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Graduate Interview: Maura O'Sullivan Ryan BA '78

Thursday 2 August 2018   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Lisa McCarthy
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As we look forward to hosting Class Reunions on campus in September 2018, here we catch up with one of our returning alumni. Maura O'Sullivan Ryan graduated from the National College of Physical Education (NCPE) which later became Thomond College of Education. 


Tell us a little about yourself… 

I live in the beautiful village of Garrykennedy, near Nenagh, Co. Tipperary and situated on Lough Derg, which is part of the River Shannon. We have lived here for 36 years. I am married to Jim Ryan, a graduate of NIHE (1977). We have a son Fionan aged 29 and a daughter Aoibhe aged 21. 
I retired as Managing Director of the National Council for Exercise and Fitness (NCEF), an academic affiliate of the University of Limerick, in 2013. Since then I work part-time for UL as School Placement Tutor. I also teach Pilates locally which I thoroughly enjoy and following my retirement, I qualified as a Cardiac Rehabilitation Exercise Specialist.


How did you come to attend college in Limerick? 

I grew up near Mountrath, Co Laois. I played, what at that time were viewed as “boys” sports, hurling and football etc. At Secondary School in Brigidine Convent, Mountrath, I discovered Basketball and Volleyball and so my love of physical activity and sport was nurtured. At a presentation of sports awards at the school, I heard the announcement of a planned National College of Physical Education (the forerunner to Thomond College) and knew almost immediately that this was to be my career path.

 Maura with husband Jim Ryan BTech'77
What do you remember from your student years?

The opportunities to experience new friends, new activities, learn new skills, to succeed both academically and in sport/physical activity.

Were there any faculty/staff/fellow students who made a particularly favourable impression on you?

There were many faculty that I knew as a student and later had the pleasure of working with as colleagues - Carmel Vekins, Leo Colgan, and PJ Smyth spring to mind.


How did your college experience help prepare you for your career?

Physical Education was such a new career then and it was so exciting to be part of it. Many of our lecturers came in from other countries and brought a range of experiences and backgrounds with them. In NCPE/Thomond we had what were considered “state of the art” facilities at that time. However many schools did not have any PE facilities when we graduated and the status of PE was only in its infancy. The work of PESS Dept. UL, of the PEAI, and the PE fraternity themselves have succeeded in elevating the subject to examinable level which is wonderful to see. 

What did you do after graduation in 1978?

I taught PE in Loreto (Bray) as well as the Vocational School and RTC in Athlone. I completed a Masters in PE at Springfield College, Mass, USA in 1981 and went on to teach at St. Nessan’s Community College, Limerick until the late 80’s. 

I have worked in corporate wellness, health and fitness professional education, physical education teacher education and many other related areas. I have been involved in many organisations both academic, professional and within the Health/Fitness industry in Ireland as well as in Europe and worldwide. 

What has been the most rewarding aspect of your career?

Achieving UL academic affiliate status for the NCEF in 2006 was something I am very proud to have been a part of. Nowadays, as I continue to work with physical education students in UL, I still see that same passion that I had for educating young people through physical education coming through in young UL PE students today. Looking back, the most rewarding aspect of my career has been the people, those whom I have been honoured to work and interact with over the years. Much too numerous to mention names, but there are those who are no longer with us that stay particularly in my mind - most notably, the late Liam Dugdale, Michael Darmody, Jacinta O Brien, Pat Duffy and PJ Smyth.


Maura with fellow P.E. graduate Eddie O'Sullivan at the 2012 UL Alumni Awards Ceremony honouring 1978 P.E. alumnus Tony Ward.

What message would you like to send to other alumni?

Because I served on the board of UL Alumni for a couple of years, I encourage all alumni to keep in touch with UL and its vast opportunities for all age groups.



This September 29th the Class of 1978 will celebrate their 40 year Reunion in the East Room, Plassey House.

If you would like some more details on this milestone event or would like to register to attend please click here


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