December 06, 2006

Irish SIUC student follows in father's footsteps

by Sun Min

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- While growing up in Northern Ireland, Gina M. Breen heard her father Tom speak fondly of his time as a college student at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. Tom Breen graduated with a bachelor of science degree in 1984. His enthusiasm for his alma mater was so infectious that as long as she can remember, Gina dreamed of following in her father's footsteps.

That dream will come true when Gina receives a bachelor's degree from SIUC during the College of Liberal Arts commencement ceremonies on Dec. 16. Parents Tom and Margaret Breen will fly in for the festivities.

"It is nice to be graduating from the same school as my father because I am an only child and we have a special bond. I am the only opportunity for this tradition to continue," Breen said.

Breen was able to attend SIUC thanks to a legacy scholarship, which is part of a special fund available for children and siblings of alumni living abroad. The International Programs and Service office administers the program.

"I am so proud of Gina's accomplishments over the past three years and I extend my heartfelt congratulations upon the completion of her bachelor's program," said Carla E. Coppi, interim director of International Programs and Services. "I am delighted that she has decided to remain at SIUC to continue her graduate studies in foreign languages."

Breen majored in French and Spanish and earned a spot on the Dean's List for five semesters. She will pursue master's degrees in both disciplines at SIUC, starting in January.

"After that, I hope to work in foreign office/consular/embassy work or with the European Union or in tourism," she said.

Like daughter, like father, Tom made his mark at SIUC as well. He was a four-year letterman in track and cross-country during college and he won the 10K race in the Illinois Intercollegiate Track Championships in 1982.

An avid runner, Tom has competed in the World Cross-Country Championships five times for Ireland. He spent his life in athletics, first as a competitor then as a coach and administrator during his 20 years working for the Down District Council in Downpatrick, County Down, Northern Ireland.

Though she's a native of Downpatrick, Breen proudly calls Southern Illinois home and she "will dearly miss it when I complete my master's," she said. "I feel that SIUC is a nice environment in which to come and study and grow. I like the location a lot and I have had great experiences here."

Breen currently teaches French at Lewis Elementary School in Carbondale and volunteers with the Boys and Girls Club of Carbondale.

Strengthening and maintaining a substantial undergraduate scholarship program are among the goals of Southern at 150: Building Excellence Through Commitment, the blueprint for the development of the University by the time it celebrates its 150th anniversary in 2019.


Gina & Tom Breen

Gina & Tom Breen
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