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Born in 1930 in Waimea West to Roman Catholic parents, John and Eileen Engel, she was one of five siblings. A sister in the Sisters of Mercy, Nga Whaea Atawhai o Aotearoa, she became an educator. In 1983, the third principal of Carmel College. She was the first principal to be appointed by Carmel College's Board of Governors.
In the 1995 Queen's Birthday Honours, Engel was made a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire, for services to education, having been made a Commander of the same order in the 1986 Queen's Birthday Honours.
- Queen's Birthday Honours List 1995 Archived 2015-01-14 at the Wayback Machine; retrieved 10 January 2013.
- London Gazette (supplement), No. 50553, 13 June 1986; retrieved 21 January 2013.
- "Pauline Engel death notice". New Zealand Herald. 16 November 2017. Retrieved 16 November 2017.