An outgoing principal’s “dedication” to the integrated education movement has been praised as he retired last week.
Eugene Martin, who served as headmaster of Ulidia Integrated College since its foundation in 1997, stepped down from the role at the end of June.
Born into a Catholic family in west Belfast in 1955, Eugene grew up in the Ardoyne area during the Troubles.
After their home was petrol-bombed in 1969, the family lived temporarily in Ardglass before moving to North Belfast, where Eugene attended St Patrick’s College.
The young Eugene longed to teach and in 1979, he graduated with a 2:1 Honours degree in Mathematics and a Post Graduate Certificate in Education from University of Ulster, Coleraine. He later obtained an MA in Educational Management.
He met his wife Moyra Spence, a Protestant, at university and they married on April 1, 1980.
The couple had four children: Lara, Andrew, Nadine and Philip. Keen to show their family that integration begins at home, two of the children are baptised in the Protestant faith, and two in the Catholic faith.
Following posts at Dundonald Girls’ High School and Lagan College, Eugene took on the role of principal of the East Antrim Integrated College, at Whitehead.
The new school had no government backing or funding, and could have been closed after a few months.
But with support from the Northern Ireland Council for Integrated Education, the All Children Together Movement and the Integrated Education Fund, enough money was raised to keep it afloat.
Opening in 1997 with 63 pupils, the school was later renamed Ulidia Integrated College and in 1999 moved its premises to Carrick.
Under Eugene’s management, the school thrived, receiving government backing and finance in the year 2000.
It now has 574 pupils and 41 teachers, and is oversubscribed year on year.
In a statement, the school paid tribute to the “dedication” of the outgoing headmaster: “Mr Martin has given of his energy, enthusiasm, integrity and respect to Ulidia Integrated College.
“We would like to wish him a happy, healthy and active retirement.