KINGSTON, R.I. – May 28, 2009 – Most of the inductees into the Rhode Island Heritage Hall of Fame gave heartfelt, but low-key acceptance speeches during ceremonies held earlier this month.
But not Scott Molloy, professor of labor and industrial relations at the University of Rhode Island. Molloy, one of nine inductees this year, was like an old-time preacher or union organizer as he regaled hundreds gathered at Rhodes-On-the-Pawtuxet about his Irish heritage, his work as a bus driver and union chief and his eventual work as a professor at URI.
His voice echoed off the walls as he paid tribute to teachers. “I want to thank all the teachers I have had from elementary school through graduate school who have been an inspiration and who have provided me guidance and encouragement. Teachers do not deserve for one minute the invective that is thrown at them today.”
One of his own professors at Providence College, Patrick T. Conley, now the president of the Heritage Hall of Fame, said Molloy stood out among his students. “In 33 years of teaching, I had a number of honorable and talented individuals, but no student ever had more zest for learning or enthusiasm for conveying it than Scott Molloy. He has become the leading Rhode Island Irish historian and is the founder of the Rhode Island Labor History Society. The Irish Famine Memorial’s inscription was beautifully crafted by Scott.”
In his acceptance speech, Molloy recounted his Irish-Catholic, blue-collar roots from his childhood in the Elmwood neighborhood of Providence.
“I grew up with kids who became home builders and home wreckers, teachers and dropouts, strikers and strikebreakers, professionals and amateurs, bankers and bank robbers. Over a lifetime, I have pilfered bits of personalities, stolen pieces of character and borrowed formulas for success. That’s why this is an award for all.”
Encouraged by his father, a Providence cop, and his mother, a Providence schoolteacher, he earned his bachelor’s degree from Rhode Island College and his master’s degree in American history from the University of New Hampshire.
“Then I did what anyone would do with a master’s degree, I became a bus driver,” Molloy said.
While holding down his job as a driver and serving as president of the Amalgamated Transit Union, Molloy began pursuing his doctorate in history at Providence College in 1981. “For 10 years, I went to class dressed as Jackie Gleason’s Ralph Kramden.”
At the same time, he was also named a member of the faculty at the Schmidt Labor Research Center at URI.
In 1996, he was presented the URI Foundation Teaching Excellence Award and in 2005 was named the Carnegie Foundation’s Professor of the Year. He is a widely published author and lecturer on labor and Irish history.
In his conclusion the night of the ceremonies, Molloy returned to his Irish and labor roots. “For the past 25 years, we have gone by the yuppie slogan, ‘It’s all about looking out for number one.’ I say it’s time to return to the ancient union anthem that an injury to one is an injury to all.”
R.I. HERITAGE HALL OF FAME HONOREE: University of Rhode Island Professor Scott Molloy, at right, poses with Patrick T. Conley, president of the Rhode Island Heritage Hall of Fame after Molloy was inducted into the hall of fame earlier this month. Photo courtesy Scott Molloy.