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Playground Dedicated to BC Students
Killed in 1988 Bombing of Pan-Am Flight 103

BRIGHTON, MA (May 2011) – A playground was dedicated at St. Columbkille Partnership School on May 19 in memory of two Boston College students studying to be teachers who died in the bombing of Pan-Am Flight 103 in 1988.

The playground was dedicated in memory of Patricia Coyle and Karen Noonan, BC Lynch School of Education students who were returning to the U.S. from a semester abroad when their plane exploded over Lockerbie, Scotland in December 1988. The terrorist attack killed all 243 passengers and 16 crew members, as well as 11 residents of Lockerbie.

Students in the early childhood program attended the playground dedication at St. Columbkille Partnership School in Brighton on May 19. (Photo by Lee Pellegrini)

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 Boston College Class of 1990.

Jim Miller is a member of the board of trustees at the Saint Columbkille Partnership School and has been a dedicated benefactor of the school, particularly its early childhood program.

The dedication ceremony featured singing by the St. Columbkille K2 students. 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.

Peter McLaughlin, chair of the board of trustees for St. Columbkille Partnership School, said, “I am pleased and honored that Saint 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.

Boston College President William P. Leahy, SJ, who lead the University into the 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.”

A video of the ceremony and more photos are available.

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.

In his talk, St. Columbkille Head of School Bill Gartside noted that St. Columbkille is a “tremendous success story” and continues to thrive, citing the addition of a third K2 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.

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 name “Colum” means dove.

The parents of Patricia Coyle and Karen Noonan (L-R: Matt and Jan Coyle and Nancy and Pat Noonan) attended the dedication ceremony. (Photo by Lee Pellegrini)

--Kathleen Sullivan, Office of News & Public Affairs,