Mercyhurst University will celebrate its Irish roots on Wednesday, Sept. 4, with a dedication ceremony that pays tribute to Mercyhurst’s longstanding relationship with Erie’s sister city of Dungarvan, Ireland.
A two-feet tall, 68-pound oblong Celtic Ogham stone, scored with a message in Gaelic that reads: “Dungarvan in the traditional district of the County of Waterford;” will be unveiled by President Thomas Gamble, Ph.D.; Dungarvan Visit Coordinator Tom Keith, who has traveled from Ireland with his family for the occasion; the Sisters of Mercy and study-abroad students.
The new campus landmark, which has already been installed, is located in front of Old Main, between the west entrance and Egan Hall.
In 2012, Mercyhurst announced the opening of an international center in Dungarvan that paved the way for the university to expand its existing study-abroad opportunities and established an international base for the Center for Intelligence Research, Analysis and Training (CIRAT), an arm of the Mercyhurst University Institute for Intelligence Studies.
With Mercyhurst’s bricks-and-mortar establishment in Dungarvan, discussions about instituting an Irish presence on the Erie campus began under the leadership of Keith and Keiko Takioto Miller, assistant professor of Japanese.
As a faculty member who studies and teaches cross-cultural symbology, Miller suggested mounting a Celtic Ogham stone on university soil to celebrate Mercyhurst’s heritage and its growing relationship with Dungarvan.
“Mercyhurst’s identity originates with the Sisters of Mercy who founded the school on the hill overlooking the lake,” Miller said. “Geographically, Dungarvan is such a place, except it’s on a bay of a sea rather than on a lake.”
Found mainly in the southeastern region of Ireland and Wales, the Ogham stone dates back to the Fourth Century. The large stones are marked in an early medieval alphabet, sometimes referred to as the “Celtic Tree Alphabet,” with each letter bearing the sound of a tree name.
With such a rich history behind the Ogham stone, everyone agreed that it would be an appropriate symbol. Making it his mission to find the perfect stone while in his native Ireland, Keith found one last winter in a creek bed and had it inscribed. Some of the Mercyhurst students who studied in Dungarvan will surround the stone with pebbles they brought back from Abbeyside Beach in Dungarvan.
Wednesday’s dedication begins at 3:45 p.m.