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Tribute to Sir George Quigley (1925-2013)

 

On the occasion of the 11th Liberal Arts Commencement Ceremony at St Mary’s University College, the College wishes to recognise the important role played by Sir George Quigley (1925-2013) in developing our Liberal Arts degree programme.

Here we remember his contribution to the first Commencement Ceremony in 2003, but we should also recognise that Sir George advised the College back in 1999 on what should comprise the main elements of the degree programme.

Sir George Quigley

Sir George Quigley will be remembered for accomplishments too abundant to cover in this tribute. He will undoubtedly be remembered for overseeing arms decommissioning, serving as Chair for Ulster Bank and Bombardier—and for service on countless governmental and public bodies, including the Dearing Committee.

At St Mary’s, however, we will remember him most for speaking in June 2003 to the first graduating class of the new Liberal Arts Degree.

“I first got to know St Mary’s in the context of my work as a member of the Dearing Committee on Higher Education”, Sir George said by way of introduction. “One of the ways in which it was suggested that provision could be expanded was by encouraging Colleges of Education to diversify. . . . May I congratulate St Mary’s on seizing on that suggestion and establishing this innovative and exciting Liberal Arts Degree.

“Our days at institutions like St Mary’s allow our intelligence and our imagination to roam freely. As George Orwell put it, the imagination, like certain wild animals, will not breed in captivity.”

Sir George was complimentary about many features of the new degree, features which continue to be at the core of the programme ten years later.

He described the Work Related Learning element as “a model of its kind” asserting, “I have no doubt that such experience is a major factor in enhancing employability.”

The Written Communications Programme was also singled out: “I congratulate you on your innovative Writing Centre. Orwell would have applauded.”

However, Sir George reserved his most significant praise for the Ireland in Europe component of the degree, finding it a “compellingly attractive feature”. He asserted, “There is no place in today’s world for self-obsessed, self-regarding, inward-looking societies.”

Sir George and his wife Lady Moyra graciously accepted an invitation to come to the ensuing reception, conversing with staff and students long after the numbers had begun to diminish.

Finally, Lady Moyra pulled Sir George away from the last of several interesting discussions. In those discussions, he never missed an opportunity to speak enthusiastically about the Liberal Arts Degree or to appreciate the individual contributions made by students and staff towards the degree’s success. His personal interest, support and enthusiasm will be remembered at St Mary’s long after his professional achievements have assumed a more impersonal character as part of local, national and international history.