On Friday 6th May staff and students of MTU held a homecoming event at the Kerry Campus for their colleague Dr Karen Weekes. Karen is the first Irish woman to have completed a solo crossing of the Atlantic Ocean and the 20th female globally to have rowed an ocean on her own. Karen spent 80 days at sea reaching Barbados at 6.30 pm (Barbadian time) on 24th February after rowing 3,000 miles solo across the Atlantic Ocean.
Karen is a lecturer at MTU since 2004 in the Health and Leisure department. With a PhD in sport psychology, Karen has worked extensively with both elite and non-elite athletes, specialising within the endurance genre. Endurance exploits have been a passion for Karen for all her life and has included both water and land-based journeys.
Through the #SHECANDO campaign, Karen is encouraging females to push themselves outside their comfort zone. Karen is also bringing awareness of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, specifically gender equality and ocean conservation and sustainability.
Speaking at the event President of MTU Prof Maggie Cusack said, "Karen is such an excellent role model and we in MTU are immensely proud of her. In keeping with MTU values, the #SHECANDO campaign aims to encourage women to believe in their ability to succeed both in their work and everyday lives. Karen has a clear message, "anything is possible when you have self-belief, determination, a plan and progressive goals."
In acknowledgement of her outstanding achievement Karen was presented with specially crafted sculpture by artist Bernadette Tuite, graduate of MTU Crawford College of Art and Design. Bernadette was a ship’s captain for many years in California. Today her affinity with the Ocean is reflected in her ceramic vessels, photography and glass work which emulates seascapes discovered while kayaking along the local Atlantic coastline. Each sculptural piece contains found coastal materials and is named for the place that inspired it.
MC for the event Dr Michael Hall, Head of School of Health and Social Science said, "This amazing achievement is in fact the culmination of years of careful discussions, meetings, planning, calculations, preparations, sponsorship and many years of building up towards sitting onto a little boat she called Millie and setting out alone on an 80-day, 3000 mile journey for which she alone was the captain, navigator, ship’s cook, maintenance crew and engine."
MTU Cork School of Music students Macdara Ó Faoláin (bouzouki), Victoria Pierce (guitar, banjo), Lily Munday (fiddle), Kate O'Shea (fiddle) and Muireann Ní Shé (uilleann pipes) performed two pieces of music entitled "Patience is Key" and "She Can Do". Both pieces were composed by Macdara Ó Faoláin who is a Year 4 Bachelor of Music student at MTU Cork School of Music, who took inspiration from Karen's journey.
Chair of the MTU Governing Body Jimmy Deenihan congratulated Karen on her outstanding achievement, "you are an inspiration and a wonderful ambassador for MTU. We can only be in awe of your courage, endurance, perseverance, power and spirit. You now stand proudly with the world’s greatest explorers as your achievement is recognised in the history books".