ACIS Logo Michael J. Durkan Prize for Books on Language and Culture

About this prize

Michael J. Durkan (1925 – 1996), a former treasurer of the ACIS, was born in Louisburgh, County Mayo, where many of his Durkan family still live.  Michael received a B. A. from St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth, and originally studied for the priesthood.  His true vocation led him to a diploma in library studies from University College Dublin, where he also studied Irish literature.  He and his wife, the former Yvonne Walsh, immigrated to the United States, where they raised their four children, whose names declare their Irish heritage: Ciaran, Michael, Maeve, and Niall.  Beginning in 1958, Michael was associate librarian at Wesleyan University, where he also served as head of the catalog department and rare books librarian. In 1976 he became the head librarian at Swarthmore College, where a memorial fund has been established by his family and friends to support the library’s collections and the visits of Irish writers to the college. He co-edited bibliographies of Sean O’Casey and Seamus Heaney, and he was co-author of a catalogue of the Yeats collection in Olin Library at Wesleyan.

It is impossible to do justice to Michael’s kindness, generosity, and humanity in a paragraph.  He was a tolerant and open-minded man, a reader and scholar as well as a raconteur who enjoyed parties and social life. Those who knew him can testify to his many lovely qualities and also to his wit.  Michael looked like an ambassador and spoke with the courtesy and ease of a diplomat, yet he would laugh readily at a naughty joke.

Michael Joe was an Irish speaker, a lover of books, and a good friend to many Irish poets and Irish Studies scholars; he is appropriately honored and commemorated in an award for Irish language and culture.

Past recipients

Prize Committee and Submission Information

This year’s prize window is now closed.

To submit your book for consideration, please complete the pre-submission form below to obtain mailing addresses of committee members. To meet the prize deadline, submissions must be postmarked by January 1, 2024. It is the responsibility of the nominated author to ensure that the postmark deadline of January 1, 2024 is observed.

The Durkan committee particularly seeks books that address subjects such as:

    • theater
    • film
    • art
    • culture

Emily Mark-FitzGerald, Chair
University College Dublin

Katherine O’Callaghan
UMass Amherst

Elaine Sisson
Institute of Art, Design and Technology, Dun Laoghaire

Ruud van den Beuken
Radboud University, the Netherlands