University to Award Dr. Catherine B. Shannon President’s Medal of Achievement

May 15, 2024
Image of Catherine B. Shannon

Dr. Catherine B. Shannon.

Dr. Catherine B. Shannon will be awarded the President’s Medal of Achievement at Westfield State University’s 2024 Undergraduate Commencement Ceremony at the MassMutual Center on Friday, May 17. 

The Westfield State University Emerita Professor of History is recognized for her years of dedicated service to the university through her teaching, research, writing, development of new and vital programs and an organizer for peace in Northern Ireland. Shannon retired from Westfield State College in 2000.

Originally from Boston, Shannon started her career at Westfield State College in September 1967 in the History Department. In the 1980s, she developed the Irish American Studies Program creating a multi-disciplinary program that taught students and community-members courses on Irish history, Irish language, Northern Ireland history, British History, Irish music, and literature.

Shannon was instrumental in bringing an Honors Program to Westfield State College in 1987, which has grown to a program that has recognized hundreds of students. As a study abroad advisor, she arranged for a number of Westfield students to study or do their practice teaching in Ireland.

In 1982, Shannon organized the first Symposium on Northern Ireland that brought Irish and British representatives together to discuss the political issues of the time. The event was held at the J.F. Kennedy Library in Boston. There were three symposiums, and these events led the way for peace in Northern Ireland. In 1994, Shannon received an award from the Charitable Irish Society for her work as an organizer for peace in Northern Ireland.

Also in 1994, Shannon received the annual Solas Achievement Award from the Irish Immigration Center of Boston. She served as the first woman President of the Charitable Irish Society which was founded in 1737. She has been a member of the society since 1985 and continues to serve on its board of directors.

In selecting Shannon for the President’s Award for Achievement, President Linda Thompson said, “As Westfield State University enters its 185th year of service to our region and the Commonwealth, Dr. Shannon’s many accomplishments at the University and beyond deserve attention and appreciation. Westfield State is noticed as a place for high achieving people, an organization that values equity, diversity and inclusion and a University that acts locally and thinks globally. It is through Dr. Shannon’s contributions that our University is continuously known for these principles. In presenting this award we recognize her substantial progress in the advancement of education, social justice, civil rights, cultural understanding, and her lasting impression in the quest for peace and prosperity throughout the world.”

In response to her selection for the President’s Award for achievement, Shannon said, “I am greatly honored to receive the President’s Medal of Achievement from President Linda Thompson at the 2024 commencement. As I recall my three plus decades at Westfield State, I am conscious of the support I received from numerous faculty colleagues and administrators who shared my goals of advancing Irish Studies, the Honors program and the Study Abroad program.  It was a privilege to teach so many wonderful Westfield undergraduates whose subsequent successful careers have brought renown to their Alma Mater. I am confident that Westfield will continue to offer quality education and multiple opportunities for its students to become responsible citizens and leaders locally, nationally, and globally.”

Shannon was educated at the University of Toronto where she earned her Bachelor of Arts Degree. She next attended University College, Dublin, National University of Ireland where she earned her Master of Arts Degree. She earned her Doctor of Philosophy at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. In 2019 She was awarded an honorary doctorate of sacred letters from the University of Saint Michael College in the University of Toronto."