Sr. Judy said.