Students call on university to name building after trailblazing female professor

Members of the UCC branch of the Green Party have called on University College Cork to consider naming assets after a trailblazing academic from its past. Professor Mary Ryan was the first female University professor in Britain & Ireland when she was named the Professor of Romance Languages in 1909.

Ryan studied in UCC but was not allowed to attend lectures in the College, only coming on campus to sit exams. Ryan was renowned for her care to her students, receiving the ‘Ordre national de la Légion d’honneur’ from the French government, in part due to her practice of helping students to study in the Sorbonne. When Ryan passed away in 1961, her obituary was mainly concerned with her brothers and their work.

“It’s frankly a disgrace that UCC don’t remember Professor Ryan as much as they should. Her place in history, her academic work and her spirit of helping students, especially in the context of the time and the struggles she faced, means that she deserves more than a few small lines on one wall in one building,” said Niamh O’Reilly, UCC Greens.

UCC did remember Professor Ryan in 2010, with a speech given (through video) by former President of Ireland Mary Robinson, but since then the only real presence of Ryan in UCC is a mention on a timeline of the University on a wall in the O’Rahilly Building.

“The last time [UCC] named a building they did so without consulting students, and named the building after Dr. James Watson, a scientist with controversial views on race and gender, with tenuous links to UCC. There are no buildings in UCC that are named after women, and that’s not good enough,” O’Reilly continued.

“Any building would be ideal, but due to Professor Ryan’s reputation for helping students we believe that the new Student Hub building under construction, which will host the majority University’s student support offices, is a perfect opportunity for the University to remember a great woman from its own past.”

A petition has been launched on Change.Org, inviting current students, alumni and members of the general public to support the campaign, and will be delivered to the President of the University.