Story by Brianna Willis, Staff writer
When you enter the office of William “Bill” Mulligan, professor of history, books about the United States of America and Ireland fill bookshelves and are in stacks on his desk. He greets students with a smile, offers them coffee or water and invites them to talk about anything from history to stamps.
Although he is an avid Mets fan, and occasional Santa look-alike, Mulligan is also deeply connected to volunteer work and Phi Kappa Phi.
Phi Kappa Phi is an honors society, open to all majors, that you must be invited to be a part of. You can only enter you junior or senior year, or as a graduate student.
The national organization has recently recognized Mulligan for his volunteer efforts. He is currently the Murray State chapter president, and is the August 2015 volunteer spotlight for the organization.
Through Phi Kappa Phi there are scholarships and lifelong benefits to being a member.
“Phi Kappa Phi gives out $500,000 every year in fellowships, scholarships and awards. For all of them but one, you have to be a member,” he said.
This is what drove him to become a faculty member here at Murray State.
“I got involved because I saw the benefit for Murray State students and wanted to make them more accessible and known to students so they would want to join when invited,” he said.
You have to be an excellent student to join, as Phi Kappa Phi only invites the top 7 percent of juniors and top 10 percent of seniors.
He wanted students to be involved in the leadership here at the Murray State chapter of Phi Kappa Phi, and last year there were two student vice presidents. This year there are three.
Originally from New York, Mulligan came to Murray State in 1993 to headstart a masters program designated for public history. This program lasted for about 10 years and is focused on the physicality and presentation of history.
Landmark signs, museums, preserving historical buildings and any form of presenting history to the public all can be classified under public history.
He currently focuses on American history up to 1865 and the Irish Diaspora.
“Well I’ve been Irish all my life and American all my life,” he said, and then smiled.
This intersection of history and his personal life has led Mulligan to a 20-year commitment to research the Irish Diaspora.
He was living in a small town in Michigan, and noticed that many facets of the town were named after Irish people, and yet he says he never met another Irish person while he was there.
“I wondered, where did they all go? How can you be so prominent that streets are named after you, and yet years later you’re gone,” he said.
This question, along with his research led him to write a book that will be finished soon.
He hopes people will find the Irish Diaspora as interesting as he has.
However, Mulligan is more than just his historical pursuits and Phi Kappa Phi.
Mulligan says he is devoted to the students here on campus, and always welcomes students to come talk to him.
“If they ever want to stop by for some coffee and talk about Phi Kappa Phi, the Mets or even stamp collecting my door is always open,” he said.