Doctor goes the distance to inspire class of 2016

Priestley alumni Alice Williamson
Priestley alumni Alice Williamson

MOST had not travelled far to be there, but for guest speaker Alice Williamson it had been quite the journey.

For the former Priestley College student had flown over 9,000 miles to address the Class of 2016 at an awards evening celebrating their achievements.

Doctor Williamson, who is researching a cure for malaria in Australia, flew home to Warrington to visit her family and friends as well as speak at the presentation evening held at St Elphin’s Church.

“We had made arrangements for Alice to speak via a video link if she couldn’t make it,” said Principal Matthew Grant.

During her speech Doctor Williamson –  recently named one of Australia’s Top 5 scientists Under 40 – described her time at Priestley studying English Literature, Chemistry and Physics.

The former St. Gregory’s Catholic High School pupil also explained how she went on to work for the Open Source Malaria Project, but her key message was about fostering a sense of community in times of great change.

“I wish you all the very best of luck and urge you to seek out new communities in which you will thrive and to create communities – be they families, friendships, voluntary organisations or businesses – that will help others to succeed as well,” she said.

Listening in the congregation was the Deputy Mayor and Mayoress of Warrington, governors and tutors alongside students’ family and friends.

The cohort secured a 99% A-Level pass rate and nearly 600 A*, A and B grades between them. In BTEC extended diplomas there was a 100% pass rate and over 400 Distinctions and Distinction *s were awarded.

As well as their results, Principal Matthew Grant complimented their achievements outside the classroom and for representing Priestley and Warrington well on a national and international stage.

He also paid tribute to their spirit in coping with adversity after the college mourned the loss of former students Tomas Lowe, Jack Dakin, Kris Leonard, River Reeves, Patric Wilson and Ryan O’Hara during the year.

“I will never forget the scenes as so many of us stood outside the crematorium at Patric’s funeral or here at Priestley when River’s funeral cortege came on to campus and hundreds of you stood in the cold and rain to pay your respects,” he said.

The cohort also raised hundreds of pounds for charities over their two years and have now gone on to paid and voluntary work as well as university.

During his address, Matthew praised Priestley’s Chair of Governors Reg Haslam who continued to serve the college despite a difficult year, but saved his biggest tribute for the students.

“It must make everyone here tonight proud to see how you as young men and women have grown over the last couple of years to be ready to take your place in the wider world,” he said.

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