By Suzanne Buzek
Maureen Coz is a big fan of Saint Patrick’s Day. But unlike many, Coz isn’t Irish only one day a year. Her Irish heritage—her maiden name was Murphy—along with her faith and her love of family, goes a long way in defining what matters most in her life. Every year, as March rolls around, Coz prepares herself for the wearing of the green as part of Cincinnati’s annual Saint Patrick’s Day parade. It is, after all, a family tradition.
“My father was president of the Cincinnati Ancient Order of Hibernians the first year they held the parade, in 1967,” says Coz, director of Special Events at Xavier. “At one point, Cincinnati had the second largest parade in the world.”
With the exception of one year, Coz has participated in every edition of the parade, rain or shine, bitter cold or 80-degree heat. Often, she carries her great-grandfather’s black thorn walking stick, which he brought to the United States emigrating from Ireland. Thus far, the walking stick has appeared in every parade.
Coz says that, because there are parades all over Ireland on March 17, her father and other AOH members felt it necessary to celebrate the special day in a proper way with a parade.
“A lot of people think Saint Patrick’s Day is a big drinking holiday here in the United States,” says Coz. “But in Ireland, it’s like all of our holidays wrapped into one. There’s a party the night before, on the morning of St. Patrick’s Day, there’s church, like Easter, and then there are parades all over Ireland. In the evening, you go home and have a family meal, like Thanksgiving.”
The Irish connection impacts Coz and her family in many other ways as well. Her children participated in the Ulster Project as high school students. The project is a Catholic-Protestant, Irish-American youth exchange in which Irish teens from Northern Ireland are hosted in an American home. Coz hosted one teen for each of her three children.
“The goal is that the Irish teens realize that Catholic and Protestant divides aren’t as significant here as they are in Ireland,” she says. “Cincinnati has only done the project for about 10 years, but 22 cities in the United States participate.
“Each of my kids have benefited from the exchange,” she continues. “It’s not guaranteed that the American teens go to Ireland, but my daughter, Elizabeth, went. She learned that not everybody has two cars, that life is a little more laid-back, and there’s not a movie theater on every corner.”
With family roots running deep into Cincinnati’s West Side—she raised her family in the very house in which she grew up—Coz says her heart also belongs to the Price Hill community.
“What can I say, I’m a proud West-Sider,” she says. “I live in my parents’ house, where I grew up, near St. William’s, because my grandma said that you should never live anywhere you can’t hear church bells. Price Hill is a great neighborhood, especially for first-time homebuyers. It’s a diverse community, close proximity to Xavier, and just a lot of good people.”
Proximity to Xavier is important to Coz: She graduated from the University in 1982, following the footsteps of her father. While she is now a dyed-in-the-wool Musketeer, her path to campus involved some not-so-divine intervention. Still, she is more than happy with the results.
“I believe that Xavier comes into your life for a reason, a season, and a lifetime,” she says. “The reason that I came to Xavier was because my mother—she told me this on her deathbed years after the fact—did not submit my application to Miami University because she wanted me to go to Xavier. The season: college. And for a lifetime: bringing alums back and keeping them involved at Xavier—that’s the fun part.”