The annual San Diego St. Patrick’s Day Parade, taking place this Saturday, is centered on celebrating the spirit of ancient Ireland and its culture. One of the trademarks of the parade is awarding outstanding contributors to the Southern California Irish community. Awards include Irish Man and Woman of the Year, San Diego Organization of the Year, and even the reputable Smiling Irishman award.
Mary Whelan, executive director of University Design at the University of San Diego, is one of the honorees.
“Somehow my name was brought to the Irish Congress of Southern California (ICSC) committee as a nomination for the Irish Woman of the Year for contributions to not just the Irish community, but also the culture and history of the San Diego area,” Whelan explained regarding her nomination for this honor.
The ICSC is in charge of organizing and operating the yearly parade and also carries out promotional events year round that are focused on Irish culture.
“I was not aware of the nomination until I received a call from the parade chair, Tony Mande, who said that the ICSC had unanimously approved my nomination,” said Whelan. “Needless to say I was quite surprised and thrilled by the honor.”
A native San Diegan, Whelan is a USD undergraduate alumna and an MFA from the New York Academy of Art. Over the years Whelan has taught several art classes at USD and has served as museum director and curator for two of California’s oldest and historic missions in San Diego County: Mission San Diego De Alcala and Mission San Luis Rey in Oceanside.
After spending many years at these missions, Whelan was invited to fill her alma mater’s position of executive director of University Design. In the 10 years she’s held the position, Whelan has become an important resource to the campus in regards to design, collections, galleries, art and architecture.
Whelan married her husband in 2001 and they have three children. In her spare time Whelan loves to golf and it was this pastime that provided her exposure to the local Irish community. Since then, she’s been an active participant in fundraisers and events pertaining to the Irish community.
Saturday’s 32nd annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade and Festival, with the theme of Celebrating the Spirit of Ancient Ireland, begins with the parade at 10:30 a.m.
“I am looking forward to the festivities this weekend and having my three kids join me in the parade,” said Whelan. “Although the forecast is for rain this weekend, it certainly won’t dampen my spirits!”
— Ann-Marie Auger-Andrews ‘12