First Citizen is First Visitor to Bolton Street centenary exhibition

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Dublin, 30 March 2012:   President Michael D. Higgins was yesterday the first visitor to an exhibition celebrating one hundred years of excellence in education in Bolton Street.  Accompanied by his wife, Mrs. Sabina Higgins, the President was welcomed to DIT by Dr. Mike Murphy, Director and Dean of the College of Engineering and Built Environment and Mr. John O’Connor, Director and Dean of the College of Arts and Tourism. 

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The iconic Bolton Street building, with its imposing façade, was officially opened in January 1912.  As President Higgins entered the building, he was escorted into the original main corridor and through a timeline display of historic photos, from the late 19th century and through the 20th century. 

Arriving at the modern extension to the campus, the President and Mrs. Higgins then met staff and students in an exhibition of current student projects and research.  The exhibition, which was curated by Ms Orna Hanly, Head of the School of Architecture, is designed to provide an overview of the seventeen principal disciplines currently offered in Bolton Street, ranging from plastering and printing to building design and space research.  At each stand the President was introduced to a member of academic staff and a current student who gave him a brief description of their area.

Following a whistle-stop tour of the stands, President and Mrs. Higgins were then escorted to the Michael O’Donnell Theatre, where a capacity audience of students, staff, graduates and guests from industry and professional institutes had listened to a short presentation on the hundred-year history of Bolton Street, delivered by Mr. Robert Simpson, Head of the School of Mechanical and Transport Engineering.

Before inviting President Higgins to make his address, Master of Ceremonies Mr. John Lawlor called on Professor John Monaghan to speak briefly about his own experience first as a student and later lecturer in Bolton Street.  Professor Monaghan, a Fellow of  Trinity College, described his personal journey from apprenticeship to PhD, paying tribute to the excellence of his education in Bolton Street and the opportunities that it opened up to him.

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President Higgins was then invited to address the assembly, and he began his remarks by paying tribute to Professor Monaghan for his contribution to society, as an educator and  through his involvement with the Society of St. Vincent de Paul.  He went on to speak about his interest in the background of the Bolton Street building and all that has taken place there during its first one hundred years.  While appreciating the historical artefacts on view in the centenary exhibition,  President Higgins went on to warmly congratulate all of the students whom he met at the showcase of current research and innovation and he urged the students to continue to challenge ideas, to question how things are, and to continue to innovate.

Thanking the President and Mrs. Higgins for coming, Dr. Mike Murphy spoke about the Institute’s pride in its history and its ongoing commitment to its mission.  “We educate our current students to the demands of today’s technological requirements, design potential and building standards, but DIT prides itself on building on the tradition of innovation and craftsmanship from previous generations.  We are very conscious that we must make as significant a contribution today as our predecessors made one hundred years ago and indeed in each successive generation", he said. 

The President unveiled a plaque, commemorating the centenary and his inaugural visit to Bolton Street, and accepted a memento of his visit, presented by Mr. Robert Simpson.

The audience stood to warmly applaud President and Mrs. Higgins as they left, greeting students and staff as they made their way from the auditorium.

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Centenary celebrations continue

The visit of President Higgins was the first major event to mark the centenary year of Bolton Street, but other events will take place during the year.

‘Bolton Street’, as it is generally referred to, was purpose-built as “The Bolton Street Polytechnic” and opened for classes in the 1911/12 academic year. The first courses were offered on a part-time basis and included Mechanical Engineering, Building Construction, and Printing – all of which DIT is proud to continue to offer today.

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The College led the way in technological education and innovation throughout the early years of the new Irish state, and has continued to evolve to meet the demands of each successive generation. Dr. Mike Murphy, Director and Dean of the DIT College of Engineering and Built Environment, says that Bolton Street became a by-word for expertise in so many areas of engineering and built environment. Commenting that graduates of Bolton Street continue to make a very significant impact in all areas of built environment and engineering, not only in Ireland but internationally also, Dr. Murphy noted that many graduates have contributed to the leadership of their professions at the highest level and this ensures that the name of ‘Bolton Street’ lives on. 

“Some examples that come to mind include Dr. Angela Brady, the current President of RIBA, and Ms Michelle Fagan, the current President of RIAI - both graduates of Architecture in DIT.  Among our many esteemed engineering graduates are Dr. Patrick Quinn, a structural engineer, twice elected President of Professional Engineers Ontario and Professor Neville Hogan, a graduate of mechanical engineering, who currently holds dual Professorships of Mechanical Engineering and of Brain and Cognitive Sciences at MIT.  These are just a few of the very many people I could name who represent the significant contributions our graduates continue to make, and we are extremely proud of all of them.”

The imposing Bolton Street building, so well-known to Dubliners, was completed in 1911 and contemporary news reports  were extemely enthusiastic.   It was designed by  Mr. C. J. McCarthy, City Architect, and in its construction it incorporated both new technology and traditional craftsmanship.  The entrance hall, described as being of “spacious and graceful design”, was floored with Irish marble and adorned with mahogany screens, all of which are well preserved today.  However, the practical requirements of the building were also of the highest standard, incorporating “an ample supply of electric lights, and the building is warmed by a system of radiators.”  While it was felt that the building would be mainly used at night, “the arrangements for lighting by day are such as to insure perfect light in all parts of the building, and every care has been taken to insure perfect ventilation.”  The total cost of the building was £34,000.

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