It is a particular pleasure for Colgate to join in the celebration
of the 1995 Nobel Prize for literature which was awarded to Irish poet Seamus
Heaney H'94 in October. A longtime friend of the university, Mr. Heaney first
read his poems and lectured to Colgate students for a 1969 London study group
directed by English Professor Bruce Berlind. He also lectured for Bruce's
London classes in the '70s and for the late Professor Terrence Des Pres' London
study group in the early '80s.
In 1988 Seamus helped me set up my London study group's Yeats tour of Ireland, and he generously met with my students at James Joyce's Martello Tower in London for a morning lecture on Yeats. He did the same for my 1993 group and this past fall he met with Professor Michael Coyle's study group in that same Norman tower.
Poet Seamus Heaney addresses the graduates and their guests at Commencement '94.
Mr. Heaney has read periodically at Colgate over the past two decades, and in
1994, when he was our commencement speaker, Colgate awarded him an honorary
Doctor of Humane Letters. Addressing the Class of '94 on "Faith, Hope and
Poetry," Mr. Heaney said: "Faith, hope and poetry are all manifestations of
creative mind, that uniquely human gift . . . held in special trust
by those privileged to receive a liberal education at a university like
I recall standing with my wife Helen and with Seamus and his wife Marie sometime after 11 p.m. on a Broad Street curb the Saturday night before commencement, as the graduating class walked in slow procession down the hill and around Taylor Lake, their torches lit and the lake seemingly on fire. At some point I turned to Seamus and remarked that he had certainly put in a full day and I knew he had a full one tomorrow, so I'd be happy to take him and Marie to the Inn whenever they liked. Seamus just shrugged and said, "No, no, I want to stay till the last student walks by so I can feel part of the Class of '94."
Professor Balakian's new book of poems, 'Dyer's Thistle', has just been published. He has taught at Colgate since 1980.