The new president of Eastbourne Soroptimists Club is Jean O’Neill.
She received the chain of office from past president Diana Guthrie at the club’s annual meeting at Chalk Farm Hotel, Willingdon on April 22,
She joined Eastbourne Soroptimists nine years ago and was president in 2006–7.
Born in Lutterworth, Leicestershire, she attended the local grammar school, where she was deputy head girl, then went to Bedford College of Physical Education where she qualified as a P.E. teacher.
She taught physical education at Chelmsford County High School for Girls in Essex for six years and gained an Open University Degree in her spare time.
In 1977, she became a physical education lecturer in Higher Education at Chelsea college of P.E. in Eastbourne and spent 30 years training students to teach P.E. This involved travelling throughout the East Sussex area to watch students teach on work placement in schools.
She retired in 2007, by then Chelsea had become a department in the University of Brighton and Jean had gained two higher degrees including a Doctorate from the University of Sussex.
She said: “This year my charity is the Eastbourne Foyer. It is part of the Foyer Federation which has over 120 communities in the UK connecting with up to 10,000 young people aged between 16 and 25 who are single, homeless and must be in training during their residency.
“Indeed 2013-14 is our Club’s 60th year. Needless to say, we have an action-packed programme ahead of us which culminates in our Diamond Anniversary weekend at the end of February 2014. We will welcome our Soroptimist Link Clubs from several different
countries, together with other distinguished guests from our locality. One thing is certain, we’re looking forward to being 60 and over, but not out!”
Jean adds that she is very keen on exercise and sport in particular. An international sprinter at school and student levels reaching the top ten in the UK in the late 1960s, she also played hockey at county, regional and national levels and now keeps fit by gardening, walking and playing Nintendo wii. Her other lifelong passion is the natural world. She has been a volunteer helper at the Raystede Centre for animal welfare in Ringmer and became a Trustee in 2005. She belongs to the RSPB, Sussex Wildlife Trust and Sussex Ornithological Society.
Prior to the meeting club members enjoyed a two course supper served by staff at Chalk Farm Hotel.