By Sean Ryan - 06 May, 2017
A Co. Clare born nun who played a pivotal role as President of Ireland’s largest Catholic college was this week awarded an honorary degree by the college.
The University of Limerick paid tribute to a woman who played a vital role in securing the future for Mary Immaculate College (MIC). Mountshannon born Sr Angela Bugler, former President of Mary Immaculate College, was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Limerick (UL) in recognition of her leadership of MIC during her term as President from 1988–1999.
Speaking at the ceremony, the Hon Mr Justice John Murray, Chancellor of UL and Chair of UL’s Governing Body, spoke of the pivotal role Sr Bugler, a member of the Congregation of Mercy, played in leading MIC through a decade of uncharted waters, resulting in her achieving something exceptional, not only in her own life, but also in the life of the university.
He said that “Sr Bugler’s strong leadership, resourcefulness, ambition and diplomatic skills proved crucial in the delivery of Mary Immaculate College from a difficult situation and were instrumental in securing a future for the college.”
First appointed to MIC in 1966, Sr Angela lectured in Irish and French as well as managing the library as the college’s first professional librarian. In 1984 she was appointed Rúnaí Acadiúil, serving as academic secretary to the president of MIC from 1984 until her own term of presidency began in 1988.
Sr Angela’s appointment came at a critical point in the college’s history. Due to a sharp decline in births, resulting in a huge drop in demand for primary teachers at this time, MIC faced a critical challenge for survival. However, Sr Angela faced the challenge and embarked on an ambitious diversification programme.
Plans included proposals for introducing a Bachelor of Arts degree, postgraduate degrees in education and the arts, curriculum development, second-chance education and research.
A broad internationalisation programme was initiated by establishing networks with colleges in Europe through the EU and Council of Europe. Links were also forged with universities in the United States and Wales.
Following the inauguration of the University of Limerick in 1989, the secretary of the Department of Education instructed MIC to open discussions with UL with a view to establishing a more formal relationship between the two institutions. To that end, negotiators from both institutions entered into talks which led to the formation of a mutually beneficial partnership.
On 1 November 1991, the then Minister for Education Mary O’Rourke announced that degrees in MIC would be conferred by UL. This brought huge benefits for both colleges. MIC could now implement its plans for admitting liberal arts students, and in 1992 150 students registered for a new liberal arts degree at MIC, making MIC the first institution of its kind to be a college of education and the liberal arts. Over the course of the next 25 years, 3,500 MIC students would be conferred with liberal arts degrees.
According to Chancellor Murray, “Sr Angela played a pivotal role in initiating and progressing the process. This is her legacy, and it is still significant today”.
Congratulating Sr Bugler, Professor Eugene Wall, Acting President of MIC said: “We remain indebted to Sr Angela Bugler not only for her enormous contribution to Mary Immaculate College but also for the vital role she played in the development of education provision in Limerick. While Sr. Angela’s achievements as President of MIC can be readily appreciated from an intra-mural perspective, it is the partnership with the university that is recognised today as an exemplar of institutional collaboration that was given its foundations and underpinnings during her tenure. As President, and as a person with the vision and commitment to foresee the dividends of the MIC–UL relationship, Sr Angela laid the bedrock essential to its future development.”