Letterkenny Institute of Technology “ploughed new ground and then seeded it”, President Mary McAleese told the conclusion of the celebrations and conference marking the college’s 40 years journey in education.
Describing the I.T. as a “big game changer” in terms of options and career choices, she said people had been afforded opportunities they might not overwise have had because of its existence.
The President was addressing the closure of an International Academic Conference at the college on Thursday which over two days examined the themes of building bridges through higher education, foreign investment and regional development.
“If you want to harvest you do not sit and watch the weeds grow - you go out and sew seeds. Your Institute ploughed new ground and then seeded it,” President McAleese extolled.
Pointing out that the Letterkenny college had made its future on a green field site, President McAleese said the community had been enriched by its presence. “People got opportunities because this place existed,” she maintained.
In her address, the President said that Letterkenny was celebrating “two big birthdays” this year. The Institute of Technology had been in existence for forty years while the town itself was marking the 400th anniversary of its own life and times.
The college had made much more of an immediate impact, she said. “This place was a big game changer.”
Over 3,000 students now attended from the county, the region and much further afield and there was a very wide range of choice in terms of courses available.
Stating that the Letterkenny Institute was trying to be an “engine of hope, opportunity and growth”, the President said it owed its existence to the “passion” of the people involved and their investment of application and determination.
President McAleese said she remembered 1971 very well as a second year college student in Belfast when “all hell broke loose” as the Troubles erupted. They hadn’t known then that they would be facing into those troubles for the next thirty years with almost 4,000 people dying as a result.
But gradually the peace process took hold thanks to the agents of change. It had, she said, been a slow burner but the Institute of Technology in Letterkenny and other areas had been the opposite.
Things became possible in the field of education whereas previously there had been a lack of opportunity.
Commenting on the economic downturn which had hit hard, the President said that people were entering a depleted job market and were residing in a heavily indebted nation and in heavily indebted homes.
“We need to get back to sustainable prosperity,” she pointed out, adding that a testing journey lay ahead. President McAleese said if they wanted to be depressed they could go back to 1971 and read the newspapers of the time and reflect on the horror stories.
She acknowledged all of the people committed to the last forty years in the development of the Letterkenny Institute of Technology and said they could look ahead to that narrative of success continuing on to the 50th anniversary.
LYIT President, Paul Hannigan said the President’s remarks put into context the objectives of the 40th celebrations and the themes of the International Academic Conference. They had been honoured to get the President along to close the conference near the end of her term of office.
She had committed to attending over a year previously and it had been made “perfect sense” to invite her given the context of her Presidential theme of building bridges, said Mr. Hannigan.