Roma Downey returning home to open £11m Magee teaching block

Roma Downey.
Roma Downey.

One of Derry’s most famous daughters, Roma Downey, returns to her home town on Wednesday next to open a new £11m teaching block in her honorary alma mater of Magee College.

Ulster University confirmed Dr. Downey’s attendance at the event, which has been billed as an opportunity to celebrate a fantastic new addition to its Derry campus.

“This new £11m state-of-the-art teaching building delivers the most modern and cutting-edge facilities available to students and provides a collaborative teaching approach at Magee,” it stated.

“Its opening represents a major investment by the university in providing world-class teaching space, enhancing the student experience at Magee and underpinning the university’s commitment to developing the campus, supporting economic growth, and helping this university city to realise its full potential,”it added.

Sinn Féin Foyle MP Elisha McCallion, speaking ahead of the official opening, said: “This new £11m facility will be a huge asset for the university, for Derry and indeed the whole North West.

“It is a major boost for the staff and students at Magee.

“Facilities like this are vital to ensuring our young people have the best quality teaching environment while also serving the needs of the wider community and supporting economic growth in the region.”

The guest of honour, Dr. Downey, has a longstanding connection with the Ulster University and its Magee College campus in particular, having received an honorary doctorate in Fine Arts for her outstanding contribution to acting and philanthropy four years ago this summer.

The Beechwood Avenue-native achieved international recognition 25 years ago by playing Jacqueline Kennedy in the made-for-TV mini-series ‘A Woman Named Jackie,’ and later as ‘Monica’ in the massive US drama series ‘Touched by an Angel’.

She is currently based in the US, where she lives and works with her TV and film producer husband Mark Burnett.

The new teaching block, which she will officially launch on Wednesday, is already in use having been opened to staff and students from January. It comprises a café, open plan work spaces for students, three new theatres and 20 tutorial rooms.

Magee Provost Dr. Malachy Ó Néill, describing the new facility earlier this year, said: “Students across all faculties and disciplines will benefit greatly from the new facilities - both academically in terms of the high quality teaching environment provided and also socially, with access to relaxed café spaces and student hubs encouraging an interactive experience.

““The new block also features the largest lecture theatre ever constructed on the campus – with capacity for over 300 students.

“The facility will also be a huge civic asset, offering a fantastic conference centre with incredible views of the city and we are looking forward to welcoming even more local and international visitors to the campus.”

He said it the facilities were “vital to ensuring we have the best quality environment for teaching and research for our students”.