The American Irish Historical Society.

Board Formation Close at AIHS

The formation of a new board at the American Irish Historical Society is close to finalization.

And the Echo understands that a new chairman is soon to be named.

The AIHS and its Gilded Age home at 991 Fifth Avenue has been in something of a limbo in recent years after the dismissal of board members back in 2019, including then President General Jim Normile. 

Normile, an attorney specializing in government and public finance, had questioned the financial operations of the society.

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Also dismissed at the time for challenging the manner of the society's running was chairman of the AIHS Executive Council, Brian McCabe, and Sophie Colgan, who was employed by the society to organize and manage events at the AIHS headquarters, while also leading marketing initiatives for the society.

In a January, 2022 op-ed in the Irish Echo McCabe wrote of an existential crisis at the AIHS "brought on by inept and visionless leadership."

As the controversy swirled around the society its ornate building was offered up for sale, first for $52 million and then for the reduced price of $44 million. There were no takers.

The concern expressed by the broader Irish/Irish American community, by way of a petition that gathered more than 40,000 signatures, was but one factor in bringing the for sale sign down.

The intervention by New York State Attorney General Letitia James led to the appointment of an interim board, made up of John MacIntosh, Interim Board Chair, Gregory Pressman, Interim Board Secretary, and Elizabeth Stack, PhD, Officer and Executive Director of the Irish American Heritage Museum in Albany.

Last St. Patrick's Day that board issued a statement.

It stated: "As the interim board of directors of the American Irish Historical Society (AIHS), we have made considerable progress since being entrusted with the interim leadership in December 2022.

"The Society’s auditors have completed the 2020 audit and are undertaking audits for 2021 and 2022. Utility services have been restored to the mansion at 991 Fifth Avenue, various repairs have been made to the building and a detailed assessment of the building’s physical condition has been done.

"We have also engaged professional archivists to review and categorize the contents of the building and the collections of AIHS. Having laid this foundation, we are now beginning the process of selecting and appointing a permanent governing board for the Society.

"We will review interested candidates during the last two weeks of April with input from BoardStrong, an organization specializing in assisting nonprofits in board governance and recruitment.

"During May we expect to meet with potential board members in person before making final invitations in June. The permanent governing board will have nine members of which at least five will be selected during this initial phase of the recruitment phase.

"Under the law, it is our fiduciary duty to elect the permanent board that we believe will
best take the organization forward. In fact, this is our most important task as the interim

"We understand the foundational and historical significance of the Society, and the importance of maintaining and preserving its assets for the Irish diaspora in the US. We are mindful of the trust which has been placed on us, and deeply value the ongoing support of stakeholders across the community.

"We ask for the continued support of all stakeholders as we complete our work, and know that the engagement of the community will be essential for the new board once it is in place."

In a statement opf her own, Attorney General James said: “For decades, the American Irish Historical Society has been a home for the Irish American community to celebrate and honor their culture and traditions.

"My office was proud to work with the community to preserve this vital organization and help install an interim leadership team to oversee the transition. Today, the interim board is taking an important next step and beginning the search for a permanent board for AIHS.

"Irish Americans have contributed so much to New York’s past and present, and because of our collective efforts, AIHS will be able to thrive for generations to come.”

That search for a permanent board would now appear to close to completion.