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Mrs Sue Hanna

Tribute paid to Sue Hanna at her funeral by Miss Elizabeth Wilson

Miss Wilson —

Earlier in the year the College acknowledged the passing of Mrs Sue Hanna who had served as the Principal's Secretary for over 30 years before her retirement in 2016. Mrs Hanna's service was exemplary, and we express our condolences to her family. Here follows the tribute given by Miss Wilson at the service for Mrs Hanna, published here with her permission and our thanks.

Julie and Maureen, and members of Sue’s family.

Thank you for the opportunity to pay tribute to Sue’s long association with Columba College.

Looking out at the congregation, I recognize so many people who have wanted to pay their respects to Sue today – present parents of children attending the College, past parents, Old Girls, Board members past and present, present students, present members of staff, and former colleagues. Your presence is a testimony to the esteem in which Sue was held by the wider school community.

Sue spent 31 years working at Columba as the Principal’s personal secretary, retiring at the end of 2016 – a little over a year ago. We worked together for 29 of those 31 years. Sadly, Sue’s opportunity to enjoy her retirement was all too short, and was affected by ill-health.

I think it was a combination of personal qualities and professional skill that made Sue such an outstanding personal secretary. She genuinely liked, and was interested in people. She was so very much a people person. She responded to people with openness and warmth, and was completely genuine in the way she greeted everyone, from two five year-olds from Miss Eason’s classroom, hand-in-hand and full of importance about delivering a message to Mrs. Hanna from Miss Eason, to a prospective parent simply wanting an application pack. She delighted in having contact with the students, and took great personal interest in them. Even in the last weeks of her life, her face would light up whenever any news of an Old Girl was mentioned.

Sue’s positive, cheerful manner, and her natural friendliness were tremendous assets in her work. Many people have occasion to remember her kindness, generosity of spirit, and warmth of manner, and the genuineness of the way she greeted them, sometimes years after their immediate association with the College had ended. Her smile, and laughter, were memorable; she was very proud of her Irish ancestry, but was not averse to a good Irish joke. Her quick wit, and sense of humour, often enlivened the working day.

When you link Sue’s personal qualities with her professional skills as a secretary, you get an unbeatable combination. She brought discretion to a position that required it; she had the tactfulness needed to deal with conflicting demands and competing interests; she was an astute judge of character and could read situations and people very well; and, in abundance, she possessed the quality of loyalty and the ability to identify with the institution that employed her, and to be loyal to what it stood for and represented.

Like many of her generation, Sue had to adapt to technology. In 1985, the year Sue started at Columba, the clickety-clack of typewriters could be heard in the old offices upstairs in the Hall Block. Sue adapted to electronic communication, but not without the odd grumble about the disruptive intrusiveness of emails, texts, and messages coming in at all hours of the day. She was the fastest typist I have ever seen (full marks to her secretarial training in Belfast); but accuracy was never sacrificed for the sake of speed. Sometimes, senior students visiting her office would look at her typing with amazement, and also at her steno pad with wonderment. What are those strange marks, they would ask. Shorthand, we would say. Perhaps shorthand is a relic of the past today, but we found dictation and shorthand a useful method, and an opportunity for us to sit down together, to discuss work, and to chat.

Sue assumed another responsibility when the College integrated in 1994, becoming secretary to the Board of Trustees. The Board of Trustees Chair with whom she had the longest association was Dr. Margot Skinner. It was a nineteen-year long association, and I know that Sue upheld the confidentiality involved in being Board secretary, and held Dr. Skinner in high regard.

Highly skilled, efficient, hard-working, and professional in dress and manner, Sue was an asset to the College, its public face, and the smooth running of its day-to-day administration. A thirty-one year long association with one institution is not common today. It gave Sue tremendous institutional knowledge, which she was happy to share, and it also helped to define her as a person. She was proud of working for Columba, and gave it her loyalty and unstinting service.

I acknowledge with a deep sense of gratitude the close working relationship I enjoyed with her, the help and support she gave me, her discretion, and her loyalty.

Dear Sue,

The road rose to meet you on your final journey. You walked it with courage and dignity.

The tears of your loved ones fell like gentle rain as you left them to join Jim and little Shauna.

Your death was peaceful, with your two daughters by your side; truly, you were held in the palm of God’s hand.

Your family will now hold you, and your spirit, in tender and loving remembrance.

We have gathered to show our support for the family you loved so dearly.

The College farewells you with love and respect.