Student of inspirational Whitehead lecturer wins inaugural award in her name

The inaugural Barbara Macaulay Personal Achievement Award has been presented during an emotional ceremony at Northern Regional College’s Newtownabbey campus.

Family, friends and former colleagues of the inspirational lecturer from Whitehead were in attendance for the presentation to one of her former students.

Barbara (63) died on October 6 last year after a short battle with cancer. She joined the staff of the college in 2004 and was a much loved and well-respected member of the Access and Essential Skills team. Based primarily at the Newtownabbey campus, and, with the support of colleagues, Barbara continued to teach during her illness.

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She is survived by husband James and son Andrew, who were both at the award ceremony. Also present were Barbara’s brother Tom McMullan, sisters Kathleen, Stephanie and Rosemary and lifelong friends Paul and Deborah Stinson and Paul and Alix Finney.

Laura (centre) with Barbara’s husband James, sister Rosemary McCullough, Majella Quinn, curriculum area manager for Essential Skills at Northern Regional College and Christine Brown, vice-principal Teaching and Learning at Northern Regional College.

At the family’s request, the first recipient of the Barbara Macaulay Personal Achievement Award was to be selected from among Barbara’s former students. Laura McComb from Belfast, who has just completed a two-year part-time Access Diploma at the college was the winner. Laura, who is expecting her fifth child later this summer, has been offered a place to study Adult Nursing at Queen’s University. Her eldest daughter Abbi is hoping to follow in her footsteps and has also applied to study nursing at university.

Speaking on behalf of the family, Tom said they were devastated to lose Barbara at such a relatively young age: “Barbara was the youngest of seven children and our parents, Bill and Mary imbued in all the family an attitude of doing your best and being your best. This was Barbara’s attitude to everything she did in life.”

He said that Barbara was passionate about the benefits of lifelong learning and how it could help people achieve their full potential.

“After working in the Social Security Agency, with British Midland Airways and with Halifax Property Services, Barbara enrolled as a mature student at the University of Ulster and graduated with a degree in history.

Laura (right) with her daughters Abbi and Annie. Both Laura and Abbi have applied to study nursing at university.

“When she took up her teaching post at the college in 2004, she continued with her own pursuit of self-improvement and enrolled on a mathematics degree course with the Open University. In many ways, it was her own journey that gave Barbara a better understanding of the challenges of adult education, as well as the opportunities.”

Access Programme

He explained that the family was very aware of how committed Barbara was to her students on the Access Programme and how they wanted to do something to commemorate her work.

“Firstly, we wanted to recognise the work of the Access and Essential Skills Programme. Secondly, Barbara was passionate about making sure her students made the maximum progress possible, so we wanted to make a personal award to a student who, in the view of Barbara’s former colleagues had made the most impressive personal achievement during the course.

“Finally, so many young and not-so-young people benefit from the work of further education. We wanted to acknowledge this by making our own small contribution. Quite often, the further education sector doesn’t get the recognition it deserves for the life-changing opportunities it offers people.”

First Recipient

Thanking the family for the award, Laura said she felt “honoured” to be the first recipient of the Barbara Macauley Personal Achievement Award.

“I’m honestly shocked but also incredibly humbled. Barbara was an inspirational lecturer, and I am delighted that she is to be remembered in this way, not just for me but also for future students,” she said.

Ian Jinks, Northern Regional College’s curriculum area manager for Access, said the award was a “fitting tribute”.

“The college family is deeply indebted to Barbara. During her time with us, she was a guiding light for so many students and her commitment and support for her students knew no bounds.

“The award will be a lasting legacy and a fitting way of ensuring that Barbara’s selfless nature and commitment to her students will be remembered,” he said.

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