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1952 Graduate denotes a piece of history

Posted: 1 April, 2016

Last week Bolton Street Engineering Graduate and long-time supporter of DIT, Dr. Pat Quinn was back to make a donation of his own collection of antique wooden tools to the timber and woodwork students in the School of Architecture at Linen Hall.

On accepting the generous donation Orna Hanly, Head of School of Architecture said ‘this donation is hugely significant to our students who will have the opportunity to gain a practical appreciation of the history of their craft.  As a leading educational institution in this area we have a duty to play our part in preserving the history of our disciplines and we are truly grateful to Pat for entrusting us with these magnificent pieces of history.”

Dr. Pat Quinn studied structural engineering at DIT Bolton Street from 1947 and emigrated to Canada following his graduation in 1952. In Canada he was a founding partner of Quinn Dressel Associates which became one of Canada’s foremost structural engineering firms responsible for many landmark buildings throughout North America, Europe, the Middle East and Asia including Calgary City Hall, the Elf Aquitaine Tower in Paris and Shanghai Stock Exchange. Pat was awarded an Honorary Doctorate by DIT in 2007 in recognition of his significant contribution to the engineering profession. He has kindly also donate his time and energy to DIT over the years giving guest lectures while in Dublin and serving on the board of DIT Foundation until very recently.

At the celebration of his donation to DIT Pat recounted his early days at Bolton Street and the impact his education has had on his life:

“In 1945, when I lined up to take the entrance exam for Bolton Street, it was a technical school, considered by the building industry as the best.

It took students as young as 13 and exposed them to sharp tools and relatively unprotected high speed rotating machines, added a dash of literary and language learning and  induced a degree of self-confidence in doing and attempting to do, that was to last a lifetime. In the class and patriarchal society of the time, it was available to the boys of working class families and was often, as in my case, profoundly life altering.

I would say that my story is not that unusual. Perhaps because of the understated nature of the school's ambience, which still seems to prevail, its alumnae just got on with doing, and few of us tooted our own horns or indeed of the school, and Ireland has missed out on some very positive and affirming stories. As if, in today's noisy world, honesty, compassion, down to earth-ness, diligence, traits inimical to the Bolton Street philosophy, are like virtue, their own rewards.

Long before 2011 when DIT began being noticed globally and awarded, Bolton Street and it's evolution, growing within DIT, had already achieved much success though the contributions around the world of its alumni.

In 1945, Bolton Street had around 300 students, and probably the same in half a dozen other schools in the system. Today DIT has over 20,000 and with its renaissance, is unquestionably on its way to its destiny as one of the great educational successes.

My story is in this context of a unique educational opportunity offered in Bolton Street which was the foundation of a life of learning by doing, which grew to a renowned firm with worldwide responsibilities for the structural engineering of landmark buildings.

Within DIT, there is an essence of a service philosophy to its students and to society, which was behind the opening of Bolton Street in 1911, and which still strives to offer educational opportunities to all of Ireland's young people to facilitate their facing the future, whatever it holds, educated, prepared, proficient and confident. I hope that this, like DIT, continues to grow.”