Dr. Claire Lyons with university president Jonathan R. Alger.
Dr. Claire W. Lyons, originally from Ard-na-Greine, Clonmel, was the Faculty Speaker at the recently held graduation ceremony at James Madison University, Harrisonburg, Virginia.
Claire was chosen to deliver this major speech because she is the 2018 recipient of the General Education Distinguished Teacher Award at JMU.
Claire, who is a full professor with the Department of Psychology at JMU, holds a Bachelor’s Degree from Trinity College, Dublin and a Master’s Degree in Psychotherapy from the University of Limerick. She earned her Ph.D in Psychology from Queen’s University Belfast.
She is the former Head of Department of Learning, Society, and Religious Education at Mary Immaculate College, Limerick. Claire worked for over 20 years in teacher education in Ireland before moving to James Madison University a few years ago with her husband, Ruairi Walsh, who is originally from Baron Park.
James Madison University is named after the 4th President of the United States. Set in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, JMU is a tight-knit community of 22,000 undergraduate and graduate students and 4,000 faculty and staff who come from across the country and around the world. Only two hours from Washington D.C., JMU is fast becoming one of the leading lights in higher education in the United States of America.
In her speech, Claire spoke about college education being a privilege that should be used to make the world a better place. She said that “the college education you have earned will open doors of opportunity” and will help students “develop the skills needed to be resilient”.
In quoting former President, Mary Robinson, Claire stated “we are the collective custodians of universal human rights”. She urged students “to leverage the privilege of education and to do everything you can to be an engaged citizen”.
Claire also spoke about the importance of relationships. Quoting from the Southern African philosophy, Ubuntu, she explained that “a person is a person through other people”. She said that “it is our relationships with others than will bring contentment” and she stressed the importance of making room in our busy lives for others. During her speech, Claire also quoted Bono, Brendan Kennelly, as well as the American Poet Laureate, Maya Angelou.
Her speech received widespread praise from those in attendance, including the President of JMU, Mr. Jonathan R. Alger, members of the university’s Governing Authority, and from her academic colleagues.
Claire is an active supporter of the JMU’s international education programme. Every May, she leads and directs a study abroad programme to Ireland focusing on a cross-cultural study of identity.
Part of the programme includes a field trip to the Nire Valley where students are taken on guided walks of the area by local man, Michael Desmond. The students also stay overnight in the community hostel in Ballymacarbry.
Commenting on her distinguished teaching award and on being chosen to deliver a major graduation speech, Claire said “it was a great honor to be selected by the students to speak at their university graduation ceremony. The students here are wonderful and I was delighted to be able to share some wisdom from Ireland with them.”