by JULIE ANN SPENCE
MEd Graduate Gillian McLea with her brother
Mark, sister Jacqueline, and mother Ann McGarry.
A LISBURN woman has overcome personal tragedy
to graduate from Queen's University today with a MEd in
Gillian McLea, a teacher at Wallace High
School better known to her students as Ms McGarry, completed her
Masters degree despite the sudden death of her husband in 2007
and that of her father earlier this year.
Receiving her degree, Gillian said: "I was
extremely proud of my husband Paul when he graduated from
Queen's in July 2007. At that time I was already studying for my
Master's and was looking forward to completing my course and
sharing another graduation day with him.
"Unfortunately Paul died very suddenly in
October 2007, just as I was starting work on my dissertation. My
tutor, Dr Billy McClune, and all the staff at Queen's School of
Education were amazingly supportive. After taking a short break
from my course, I returned to Queen's in January 2008 where I
found that my studies gave me a real focus. My father's sudden
death in February was another major setback, but with Dr
McClune's guidance I got back on track and was able to complete
the course. I've since been busy setting up a support network
for others here in Northern Ireland who have been widowed at a
young age, as well as setting up the first NSPCC/Childline
Tribute Fund in the United Kingdom in Paul's memory. Paul was an
officer with the PSNI's e-crime unit and this charity was very
close to his heart.
"I am delighted to receive my degree and, while
it is very difficult to graduate without Paul, it brings back
fond memories of our time together at his graduation day. He was
extremely supportive of me during my studies and I'm sure he'd
be proud of what I've achieved.
"I would like to say thank you to the staff at Queen's, my
family and friends and my colleagues at Wallace High School for
their constant support."