Heavy snowfall and cancelled flights home didn’t spoil one Bangor man’s trip to London last month.
Terry Francis, who has lived in the town all his life, enjoyed a special day at Buckingham Palace, with his wife Jennifer, to accept an MBE for his services to further education.
Head of Business and Innovation at South Eastern Regional College, Mr Francis told the Community Telegraph: “It was a real honour to collect this award from Prince Charles at Buckingham Palace — it really was a wonderful day. When the award ceremony was over and we walked outside, the snow had really taken hold.
“Our flights home were cancelled and we didn’t get back until the following Wednesday — the actual journey home took 23 hours in total but it didn’t spoil our memories at all.”
Mr Francis’ devotion to the college stemmed from the days he himself was a student there.
“I have always been very proud of my local college, even as a student here, I knew I wanted to work here. I began working for the college in 1981 as an engineering technician, then became a lecturer and progressed up the chain that way.
“I had no idea I was nominated by my peers for the award, the first thing I knew about it was when I received a letter telling me I being awarded the MBE.
“I thought it was a prank and kept re-reading the letter — it took a while to sink in.
“I met my wife here at the College, and she also works here. Our son works here too, and he met his wife here! Our family life is very much rooted with further education and so this recognition was very special to us all.”
A ‘leading force’ in driving the links between industry and education, Mr Francis has introduced ground breaking new services into the further education sector, including product prototyping, which have influenced the development of STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) subjects within the curriculum and had an impact on businesses in Northern Ireland.
This pioneering work has not only set the standard for the sector but has formed the basis of government policy.
Thompson Keating, Director of corporate and economic Engagement said: “Throughout his career Terry has inspired thousands of students and business people, of all ages and backgrounds, firstly as a lecturer and now as a pioneer of industry standard curriculum.
“Terry's work embodies the great potential and impact that the further education sector has in shaping the Northern Ireland economy. We are all delighted for Terry and his family in gaining this well earned recognition.”