||Centre professor and athletes get a glimpse of Irish life in Danville's sister city
Written by Leigh Ivey
DANVILLE, KY—"It's really hard to make someone an enemy after you've had a pint with him and gotten to know his family."
So says Dr. Milton Reigelman, Centre College professor of English, special assistant to the president, and director of international programs. Because he also serves as chairman of the Danville Sister Cities Commission, Reigelman recently spent several days with the citizens of Carrickfergus, Northern Ireland, which on July 30 officially became Danville's sister city.
As Danville's representative at the Sister Cities International Conference in Belfast, Reigelman signed eight copies of the agreement that officially links the cities of Danville and Carrickfergus.
Sister Cities International, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to foster cultural awareness and understanding around the world, is the offshoot of the "People-to-People" program, which President Eisenhower founded in 1956.
"President Eisenhower started the program thinking that citizen-to-citizen contact was the best kind of diplomacy," says Reigelman, who has long shared this sentiment.
Joining Reigelman in making contact with the Irish were Centre women's soccer coach Jay Hoffman, assistant coach Jessica Chisley, and 22 members of the Centre women's soccer team, who visited the city as participants in the Carrickfergus International Football Tournament. While there, the women won three of their four games, losing only to a team composed of all-stars from each of the Irish universities.
In a sisterly act of generosity, Carrickfergus funded much of the team's visit, paying not only for the hotel rooms but also for the team bus, registration for the tournament, most meals and many other expenses.
The city's people also treated the team with the warmth that characterizes their country.
"I didn't really know what to expect from the Irish," says Rosie McAuley '10, but "they really were some of the friendliest people I've ever met. We were invited by other teams to pubs and city get-togethers where we were able to witness some of the things that make Ireland the country that it is. Everyone was incredibly friendly and willing to take us in and give us a glimpse of life in their shoes."
Hoffman agrees. "The interactions with the Irish were amazing," he says. "They were the most generous people with a strong bond to their heritage. They are very proud, and that was certainly shown by the way they treated us."
Much of this heritage is shared by several citizens of Danville, a city that has long had a relationship, though unofficial, with the Northern Irish city.
"The amazing thing about Carrick," Reigelman says, "is that virtually every settler of Danville and founder of Centre came through there. It was the place the Scots-Irish landed and left from, and the main stream of settlement in early Kentucky came through there. In the graveyard of St. Nicholas are the names Cowan, McDowell, Birney, Sutcliff, and Butler. It looks like a Danville phonebook."
Although the city is now officially the sister of Danville, Carrickfergus will not be a host city for a Centre study abroad program. The College, however, will continue to offer an exchange program with Northern Ireland, in which a few students live and study at Queen's University in Belfast, a mere 10 miles from Carrickfergus.
Living so close to Danville's sister city will provide plenty of opportunities for Centre students to visit. "We'll encourage our Ireland students, and even London students, to make contact and do informal exchanges in Carrick, making visits during the summer and holidays," Reigelman says.
The goal of such visits, of course, is to increase the students' awareness of the Irish culture, which will help fulfill Centre's goal of transforming students into global citizens.
This transformation has already begun for the women of the Centre soccer team.
"The trip gave me a greater understanding of the meaning of global citizenship," Jessie Deffendall '11 says. "It's one thing to read about it in the papers as politicians discuss the pros and cons, but it's another thing to experience another culture and understand that their way of life is just as important as ours."
McAuley agrees. "It's important to have an open mind and the willingness to immerse yourself in the culture as much as possible," she says.
Representing oneself and one's country well while immersing oneself in other cultures is also important, and McAuley believes the Centre women did this well.
"As a team, I feel that we were able to leave our mark as a responsible, open and outgoing college women's soccer team that's passionate about the same sport they are," she says. "I think that when you can bridge two countries together like that, making them able to relate to one another, you can't go wrong. We understand a little more about them and they understand a little more about us."
Though not all Centre students will have such an opportunity to interact with the citizens of Carrickfergus, many will have their chance to experience Irish traditions this March, when the Danville Sister Cities Commission plans to host a week-long celebration for St. Patrick's Day.
The organization also hopes that a Carrickfergus band will travel to Danville to participate in the 2010 Brass Band Festival.
The ultimate hope, however, is that the "twinning" of the cities will lead to an exchange of citizens between Carrickfergus and Danville—an exchange that would offer the Irish a glimpse into American life and the people of Danville their own chance to discover that the Irish are, as Reigelman says, "a friendly lot."
- end -
Founded in 1819, Centre College is ranked among the U.S. News top 50 national liberal arts colleges. Consumers Digest ranks Centre No. 1 in educational value among all U.S. liberal arts colleges. Centre alumni, known for their nation-leading loyalty in annual financial support, include two U.S. vice presidents and two Supreme Court justices. For more, visit http://www.centre.edu/web/elevatorspeech/
For news archives go to http://www.centre.edu/web/news/newsarchive.html.
600 W. Walnut Street
Danville, KY 40422