Dr. Seamus Reilly

President Dr. Seamus Reilly

The seventh president of Carl Sandburg College, Dr. Seamus Reilly began his tenure in July 2018. Prior to Sandburg, he served as a vice president at Parkland College in Champaign. While there, he also served as department chair of Fine and Applied Arts, director of International Education and an English instructor.

Before his time at Parkland, Reilly was acting director of Business and Technical Writing at the University of Illinois from 1997-1998 and then a postdoctoral fellow teaching graduate and undergraduate classes in literature and writing. He also has taught at Illinois Central College and Bradley University.

Reilly graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1997 with a doctorate in English. His dissertation, “James Joyce, Music, and Narrative,” explored the novelist’s use of music as a structural narrative device in all of Joyce’s works, including “Finnegans Wake.”

Some parts of this dissertation were published as a note in “James Joyce Quarterly,” “Rehearing ‘Distant Music’ in the Dead” and “Opera in Dublin 1882-1904,” which was the opening essay in “Bronze By Gold,” a collection of essays edited by Sebastian Knowles on Joyce and music. Reilly met Knowles at a James Joyce conference in Zurich, where he also met Joyce’s only grandson, Stephen.

A native of Navan, Ireland, Reilly attended University College Dublin and earned Bachelor of Arts degrees (with honors) in English and history in 1987. He completed a master’s in modern English and American literature in 1988. While at UCD, Reilly played on the UCD soccer third team. The first two teams participated in the League of Ireland.

Reilly has always been interested in the creative arts, especially theatre, music and writing. He has worked with Zack Browning and Tim Schirmer, both composers who are alumni of the University of Illinois. With Browning, he wrote text for “Banjaxed,” which premiered in the National Concert Hall in Dublin in 2001. He also wrote lyrics for songs composed by Schirmer for “A Christmas Carol,” and Schirmer has set several of his poems to music that has been performed by the Parkland College Ensemble.

In addition to a passion for promoting access to higher education and championing the cultivation of the mind for all citizens, Reilly has been very involved in his local communities through coaching soccer. He coached at the high school, college, club and Olympic Development levels from 1994-2018, with his teams winning regional and state awards. Several of his former players have played in college and professionally, but he is most proud of the fact that many of his former players are now coaches and teachers.

The son of a carpenter and a businesswoman, Reilly was born and raised in Navan. He is the eldest of seven children (five sisters and one brother). Education has long been integral to Reilly’s life. His maternal grandfather was a principal in an Irish national primary school.

Although Reilly’s father, also named Seamus, left school at age 12, he was an avid reader and accomplished singer with an encyclopedic knowledge of classical music, especially the tenor classical repertoire. He was an expert on every aspect of woodworking, building and architecture. As two of his children moved across the Atlantic, he became an expert on American history, particularly Abraham Lincoln.

Reilly’s mother, Ann, was an accomplished businesswoman who managed the family business, raised seven children, was an amateur historian and founder of the local history association, a lover of the theatre and founder of the Navan Theatre Group. Her oral recollections of the town, in which six generations of her family had lived (Navan received its charter from King Henry II in 1130), were recorded by the National Library, and she was a major source of information for the oral history of the town.

Reilly met his wife, Maeve, while in graduate school. They both taught English in Madrid, Spain, and are most proud of their four children — Sinead, Ciara, Aidan and Diarmuid.