Web Extra: Mel Schroeder's Lasting Legacy Lives On

March 1, 2016

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Buffalo, NY - Ryan Wolf '12, Timothy Kucinski '12 and Aidan Ryan '14 are all recipients of the Mel Schroeder Memorial Scholarship and studied at the Yeats International Summer School in Sligo, Ireland.  Below they share reflections from their transformative experiences abroad: 

RYAN WOLF '12

The trip to the Yeats School gave me a deeper understanding of professional academic work and writing, which has proved helpful for my career development. It also presented an exciting opportunity to move within the land and culture that inspired the poetry of Yeats. The terrain was beautiful, the camaraderie within the program was wonderful, and the overall experience was memorable and enriching. It was a good mix of adventure and education (which are by no means mutually exclusive). I was also able to travel to Dublin, Galway, and London during my trip. The entire month was a rush of life and still feels surreal to me.

 At Canisius I majored in English, Creative Writing, and Communication Studies. As part of an English honors program, I took a course with Professor Mel Schroeder on the work of William Butler Yeats, co-taught with Fr. Jim Pribek. I used to visit Dr. Schroeder in his office regularly where we would discuss music, literature, and life. He was incredibly supportive of me and my creative work, and I am so grateful to have known such a warm and thoughtful person. I was deeply saddened when he passed and was stunned when I was selected for a scholarship to study at the Yeats School in his honor. I am very appreciative of how generous Joseph Hassett and Canisius College were in funding the trip and making possible such an extraordinary experience.

TIMOTHY KUCINSKI '12

I was fortunate enough to be awarded the Mel Schroeder Memorial Scholarship this past summer and through this scholarship traveled and studied in Ireland along with Ryan Wolf. Through the generosity of the English department at Canisius Col-lege and Dr. Joe Hassett, this past summer was one of the best experiences of my life.

The primary reason for the scholarship was to study for two weeks at the Yeats International School in Sligo, Ireland.

The school itself was incredible, broadening my knowledge and deepening my interest in the works of William Butler Yeats. Each morning, the school brought in two Yeats scholars who lectured on a multitude of topics and themes before the school divided up into separate seminars and work-shops. Since I was a part of the drama workshop, I realized a level of interaction with the texts that I had not expected. Particularly as someone with no prior drama experience, I was able to gain a tremendous appreciation for the works we performed. My entire involvement with the school exceeded all expectations and after two weeks I left Sligo thrilled with everything I encountered.

An accurate account of this experience, however, requires not only a description of my time spent at the school but also one of the time spent outside of the academic world. Ryan (Wolf) and I flew to London to start our trip and spent a few days as typical tourists visiting Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, the Tower of London and the rest of the traditional stops. Whatever I had seen in pictures truly did not do justice to seeing everything in person.

The time spent traveling in Ireland, however, from Dublin to the Sligo countryside to beautiful Galway, was the highlight of the scholarship.

We hit the pubs (where eventually I ended up on stage singing the traditional Irish song “Wild Rover”) and saw the stunning landscape (climbing Knocknarea and later walking around Ben Bulben at dawn in an effort to find a way to the top. We failed, by the way, after a few hours of searching.) Yet the interaction with the Irish culture, pubs included (which I deem vital for a true understanding of Yeats and Irish literature), was far and away what I will forever remember about this opportunity. I could not be more thankful and appreciative to everyone who helped establish this award. I wish I had the ability to share in detail some of the better stories but I hope this brief snapshot of my trip at least partially illuminates how truly amazing this experience was.

AIDAN RYAN '14

The world of Irish poets is small and intimate - it's natural setting is more a scuffed wooden table, sticky with spirits, than a stage - and we get a hint of this at the yearly Hassett readings.  The Mel Schroeder Scholarship, though, gives us something like Irish citizenship - it's a ticket into that world, into that language, and we each realize after two weeks at the school in Sligo that membership lasts a lifetime.

I grew enormously in my appreciation for Yeats, for meter, for magic.  We faced challenging coursework; we spent very close to 336 hours discussing poetry, leaving class for readings, then migrating to the pubs, continuing over pints conversations started over coffees that morning, or days ago; we heard Ciaran Carson perform on the tin whistle, celebrated with Michael Longley the publication of his latest volume.  And when after two weeks we left Sligo, headed to Leeds, Amsterdam, Edinburgh, Berlin, Bombay, and Buffalo, we were delighted and surprised not to hear the doors swing shut behind us. 

My interest in Yeats started with a volume my aunt gave me around 2005.  It grew in Fr. Pribek's Irish Literature class (followed by the legendary Ulysses seminar) and found unexpected efflorescence by the banks of the Garavogue, thanks to the generosity of the Shroeders, the Hassetts, and others.  My intense submersion in Yeats helped me through my Master's at Edinburgh, where in my first semester I took a "Poet-Critics" course taught by a Northern Irish poet and frequent Yeats School lecturer, Alan Gillis.  My own poetry changed after just setting foot in Ireland; and my love for Yeats, post-Sligo, has grown to such proportions that my 8th grade students (at St. Mark in Buffalo) now habitually answer "W.B. Yeats" in response to any question that otherwise flummoxes them.  Behind my desk, against the chalkboard, leans a woodcarving of the poet, along with lines from "Under Ben Bulben" - "sing whatever is well made" - a parting gift from my host family in Sligo, the Devaneys. 

Now I'm rambling; I don't know any other form more suited to expressing my Sligo experiences.  The whole affair started with me behind a drum kit, unexpectedly taking part in the Sligo jazz festival; it continued through hitchhiked rides, arguments with Jesuits, early morning pub "lock-ins," and a trip up Ben Bulben with a local bull semen import/export merchant and part-time florist, an man of unforgettable generosity, who was so moved on top of the hill, standing in wet pungent peat, among the painted sheep, that he could not but recite Yeats' "The Stolen Child," partly about that very place: ... where the wandering water gushes / From the hills above Glen-Car ... 

I was a freelance writer during and after my time in Ireland, and supplemented this with blog posts.  The Schroeder scholarship allowed me to be the first in my family to return to the "Ryan" plot in Carrowduff, Co. Clare, which experience turned into a travel essay I published with CNN:

http://www.cnn.com/2014/08/20/travel/ireland-heritage-pilgrimage/

One blog post in particular became very popular after the Wordpress editors decided to feature it:

http://aidanryan.com/2015/03/20/knocknarae-or-thoughts-on-time-and-the-irish-sisyphus-a-hitchhikers-guide/