'Caring, fair and just': Popular Limerick principal Marion steps down 

Fintan Walsh

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Fintan Walsh

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fintan.walsh@limerickleader.ie

'Caring, fair and just': Popular Limerick principal Marion steps down 

Marion Cummins is looking forward to retirement

IT IS the end of an era for more than 300 students at Colaiste Nano Nagle, as its devoted principal Marion Cummins steps down this month, after 33 years of service to the city school.

It is an emotional moment for the Monaleen woman, as she does her final interview as principal of the Sexton Street school, from her paper-clad desk. 

The interview setting holds some sentimental value, too, as it was this very spot where former principal Sr Maura Ward interviewed the eager Thomond College graduate, in the summer of 1984.

And that September, Ms Cummins commenced her prosperous career as a PE and geography teacher for the then-Presentation Secondary School.

As well as a teacher, Marion also acted as a bus driver, when she used to frequently drive the familiar blue Toyota minibus to Roxboro  pool.

And for three days every year, Marion took a class to Connemara where they would experience the quintessential rural Irish life. In 2006, Marion was appointed principal.

Reminiscing with a bright smile, she looks back on her first day as head of the city school. “I remember my first morning coming into work. One of my family members said to me: ‘What are you going to be doing?’ And I said to them: ‘I have absolutely no idea.’ In fact, the first morning, one of our former teachers, who has since sadly passed away, came into me and I was too nervous to go into the staff room. Because I wasn’t really sure how I was going to get this thing off the ground. She came in and she gave me a cup of tea. And I said to myself: ‘This is what it’s all about. It’s about people looking after people.’ And that set it for me,” she says. 

She adds the “greatest satisfaction” was working with a diversity of students. “Particularly, for me to be able to do something for those less privileged was an honour. That was the best part about it. You could actually do something. You could make a difference in people’s lives.”

In August 2015, one success story garnered national headlines. And that was Anna Kern, a Ukrainian in Direct Provision who managed to score 575 Leaving Cert points. As a result of her unique success, she was offered a place at the Royal College of Surgeons. While this was a big moment in Marion’s time as principal, she recalls — with pride — one particular student from six years ago.

“It was a student who was, academically, very weak. Her family circumstances were tough enough. Her mother wasn’t well, she had a lot of issues. She went through her Leaving Cert and she passed six subjects. I won’t ever forget that morning, when she came in with her mother. That achievement was outstanding. I knew what it meant to them. We took her in first year, we held her hand, we nurtured her all the way to the end.”

She adds that “one of the highlights” of her career has been the Noreen McManus Scholarship fund, which will see top students benefiting from a €250,000 bursary over five years.

When asked how she feels about retirement, Marion says that she is sad but “relieved and humbled” by the whole experience.

“And I hope whoever sits in here will look after the school. And no doubt that they will. And I hope that they look after the staff, and if they do that, they will look after the students.”

Marion is married to former Irish international hockey playerEddie, and the couple have three children — Paul, Eadaoin and Ali. She hopes to play more golf with Castletroy Golf Club, do a course in mediation, and continue “giving back” to Nano Nagle.

And how does she think her students will remember her? “Well,” she smiles, “I hope they saw me as caring, fair and just.”