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Deasy & Melody: Mercyhurst’s Irish trailblazers

Friday, March 18, 2016

Thirty years ago two Irish teens, both schoolmates and friends, set forth on their first airplane ride and their inaugural trip to America.

While these were firsts for them, it was also a first for Mercyhurst’s fledgling international recruiting program. These Irish lads, who graduated from St. Augustine’s in Dungarvan, County Waterford, were among the first group of Irish students to study at Mercyhurst through the John F. Kennedy Irish Scholarship Competition.

Flash forward and Mercyhurst is now home to students from 26 countries. But back in 1986, young John Deasy (top right), a history major with political aspirations, and his buddy John Melody (bottom right), a hospitality major with a passion for soccer, were blazing a new frontier at Mercyhurst.

They will reunite on the Erie campus Monday, March 21, at a lunch hosted by President Michael Victor. Although Melody has visited Deasy in Dungarvan when returning home to see his family, this marks the first time in many years that Deasy, a respected member of the Irish Parliament since 2002, has returned to his alma mater.

The success Deasy and Melody have achieved since going their separate ways after graduating from Mercyhurst in 1990 is nothing short of extraordinary. Still, get them together and they are the same two college buddies, full of traditional Irish charm, warmth and wit. In fact, give them a game of golf and a pint of stout, and 30 years evaporate like the morning dew on a warm summer day.

For many Erie residents, John Melody is “Erie’s Irishman.” Whether turning guests into friends at one of his four U Pick 6 establishments, coaching a tough-nosed, attacking brand of soccer as owner of the Erie Commodores FC, or letting his lyrical Irish brogue waft over the radio waves to win new customers and fans, Melody brings a bit of Ireland with him everywhere he goes.

Melody says he and Deasy have much in common, explaining: “He’s focused, driven and intelligent – I’m good for two of the three.”

At Mercyhurst, Deasy was an exemplary student who played golf and was sports editor of the student newspaper, The Merciad. After graduating, he went to work for John Heinz, until the Pennsylvania Republican senator’s tragic death in April 1991. Later, he served as a legislative assistant in the US House of Representatives for Rhode Island Republican Ronald Machtley before spending two years as manager of legislative affairs for a Chicago-based law firm.

In 1997 Deasy returned to Ireland, where he completed a Bachelor of Civil Laws (Honours) degree at University College Cork. He entered electoral politics in 1999, topping the poll at the Dungarvan Town Council elections and the Waterford County Council elections. Three years later he succeeded his father, former cabinet minister Austin Deasy, as a member for the constituency of Waterford in Dáil Éireann, the Irish Parliament. Deasy has retained his Dáil seat at each of the elections held since then, most recently in February 2016.

In a 1999 issue of Mercyhurst’s alumni magazine, Dr. Andy Roth, then vice-president of enrollment, said this of Deasy: “He’s a classic example of what Mercyhurst does best: he left here a more accomplished, well-rounded person than if he had gone to a bigger, less personal school. When he’s elected prime minister, I’m looking forward to having dinner with him at Leinster House.”

Both Melody and Deasy say they hold Mercyhurst near and dear and count it as instrumental in their success. Melody has actually coached soccer and worked in advancement at Mercyhurst in years past.

He is proudest of his Mercyhurst soccer career, both as a player and a coach, and remembers setting a record for most goals scored in a season – 16 – his senior year. As coach from 1997 to 2001, his men’s team had an overall record of 70-21-4 and a perfect 27-0 record in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC). The women finished his five-year tenure with an overall 72-19-6 record and were 37-4-3 in the GLIAC. He was named GLIAC Men's Coach of the Year three times and GLIAC Women's Coach of the Year twice. Little wonder that in 2015, Melody was inducted into the Mercyhurst Athletic Hall of Fame.

“I am thankful for all the opportunities I’ve had at Mercyhurst over the years,” Melody said. And, of course, few would deny that Mercyhurst and Erie are grateful that he chose to stay and share his good fortune with us.

Likewise, Deasy has been influential across the pond in paving the way for Mercyhurst’s programs in Ireland, including the launch of the Global Intelligence Forum and the Mercyhurst in Ireland satellite site, which supports student studies as well as opportunities for research and collaboration with Irish partners.

Deasy, too, has a deep and abiding gratitude for having studied at Mercyhurst. In that 1999 Mercyhurst Magazine article, Deasy said, “Mercyhurst is a secure environment, but you have the freedom to make the kinds of mistakes you have to make in order to mature. When I had my first interview in Washington, Sen. Heinz’s chief assistant didn’t ask me about politics or academics. We talked about things in general so he could determine whether I could associate with people on an everyday basis. Mercyhurst made me a well-rounded person. Everything about my experience there was incredibly positive.”

Deasy is expected to arrive in Erie Sunday night. On Monday, he and Melody are scheduled to have lunch with President Victor, Provost David Dausey, Ridge School Dean Jim Breckenridge and Walker School of Business Dean Missy Breckenridge. And, somewhere along the way, you just might catch sight of them at one of Melody’s pubs sipping on a couple pints and sharing old college stories.