Today, 99-year-old Irene Agnes Lorimer Heggie received B.C.'s first honorary high school diploma at Magee Secondary School.
Heggie attended Magee Secondary in the late 1930s, right before World War II. At the end of her grade 11 year she had to leave school to care for her four siblings after both parents passed away. As a result, Irene never formally graduated secondary school.
"I had no alternative but to leave high school to support and care for my four younger brothers and sisters while working for BC Tel as a telephone operator," Heggie explains.
Irene, who later married her high school sweetheart, a Magee Secondary graduate, traveled around the world to follow her husband's career as a pilot for the Canadian Air Force, Trans Canada Airlines and Air Canada. In recognition of her contribution as a war veteran's wife, dedicated mother and exemplary Canadian, Heggie is the recipient of the first honorary diploma in B.C.
"It is wonderful to see Irene Heggie's achievements recognized with an honorary Dogwood diploma and to realize how important education is at any stage of life," said Minister of Education, Rob Fleming. "Irene's role as the main caregiver for her siblings and as a mother of five who moved her family 30 times for her husband's air force and airline career have certainly earned her this honour."
"I always wished I could have finished high school, but after having five kids and moving around to follow my late-husband's career, I was never able to make it happen," says Heggie. "Now at almost 100 years-old, I am honoured and grateful to receive this achievement from the Vancouver School District."
"This will be a first for BC, and the Vancouver School District," says Suzanne Hoffmann, Superintendent. "We are honoured to present this award to Irene today. I'd like to congratulate her on this wonderful achievement."
Officially opened in 1913, Magee's strong roots in the community continue to last throughout the generations in the Kerrisdale neighbourhood. As a result of the ongoing collaborative efforts of teachers and administrators though the years, Magee continues to maintain strong relationships with its current students and alumni. It is because of these strong ties school staff keep in touch with alumni and find opportunities to recognize community members such as Heggie.