Classmates of Virginia (Ginny) Cahill ’74 remember her as a brilliant, driven, and generous woman who refused to let a cancer diagnosis thwart her educational goals — or dampen her spirit.
Ginny received the devastating diagnosis her junior year at Emmanuel. Despite prolonged periods of hospitalization and treatment, Ginny, a psychology major, graduated with honors and went on to receive her master's degree in education in 1975 and her Ph.D. in Educational Research and Statistics in 1979, both from Boston College. In her professional career, Ginny was Manager of Testing and Evaluation for the Boston Public Schools. She also taught at the University of Massachusetts, Boston, and at Boston College.
“Ginny was a remarkable person. She never said, ‘Why me?’ or felt sorry for herself. She was a genuinely happy person, despite her illness,” said Ginny’s classmate and dear friend Kathleen Chane ’74. “She had great faith in God, and that really helped her.”
Fostering Friendships Through a Shared Experience
Kathleen, Ginny, Claire Hallahan Hunt, and Mary Slafer Twiraga were among a group of 19 women in the class of 1974 who commuted to Emmanuel and developed a close bond as they shared meals in the Campus Shop. The class of 1974 will be celebrating their 50th reunion this spring.
“We all brought our lunches in brown bags but would indulge ourselves afterwards with a nice cup of tea — all except Ginny who was of the firm opinion that tea was only drunk when you were sick!,” Mary recalled.
After Ginny’s death in 1985 at age 32, Kathleen, Claire, and Mary, along with classmates Mary Holland Harvey, Virginia Martin Connearney, and Frances Donahue Burke established the Virginia M. Cahill Scholarship Award. The scholarship is presented to an Emmanuel student who demonstrates dedication to academic excellence and strength of character.
“More than 50 years later, Ginny still lives on in our memories and in our hearts. The Virginia M. Cahill Scholarship has bound our group of Ginny’s friends together,” said Claire. “We wanted to keep her memory alive — and it really has. Our hope has been that the recipients of her scholarship learn about Ginny and strive to honor her by being as faith-filled, strong, courageous, and determined as she was.”
“We were all so very proud when the first scholarship was awarded,” said Mary. “Emmanuel outdid themselves by hosting a lovely reception for the recipient, her family, our committee, Ginny’s family and other close friends and scholarship donors. The reception was preceded by a beautiful mass in the Chapel and we all felt it a worthy and fitting testament to our dear, dear Ginny.”
To date, the Virginia M. Cahill Scholarship has awarded some $120,000 to seven recipients since it was established in 1986, helping to make an Emmanuel education within reach of these deserving students.
“Without the generosity of the donors of this scholarship I would not be able to attend Emmanuel,” said Megan Novak ‘25. “Thanks to this scholarship, I have made my closest friends, experienced a beautiful city, and have been able to pursue my academic passions.”
Ginny maintained a deep affection for Emmanuel, and her involvement in alumnae affairs attested to that. At the time of her death, she was an elected member of the Board of Directors of the Alumnae Association, and she served as Chairperson of the 1985 Annual Fund.
Ginny's mother, Mary Kenney Cahill, was a member of Emmanuel's class of 1932, and her two aunts, Margaret and Ann Kenney, were members of the classes of 1927 and 1936.
If you’d like to learn more about the Virginia M. Cahill Scholarship Award or make a gift to the fund, please email development [at] emmanuel.edu.