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2014 Chairman's Award winner McCullough speaks at American Ireland Fund Gala

| Sunday, March 23, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

The waters were parting within the East Club Lounge of Heinz Field on March 19, indicative of the legend who was making his way inside.

“He got me into history,” said Marlon Ferguson. “He's wonderful. I want to get a photo with him even more so than the governor.”

The “he” was none other than Pulitzer Prize-winning author and historian David McCullough. Recipient of the American Ireland Fund Gala's 2014 Chairman's Award, he was also at the helm of a VIP mix-and-mingle with gala co-chairs David Malone and Sy Holzer, dinner chairs James Rohr, Art Rooney II (with Greta) and AmbassadorDan Rooney (with Pat), Gov.Tom Corbett and first lady Susan, American Ireland Fund chairman John Fitzpatrick, World-Wide Ireland Funds prez Kieran McLoughlin, and Tony Quatrini. Afterward, it was elbow-room-only for 500-plus guests who were finding themselves in the midst of a party that seemed to start an hour before it officially began.

“We embrace what's great about Ireland and turn it up a notch,” said event planner Theresa Kaufman.

With no shortage of Guinness in sight, guests soaked up the scenery — which this year, included two distinct nods to the guest of honor; an impressively large replica of the David McCullough Bridge (nee 16th Street Bridge), and a library theme with hundreds of books.

Once seated and appetites satisfied, the Rev. Paul Taylor offered a better-late-than-never prayer, “Tonight, the blessing is retroactive,” he laughed, before handing things over to McCullough, who was not short on praise for his beloved hometown.

“My books are about accomplishments — worthy accomplishments by people who faced roadblocks but never did give up. The American spirit is vibrant in this magnificent city. The way you were raised really matters — to have certain values and to approach problems a certain way. Let's hope we never lose that.”

Kate Benz is the social columnist for Trib Total Media and can be reached at, 412-380-8515 or via Twitter @KateBenzTRIB.

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