Two former principals were among the guests at the recent prizegiving of St Catherine’s College.
Margaret Martin (1991-2006) and Deirdre McDonald (2006-2015) were welcomed by recently appointed principal Mrs Noeleen Tiffney, who paid tribute to both her predecessors.
And she highlighted the role of resolve and determination in overcoming life’s obstacles, dislayed not just by the principals but others with and without connections to the school.
She said, “Mrs McDonald, the students here tonight acknowledge your role in their success to date and, on their behalf, I thank you most sincerely for all that you gave of yourself to them.
“I was privileged to work for and with two dynamic and gifted women who remain as inspirational role models. The people of Armagh must never forget the central roles of Margaret and Deirdre in establishing a centre of academic excellence for all in the heart of this community.”
Mrs Tiffney congratulated the students on their many successes and thanked parents and guardians for their support over the years.
She also welcomed guest speaker Professor Tony Gallagher, pro vice-chancellor of Queen’s University, who, she said, “has a long and distinguished career, specialising in the role of education in divided societies and equality and inclusion through education”.
Mrs Tiffney referred to the formation of St Catherine’s College just 42 years ago, spearheaded by Sr Dolores Considine, which was also formed out of a “vision for equality and inclusion against the backdrop of a divided society”.
Mrs Tiffney welcomed the McKenna family who presented The Nicola McKenna Memorial Award. She said, “Despite her poor health, Nicola’s determination and strength of character shone through as she obtained a degree in biomedical science and forged a career in Norbrook Laboratories.”
And she said Nicola’s resolve had helped form the theme of the prizegiving. “Resolve – a firm determination to do something: the resolve of Mrs Martin and Mrs McDonald to provide an outstanding education for every pupil who walked through the doors of Saint Catherine’s College; the resolve of Professor Gallagher to make shared education a reality in a divided society; the resolve of Nicola McKenna to succeed when every muscle in her body was willing her not to.
“Determination gives you the resolve to keep going in spite of the roadblocks that lie before you.”
Meanwhile, Professor Gallagher delivered a clear message to the students: “Just as the sisters of the Society of the Sacred Heart took a brave step in creating this amazingly successful school, you should not be afraid to take the initiative to change things which you think are wrong in society.”
The vote of thanks was delivered by head girls Rossa Donnelly and Sarah Comiskey, who thanked Professor Gallagher for giving up his time to attend the event and for his entertaining and informative address.