History of romance in early days of UL

Anne Sheridan

Reporter:

Anne Sheridan

The University of Limerick has honoured its very first graduates as it marks the 40th anniversary of the first intake of students in 1972.

The University of Limerick has honoured its very first graduates as it marks the 40th anniversary of the first intake of students in 1972.

Eighty members of the original class of 1972 were conferred with honorary Masters of Philosophy degrees at the weekend 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.

UL President, professor Don Barry said; “Each of you honoured today 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 and it all began with 113 pioneering students who took a chance on a new and very different third level institution in 1972. From its inception the University of Limerick broke the mould of third level education in Ireland under the inspirational leadership of Ed Walsh.”

The first graduates of the NIHE (National Institute of Higher Education), later to become UL in 1989, received their degrees from NUI and not their own institution at the time.

It has emerged that more than one romance blossomed in the early days of the NIHE, which have endured to this day.

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 UL.

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.

UL will mark its 40-year celebration with a series of events throughout the year.

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”.