Mary Immaculate College celebrates the 125th anniversary of the foundation of the College on Friday 8 December 2023.
In 1896, Bishop of Limerick, Edward Thomas O’Dwyer, wrote to the Commissioners of National Education in Dublin seeking sanction for a teacher-training college in Limerick. In his letter, he wrote that “the College of Our Lady of Mercy, Dublin is not equal to the supply of needs” and argued that Limerick “which is the centre of railway lines running into the counties of Clare, Tipperary, Kerry, Cork and Waterford” was a good location for such a college. The license for a college was granted a year later and on 8 December 1898 the Foundation stone was laid on an 11-acre site in the City, jointly purchased by the Bishop and the Sisters of Mercy. The College opened its doors to the first students on 21 September 1901.
Since its humble beginnings, the College has consistently grown and diversified in every way, not just in student numbers but in academic provision, geographical footprint and ambition. According to Professor Eugene Wall, President of MIC: "This is a very special day for MIC as we reflect on 125 years of the College's existence. MIC began as a teacher training college but from a first graduating class of 25 teachers we have evolved quite remarkably to a three-campus institution numbering over 5,000 students with over 50 undergraduate and postgraduate programmes in the liberal arts and education. While the student numbers, academic provision, geographical footprint of the College has grown since the Foundation of the College in 1898, our mission to educate students to the highest quality has not wavered and we are proud of the achievements of the tens of thousands who have passed through our doors over a century."
Professor Eugene Wall is the ninth President in the College’s history, having succeeded the late Professor Michael Hayes in 2018. Professor Peadar Cremin (1999-2011) was the seventh President and the first lay person to be appointed to the position. The preceding six Presidents all came from the Sisters of Mercy, who co-founded the College, beginning with Sr Paul Quinlan (1898), followed by Sr Veronica Cullinan (1923), Sr Celsus Barry (1945), Sr Loreto Ní Chonchúir (1959), Sr Cabrini Moloney (1979), and Sr Angela Bugler (1988).
MIC will host a series of events throughout the year in celebration of this anniversary and has added a special hub to the website including the development of an interactive timeline which can be viewed here.
Bishop of Limerick, Brendan Leahy, who is Chairperson of the Board of Trustees and An tÚdarás Rialaithe, commented: “I want to congratulate all in the College on this wonderful milestone. I’m thinking back to the great Mercy Sisters who set up the first third-level College for women in Ireland. Together with Bishop O’Dwyer, they saw that greater things would come about, and they have indeed. Catholic means universal, it means holistic, it means a wide vision of life and that’s been what countless generations of students and staff have benefited from as the College has grown.”
Congratulating MIC on the milestone was Chief Executive of Limerick City and County Council, Dr Pat Daly, who said: “As the oldest third level institution in Limerick, Mary Immaculate College has a very proud history. We’re very proud of our reputation as a student city and Mary Immaculate College has been at the fore of making this happen. Many graduates choose to make Limerick their home and they contribute to Limerick’s economic and cultural success, far beyond their studies. MIC has reached a remarkable milestone in reaching 125 years of existence and I wish the College community the very best for the future.”
President of the University of Limerick, Professor Kerstin Mey said: “Mary Immaculate College has contributed significantly to the Education sector in Ireland and Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, including through the development of national and international partnerships and projects. I would like to congratulate MIC on this anniversary and encourage the College community to use this occasion to reflect on and celebrate its fantastic legacy.”
According to Professor Vincent Cunnane, President of the Technological University of the Shannon: “For 125 years, MIC has been to the forefront of education in Ireland, directly educating students and ensuring Ireland has world-renowned teachers and scholars. This is a huge legacy and one worthy of congratulations and celebration. We here at the Technological University of the Shannon are proud to continue working in collaboration with you across many projects and programmes for the mutual benefit of our students, staff, region and wider community.”
President of the Mary Immaculate Students’ Union, Cillian Callaghan added: “MISU has been in existence for 25 years now and over that quarter of a century we have really enjoyed our time collaborating and working with MIC and we look forward to many more years working together for to ensure the academic and personal success of the College’s students.”
From its modest beginnings in 1898, the College has grown to be widely acknowledged as a high-performing, university-level institution although, despite concerted efforts, continues to meet with resistance at the level of central Government in respect of its desire to be designated as a university in its own right. Achievement of recognised university-level status with a greatly enhanced reputation for excellence continues to be the College's primary objective.