The timing was perfect as Gary Kennedy received an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours, just a few weeks before he’s set to retire.
The 59-year-old, who was appointed headmaster at Waringstown PS after eight years as principal at Annaghmore PS and six years as a teacher at Hart Memorial PS, said he was “overwhelmed” by the “totally unexpected” honour.
“It has just come at a lovely time,” he said. “Just when I was retiring after 31 years as headmaster.”
Mr Kennedy continued, “It’s a very humbling experience and I pay thanks to my wife Margo and my family - Aisling, Katherine, her husband Steven, Rachel and James for their unconditional love and support.
“I pay tribute to my late parents Trevor and Ida Kennedy for their wonderful heritage and teaching me Christian values of treating people with dignity and respect.
“Also to my professional colleagues whom I count as friends and my employers, the SELB, for whom I’ve had the privilege of working all my professional teaching career.”
The principal, who retires on June 30, added, “I’m really looking forward to taking my family to London to meet Her Majesty The Queen.
“It’s beyond my wildest expectations that as a small boy growing up in the model village of Bessbrook that one day I would be meeting Queen Elizabeth II, who has devoted her entire life in wonderful service to our nation.”
A man with a passion for sport, Mr Kennedy is currently chairman of Northern Ireland Schools Football Association, an organisation he’s been a member of for over 40 years.
Looking ahead to retirement, he said, “The highlights of my time at Waringstown were our outstanding reports in 1993, 2002, 2012, winning school choir of the year in 2004 and 2009 and the sporting triumphs at football, girls’ hockey and cricket.”
Mr Kennedy said he was grateful to be able to play such an important role in the lives of children.
An evening to celebrate Mr Kennedy’s principalship at Waringstown Primary School takes place in the Civic Centre on June 24.