A history of learning that spans the generations

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Professor Norelee Kennedy with her parents Pat and Phyllis at the UL graduation ceremony on Tuesday. Photo: Oisin McHugh
Professor Norelee Kennedy with her parents Pat and Phyllis at the UL graduation ceremony on Tuesday. Photo: Oisin McHugh

PARENTS are usually regarded as the ones who proudly witness their offspring leave the college nest, but on Tuesday it was Norelee Kennedy who saw her parents graduate at University of Limerick.

And it turned out to be a real family affair as Norelee, who is the incoming Vice President for Research at UL, was also in the processing party to confer her parents Pat and Phyllis with Certificates in Local History.

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Professor Kennedy, who is due to take up her position next January, said she was privileged to have been involved in her mother and father’s’ graduation ceremony.

Pat and Phyllis Kennedy, from Toomevara, were among more than 3,400 students graduating this week from UL.

Six days of conferring ceremonies are taking place on the university’s campus and are being live-streamed around the world.

Speaking after receiving their parchments, Phyllis and Pat said it had been a “teamwork graduation”.

“He was a great help to me and vice versa,” Phyllis said of her husband.

Her proud daughter recalled how she was regularly called on by her studious parents and asked: “How do we log on and how do we do this?”

“Naturally we would call you…sure that’s what you’re there for,” Phyllis responded.

Both Pat and Phyllis were among 20 students who completed the Certificate in Local History, which was hosted off-campus at the Irish Workhouse Centre in Portumna.

The group studied Irish folklore, the history of place names and periods of the 19th Century, examining the relationship between landlords and tenants associated with Portumna House.

“It was quite interesting and relaxed and we made some great friends,” added Pat who added he considered himself “the elder Statesman” of his group of fellow history students.

His wife said that she loved being a student and that she “can still get all my books from the (UL) Glucksman Library with my student card”.

Many of the participants, who range in age from their 80s to those in their 30s, said that taking the course had set them on a path to follow further educational routes.

The level 6 course runs as a precursor to the MA in Local History offered at UL or as course of interest to those looking to understand and know more about their area and its history.

“It is designed for people with an interest in local history and for those who could be afraid of entering university life, but we have put it in to their own locality to make it more accessible,” explained course director Dr David Fleming.

“It takes the intimidation out of it and indeed follows as a best example of anybody who could go to university, should go to university,”

And, referring to the Kennedys, he added: “To have a husband and wife taking the same course is special, but then to know that there was a direct connection with the University and the new vice president for research makes it even more special.”

“It is lovely for them, and the University when these things combine. It’s what we are all about,” he said.