“Legend” and “legacy” are terms thrown around in higher education—and elsewhere— often with too much ease and too little reflection. But in the case of retiring Stonehill faculty member Richard Finnegan ’64, these sobriquets ring true.
In recognition of all that Finnegan accomplished as a teacher, scholar, author, administrator, ambassador and mentor for scores of students over almost five decades, the College has honored him by creating the Distinguished Richard B. Finnegan Professorship in Political Science and International Relations. Fellow political scientist Professor Anna Ohanyan is the first faculty member to hold the position.
“Stonehill has been a portal for me to worlds that I could never have anticipated that I would inhabit,” said Finnegan at a June dinner in his honor.
“I am grateful and truly moved that this occasion has also afforded me a private opportunity to reflect on the work itself: the time in front of the classrooms full of students, or alone at my research and writing. The miles logged and hours clocked. The day-by-day carrying of these years, that began with hitchhiking as a freshman from my parents’ house in Dorchester to class at Stonehill, and have taken me so many more places since. The gratification I found in studying, in teaching and in the simplicity of working my hardest at them.”
After receiving his BA from Stonehill in 1964, Finnegan returned to the College as a member of the Political Science Department in 1968. He was the founder of the International Studies program and the Irish Studies program and served as department chair, director of the Honors Program and dean of the faculty.
Author and Scholar
The author or co-author of six books, Finnegan was awarded the Moreau Medal for Distinguished Contribution to the College on the occasion of its 50th anniversary in 1998. He has been a visiting scholar at Harvard University, where he taught a course on Irish Politics, and University College Dublin. He has received grants from the Fulbright Program, National Science Foundation, Department of Education, National Endowment for the Humanities and the Whiting Foundation.
“It is a challenge to distill Richard’s productive and compassionate life to a few minutes, but I do want to highlight that Richard leads a life that is simply uncontained by geographic, disciplinary or organizational boundaries,” said Ohanyan, in remarks at the event honoring Finnegan.
“His departure … leaves a big void in our department …. And this goes beyond Richard’s course offerings, his research and teaching. It is much more than that. … His humility, reflection and compassion to others around him have made him a great friend and a trusted colleague.”
Resolving Regional Conflict
Ohanyan’s research interests include conflict analysis and resolution, global and regional network governance, and international organizations and NGOs. The new professorship will allow her to accomplish both short- and long-term goals. In the short term, she will attend meetings in Western Europe and South Caucasus with researchers, peace-building practitioners and governmental officials from Armenia and Azerbaijan, which are locked in a conflict over the Nagorno Karabakh region.
“I am thrilled to be able to participate in these unofficial dialogue groups because they link me with key policy-makers and practitioners who play a key role in preventing another war in the region,” she said.
In the long-term Ohanyan plans to enhance her research on patterns of armed conflict that are changing in the post-Cold War period.
“This professorship will allow me to conduct additional fieldwork in various conflict regions around the world that have registered some successes in utilizing regional integration models to build security and peace in their neighborhoods. I will then apply these ‘lessons learned’ to conflict areas in the post-Communist world, including the South Caucasus, Central Asia and Western Balkans,” she said.
Surrounded by colleagues, his students —past and present— and family members, as he bid a formal farewell to his office, but not his connection to the college, Finnegan remarked, “I have been fortunate to find a profession I could re-dedicate myself to for 46 Septembers, whatever the buffeting winds.”
Anticipating a retirement that will most likely be even more active than his decades of teaching, Ohanyan closed her remarks with wishes for Finnegan to continue to follow his own, storied advice:
“Stay in the cheapest hotel, go to the best restaurants and always take the boat tour!”