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Local School Playground Dedicated to BC Students

05/26/11
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(L-R) Matt and Jan Coyle and Nancy and Pat Noonan were given an official greeting by students from St. Columbkille Partnership School, where a playground was dedicated in the name of the Coyles’ and Noonans’ daughters, Boston College students who were killed in 1988. All were part of a ceremony, attended by University President William P. Leahy, SJ, University Chancellor J. Donald Monan, SJ, who was president of BC in 1988, and St. Columbkille Trustees Chair Peter McLaughlin. (Photo by Lee Pellegrini)

By Kathleen Sullivan | Chronicle Staff

Published: May 26, 2011

Two Boston College students who never lived to realize their dreams of becoming teachers were remembered and honored last week at St. Columbkille Partnership School.

On May 19, a playground at the school was dedicated in memory of Patricia Coyle and Karen Noonan, Lynch School of Education students who were killed in December 1988 when the plane carrying them back to the US from a semester abroad was destroyed by a terrorist bomb over Lockerbie, Scotland.

The bombing of Pan-Am Flight 103 killed all 243 passengers and 16 crew members, as well as 11 residents of Lockerbie.The playground was made possible by a gift from Boston College alumni Jim and Krisann Miller of Wellesley. Coyle was Krisann Miller’s twin sister. The Millers, Coyle and Noonan were all members of the Class of 1990.Jim Miller is a member of the board of trustees at St. Columbkille Partnership School and has been a dedicated benefactor of the school, specifically in launching its early childhood program.

Teaching had been both Coyle and Noonan’s passion, said Krisann Miller, recalling that her sister had student taught in Boston and “really loved it.” The playground dedication to her sister and Karen after so many years, Krisann added, was very meaningful for the families.Parents Matt and Jan Coyle of Connecticut and Pat and Nancy Noonan of Maryland attended the dedication ceremony, which featured singing by St. Columbkille students in the early childhood program.

Boston College Chancellor J. Donald Monan, SJ, who was president of BC in 1988, offered the invocation.

“We gather to imprint on this simple human space, set aside for the joy and laughter and happy activity of schoolchildren, not only the names, but also the aspirations and the ideals, of two young women, Patricia Coyle and Karen Noonan, who went before us to the Lord at the very zenith of their youthful beauty and their goodness,” said Fr. Monan.Boston College

President William P. Leahy, SJ, who led the University into its historic collaboration with the Archdiocese of Boston and St. Columbkille parish to revitalize the struggling Catholic school, helped to unveil the plaque displaying Noonan and Coyle’s names.

“We dedicate ourselves to continuing the great work of Catholic education,” he said. Referring to the young students attending the ceremony, he added, “You are so much of our future. The future of this neighborhood. The future for our city, for our nation, for our Church.”

Peter McLaughlin, chair of the board of trustees for St. Columbkille Partnership School, said, “I am pleased and honored that St. Columbkille is able to commemorate [Coyle and Noonan’s] lives by dedicating our playground to these very special women who loved children and the value of Catholic elementary school education. We expect the playground to be filled with laughter and fun — a place that Tricia and Karen would have loved.”

In his talk, St. Columbkille Head of School Bill Gartside touched on the themes of hope and resurrection. He noted that St. Columbkille is a “tremendous success story” and continues to thrive, citing the addition of a third K-2 class and expanded 4th grade in the fall. The school’s enrollment is on the upswing, from its current 304 to an expected 320-325 for 2011-12.

Lynch School of Education Kearns Professor in Urban Education and Innovative Leadership Mary Walsh, a graduate of St. Columbkille, talked about Jim Miller’s commitment to Catholic education and her first meeting with him a decade ago when he talked about the possibility of the University making a difference in Boston’s Catholic schools as they had done in the city’s public schools.

“This school and your alma mater up the hill, Jim and Krisann, are grateful for your vision and generous hearts,” said Walsh.Coyle and Noonan’s fathers each offered thanks at the ceremony.

“It is very special to be here because Karen and Tricia love to teach the little people,” said Pat Noonan. “I want to say thank you to all those who devoted so much effort to this renovation, this playground and to this great school that’s a model for Boston and a model for the nation.”

Addressing the St. Columbkille students, Matt Coyle said, “You are lucky to arrive at school where you are loved. Anything is possible for you.”

At the conclusion of the ceremony, two doves were released to the cheers of the students. The dove, a symbol of peace, appears in the logo of the school because the Gaelic name “Colum” means “dove.” With the incessant rain of the week having abated, the children were able to use the playground immediately following the dedication.