‘We found love in the University of Limerick’

Anne Sheridan

Reporter:

Anne Sheridan

THERE was more than education and future job prospects on the minds of the first group of students who enrolled in the University of Limerick in 1972.

THERE was more than education and future job prospects on the minds of the first group of students who enrolled in the University of Limerick in 1972.

As the very first class of UL was honoured last weekend during its 40th celebrations, it emerged that love’s arrow struck for 10 of its students and it has endured for many to this day.

Five couples - who met in the then National Institute of Higher Education - wed in the following years, and some celebrated UL’s important role in their lives last weekend.

One of those couples, John and Trish Kerr went on to produce an all UL-alumni family, as their three daughters are graduates of UL also.

Last weekend, 80 graduates of the original class were conferred with an honorary Masters in Philosophy by UL president, professor Don Barry, as part of the ‘UL40’ celebrations.

Graduates of the class of ‘72 travelled from all over the world, including the US and Europe, Dubai and Australia to attend the event, where they finally received their UL parchments. The first graduates of the NIHE, later to become UL in 1989, received their degrees from NUI and not their own institution at the time.

President Barry said each of the original class “displayed tremendous bravery and pioneering spirit in trusting your third-level education to the hands of a budding institution – one that was untried and untested but imbued with tremendous ambition and foresight.

“History has proved that you did the right thing. The University of Limerick has made an unparalleled mark on the Irish educational landscape over the last 40 years.”

Almost 65,000 students have graduated from UL in the past 40 years.

Brigid Laffan, principal at UCD’s college of human sciences, met her future husband Michael Laffan, managing director at the National Energy Efficiency Centre, in the NIHE. Fionnuala MacMahon (nee Lyddy), current manager of the faculty of arts, humanities and social sciences in UL, also met her future husband Michael through UL. The couple had known each other in first year, but only got together the following year when they met by chance in London in the summer of 1973. Michael passed away in 2000 and an award was made posthumously in his honour.

At least four people of the original class went on to have careers at UL, including Gerry Higgins, maths lecturer; Kathleen Keane, National Centre for Tourism Policy Studies at UL; Jerry Cronin, co-op manager; and Fionnuala MacMahon.

Dr Edward Walsh, the founding president of the university, said he was delighted the university decided to honour the first cohort of students, whom he described as “remarkable pioneers and risk takers”.

UL will mark its 40-year celebration with a series of events throughout the year. See http://www.ul.ie/ul40/UL40_Events for a list of ongoing events throughout the year.