It was an emotional evening last Friday in Newpark Hotel, as the entire community of Presentation Secondary School held a bittersweet farewell for Mary Ryan, who has retired as Deputy Principal after fifty years as an integral part of the school.
It would be difficult to find a person more immersed in the Presentation Educational System, than Mary Ryan. At four years of age, leaving the home of her loving parents, Eamonn and Rita Conway, Mary toddled from Kenny’s Well to Presentation Primary in Parnell Street, a walk that was to become familiar for the next 13 years of her schooling.
Mary progressed to Presentation Secondary School, James Street in 1972, where she was inspired to train as a secondary school teacher. Having completed her degree at UCC, studying Geography, Mathematics and English, Presentation welcomed her once more in 1981, this time on the other side of the desk.
Mary remained faithfully serving the students of Presentation until the momentous day, Friday the 31st August 2018, when she left the school building, in her professional capacity of Deputy Principal, for the last time.
To say that the school is bereft by her absence is an understatement. It’s easy to outline the chronological map of her life-long involvement with Presentation Education, but her life-long commitment to the school cannot be measured. As a student her secondary school teachers remember her as being “meticulous”, “hard working” “a perfect student”. These qualities remained with Mary through her life, and all the staff in Presentation and her team in Senior Management will heartily agree that she remained, meticulous, hardworking and a perfect colleague.
Students loved Mary Ryan. Not only did she know all 700+ students by name was not astonishing, but she knew even the parents and grandparents of all local students. Mary treated all students fairly, and they valued this. They knew that they were cared for, and were always given sound practical encouragement to progress. Her sense of humour was her hallmark, and her sensible, astute knowledge was invaluable.
There are not many who can say that they have given half a century of their lives to education in Kilkenny, but that is the legacy that Mary gave to Presentation. Thousands of students have benefitted from her dedicated work and her wise presence in the two Presentation Secondary Schools where she served. There is no doubt that these thousands will join with her colleagues in wishing Mary, her husband Pat, and their family, every good wish as Mary retires.