Irish, Donald Paul 97, of Minneapolis, died on April 14, 2017. Don loved life: a deeply committed, intense, and energetic man, he promoted causes for human betterment and fought despair in the face of many intractable forces. Don loved to talk. He could chat up a rock until it turned to sand. His was never idle chatter, though. He put his body where his words were and he put his money where he felt it would have the most impact. He donated enough to minimize paying taxes for the U.S. war machine and, in doing so, provided substantial support for promoters of education and peace with justice. Don was born in Oak Park, Illinois, on July 31, 1919, the second eldest of four children of Stella (Putnam) and Willis Irish. His three siblings and he grew up in Glen Ellyn, Illinois. He attended the University of Colorado on a Carson Pirie Scott scholarship. In 1941, he completed his BA in sociology, anthropology and education; he earned his MS (1944, George Williams College, Chicago); an MA (sociology, University of Colorado, 1950); and Ph.D. (sociology, University of Washington, 1957). His early academic work was representative of lifelong interests: the sociology of war; anti-Japanese-American sentiment during World War II; cultural and racialized differences across the US; death and dying; and Latin American sociology. A Methodist by upbringing, Don began to follow Gandhi's teachings in his undergraduate years; he was classed as a conscientious objector during World War II. Don and Betty (Osborn) Irishmarried in 1942--joined the Seattle (WA) Friends (Quaker) Meeting in 1952. Due to his outspoken beliefs, Don was fired from Western Washington University (though ultimately reinstated) and later left his tenured position at Ohio Wesleyan to protest the lack of faculty governance. He received strong support from the American Association of University Professors (AAUP). During Don's post-doctoral position at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill (1959-63), he joined others in civil rights actions. His final academic home was Hamline University in St. Paul, Minnesota, where he taught for 22 years (1963-85). Don was a leader in the Coalition for Terminal Care and the Higher Education Consortium for Urban Affairs (HECUA), among others. In addition to many social activist causes, he was committed to experiential learning for Hamline students. He held Fulbright appointments in Medellín, Colombia (1972), and Montevideo, Uruguay (1979). At Hamline, Don and Betty Irish sponsored the Putnam Lectureship in Social Ethics from 1971-96, in honor of Don's uncle, Irving Putnam. Don was a generous donor to the Friends School of Minnesota. Don travelled tirelessly: his first visit to Mexico was in 1967 and to Nicaragua in 1968, followed by many more trips across Latin America in subsequent decades. He joined the Peace Brigades International team in Guatemala (1987), the Witness for Peace long-term team (1987) and served as an official observer of Nicaragua's elections in 1990. In 1990 Don married Marjorie Hedrick Sibley. Don's survivors include: daughters Terry A. Irish; Gail L. Irish (Steven Budas); and Sharon L. Irish (Reed Larson), as well as Marjorie's children, Muriel Sibley and Martin Sibley (Ilona Popper). His grandchildren are: Gemma B. Irish (Mark Sweeney), Miriam Larson, and Renner Barsella (Audrey Barsella.) He was widowed twice: Betty Osborn Irish (1920-85); and Marjorie Sibley (1990-2003). His memorial service, 2-4pm, Saturday, August 5, 2017, will be held at the Friends School of Minnesota, 1365 Englewood Ave., St. Paul. Memorials may be made to an organization aligned with Don's beliefs or the Minnesota Historical Society to support the cataloguing of Don's papers. Send checks to Development Department, MNHS, 345 Kellogg Blvd W, St. Paul, MN 55102, indicating "In Memory of Donald Irish, Collections Management Fund."

Published on April 22, 2017


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