NUI Galway to name iconic building after first woman to earn an engineering degree

The Alice Perry Engineering Building

The Alice Perry Engineering Building

A ceremony to mark the official naming of the Alice Perry Engineering Building will take place at NUI Galway on Monday next March 6 to honour the woman first woman in Ireland or the UK to have received a degree in engineering.

The event will also see the launch of the Máire Brazil Scholarship to encourage and support talented female students to develop careers in engineering

Alice Perry, a graduate of the then Queen’s College Galway, was the first woman in Ireland or the UK to earn a degree in engineering and the only woman still to have served as a county engineer in Ireland. As part of the naming ceremony Caroline Spillane, Director General of Engineers Ireland will give an address on the theme of diversity in engineering.

The naming of the building is the culmination of a series of activities focusing on equality and diversity in Engineering at NUI Galway’s award-winning Engineering building. The events include a public exhibition featuring exciting research projects underway at NUI Galway and a Roundtable Symposium: Full STE(A )M Ahead - Engineering for all: supporting engineering talent and diversity for a better society to be chaired by TV and radio broadcaster Jonathan McCrea.

Another important element of the event is the launch of the Máire Brazil Scholarship. This scholarship will encourage and support talented female students to develop careers in Engineering. It has been established by distinguished engineering alumna of NUI Galway Áine Brazil through Galway University Foundation.

The events form part of the Engineers Week programme of events (4-10 March ) celebrating engineering in Ireland and Women’s History Month.

Professor Anne Scott, Vice President for Equality and Diversity at NUI Galway said in advance of the ceremony: “We are delighted to collaborate with Engineers Ireland on this important event during Engineers Week. This week in NUI Galway is also being celebrated as International Women’s Week. We are enormously proud of Alice Perry and what her life’s work symbolises. Decisions on career paths are shaped by the world around us. Having a visible tribute to the achievements of trailblazers like Alice Perry on campus can serve to both recognise an individual legacy and also to inspire the next generation when they make their own career decisions.”

Professor Peter McHugh, Dean of Engineering & Informatics at NUI Galway commented: “This is a fantastic development for Engineering at NUI Galway and a clear demonstration of our commitment to equality of opportunity, education and career development.

It is most appropriate that we should name the Engineering Building for one of our most notable and pioneering alumni, with Alice Perry being the first female engineering graduate in the UK and Ireland. I believe that this an extremely positive and progressive decision by the University, and it should serve as an inspiration to all students as to the wonderfully rich and diverse career opportunities open to both men and women in the engineering domain.”

Alice Perry will feature in the Path-Breaking Women of NUI Galway exhibition, which will take place on campus in March 2017. For further details see: www.nuigalway.ie/pathbreakingwomen

Máire Brazil (neé McDonagh ) was born in Carraroe, Co. Galway in 1912, the eldest of eight children. She attended school locally up to Intermediate Certificate level. She was offered the opportunity to train as a teacher but opted to go to Galway to take up secretarial studies in order to provide financial support for her siblings’ education. She took up a post in the Bursar’s Office in University College Galway in 1933 and remained there taking on roles of increasing responsibility until her retirement in 1977.

A few years after starting in UCG she was joined by her sister, Mairéad McDonagh, who also worked there for her entire career. Her brother, Michael graduated as an electrical engineer from UCG and subsequently was a part time lecturer in the faculty.

Máire was a native Irish speaker and Irish was the language in which all business was conducted in the administrative offices in UCG. She had a tremendous respect for the value of education and for the professors in UCG whose devotion to learning and teaching opened her eyes to the potential offered by a university education.

Máire married Pádraig Brazil in 1949 and, unusually for that era, she continued to work full time in UCG for her 43-year career while they raised their family of four children. In spite of their curtailed formal education, they made huge personal sacrifices to enable their children to realize their full potential. She inspired each of them to pursue their passion, knowing that with an education from UCG they would be equipped to face the challenges and accept the opportunities that life might offer them.

All four are graduates of UCG; Caitríona (’71 BA, ’72 HDip ), Seán (’73 BE ), Aindrias (’74 BSc, ’79 MB BCh BAO ) and Áine (’77 BE ).

Máire passed away in 1991.

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