Alumni engagement and philanthropy

CHAMPION OF FURTHER EDUCATION IS 2020 AIB (NI) QUEEN’S GRADUATE OF THE YEAR  Marie-Thérèse McGivern, Queen's Graduate of the Year 2020, holding trophy, pictured in cloisters at University

01 December 2020

Marie-Thérèse McGivern, BSSc Political Science (1976) – Chair of the Belfast Maritime Trust, Non-Executive Director on the Board of NI Water, Non-Executive Director on the Strategic Investment Board for Northern Ireland and, until March 2020, Principal and Chief Executive of Belfast Metropolitan College – has been announced as the recipient of the 2020 AIB (NI) Queen’s Graduate of the Year Award.

The Award, which is usually the highlight of the annual Charter Day Dinner hosted by the Queen's Graduates' Association (QGA) in the University’s Great Hall in late November, was announced virtually due to the current COVID-19 restrictions.  

Revealing this year’s recipient, QGA President Victoria Denoon, said:

“I am delighted to announce that the winner of the AIB (NI) Queen’s Graduate of the Year is Marie-Thérèse McGivern, a champion of Further Education, a model graduate and an inspiration for so many.

“Marie-Thérèse has dedicated her professional career to education and to the public sector in Northern Ireland and has been widely recognised accordingly. It is most fitting, in the year when she visited Buckingham Palace to collect the Queen’s Anniversary Prize on behalf of Belfast Met – in acknowledgement of the College’s excellence in further education IT training and the first time the College had received such an honour – that Marie-Thérèse is also recognised by her alma mater.     

“In due course, and once circumstances permit, I look forward to welcoming Marie-Thérèse back to Queen’s to collect her richly-deserved Graduate Award in person,” concluded Victoria.

Beginning her career as a further education (FE) teacher, Marie-Thérèse moved into policy making for the Youth Service in the 1990s. In 1995 she joined the NI Civil Service as part of the Urban Regeneration Initiative, Making Belfast Work, before moving to Belfast City Council to head up a newly-created department as Director of Development in 1999, where she was responsible for economic development, arts, tourism, events and community services.

In 2009, she took on the role of Principal and CEO of Belfast Metropolitan College, the biggest further education college in Northern Ireland. She is widely credited with turning the college around, bringing it out of special measures and improving student success rates by 27% within the first four years of her tenure. Notably, she oversaw the successful £60m capital investment project which provided the stunning Titanic Quarter campus.

Among her many accolades Marie-Thérèse has received Honorary Membership of the City and Guilds of London Institute (2012); the Women in Leadership Networks Inspirational Leader of the Year (2013); IoD NI Public Sector Director of the Year Award; IoD Award of Excellence; and IoD UK Pubic Sector Director of the Year award for her outstanding leadership and development of Belfast Metropolitan College (2014/2015). She also received the Outstanding Business Woman of the Year Award at the seventh annual Women in Business Awards in November 2017.

Although officially retired since March 2020, Marie-Thérèse was recently appointed Chair of the Belfast Maritime Trust (forrmerly known as the Titanic Foundation) and Non-Executive Director on the Board of NI-Water, in addition to her role as Non-Executive Director on the Strategic Investment Board and Invest NI.

She is also Chair of the Employability and Skills Advisory Board for the £10b Belfast Region City Deal, with which Queen’s is closely associated.

Commenting on the announcement, AIB NI University Road Branch Manager, Charlotte Maguire said:

“AIB (NI) has been supporting the prestigious Graduate and Student of the Year Awards at Queen’s since their inception in 1999, and remain very proud to do so.

“This year’s winner, Marie-Thérèse McGivern, has demonstrated a lifelong commitment to improving educational, economic and social prospects for the people of Belfast and Northern Ireland.

“Tenacious and determined, she is an inspirational leader, a role model for women and for all those in the public sector and a pioneer in the field of further education, all of which are accolades of the annual Graduate of the Year winner.  

The annual award is presented by the Queen's Graduates' Association, with the support of AIB (NI) - formerly known as First Trust Bank - to an ‘outstanding graduate, who has made a significant impact’.

Earlier in the year, and for the first time in its history, the AIB (NI) Queen’s Student of the Year Award was presented to a group of over 700 frontline final year and graduating students in the Faculty of Medicine, Health and Life Sciences (MHLS) and in the School of Social Sciences, Education and Social Work (SSESW) in the Faculty of Arts Humanities and Social Sciences, for ‘selflessly stepping forward to aid the fight against COVID-19 in the community in various locations throughout Northern Ireland’.

Speaking about winning the Graduate of the Year Award Marie-Thérèse said:

“I am deeply honoured and thrilled to receive this wonderful award. My time at Queen’s University was formative and gave me many of the skills that I used and honed throughout my working career. 

“It was a tremendous foundation giving me ambition and aspiration. I am grateful to the University for that and it makes this award even more precious.”

Previous Graduate of the Year Award winners include diversity champion, Sheree Atcheson (2019), Lisa McGee, creator of award-winning TV comedy Derry Girls (2018), Best Woman Architect in Europe winner Johann Muldoon MBE (2017), and Jonny Bramley, BAFTA-winning BBC Sport Executive producer (2016).

For further details of the announcement - along with messages of congratulations and an acceptance speech by Marie-Thérèse McGivern - click on the video link below. 

Graduate of the Year video button

Visit Queen's Graduates' Association for further information. For general enquiries on the Graduate of the Year Award or the Charter Day Dinner please contact Queen’s Alumni Officer (Alumni Officer (Engagement), Andy Nisbet Friel, Development and Alumni Relations Office.

For general enquiries or to submit graduate news stories, please contact Gerry Power, Communications Officer, Development and Alumni Relations Office (DARO).

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