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Posted 11 September 2013

UCD awards honorary degrees during graduation week

During the week of graduation ceremonies at University College Dublin, a remarkable group of individuals, who have achieved distinction in their fields of endeavour, were awarded honorary degrees from UCD.

CEO of Bord Bia, Aidan Cotter was awarded an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Laws from UCD

CEO of Bord Bia, Aidan Cotter

“Aidan has created a global market presence and reputation for Irish food industry as a high quality and safe producer,” said Professor Damien McLoughlin, UCD School of Business, who read the official citation at the conferring ceremony.

“He [Aidan] has led a major programme of cooperation amongst competitors intended to overcome the barriers to scale that face most Irish firms. To date more than 200 Irish food firms have participated in projects in this area. Aidan has also built a series of coalitions within the food industry with Teagasc in the development of a national sustainability programme, with the Dairy industry in the same area, with UCD in the area of education and with the leaders of the largest Irish food companies in support of the Pathways initiative.”

“UCD, your Alma Mater, honours you today for the work you have done in erecting a scaffolding for the Irish food industry over the past 30 years.”


Senator Katherine Zappone was awarded an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Laws from UCD

Senator Katherine Zappone

“Katherine Zappone has taught, consulted, advised government, engaged in community outreach and conducted ground-breaking research on specific themes of critical national importance such as national equality frameworks, effective childrens’ services, equal opportunity in education, theology and spirituality, and human rights,” said Dr Marie-Luce Paris, UCD School of Law, who read the official citation at the conferring ceremony.

An acclaimed academic, Katherine Zappone has widely published in feminism, ethics, equality issues and education.
“With her partner, Dr. Ann Louise Gilligan, Katherine Zappone has been at the forefront of the campaign for marriage equality in Ireland both through her own litigation and through the legislative process. In 2012, she was appointed to the European Institute for Gender Equality which aim is to raise awareness of EU citizens of gender issues.”

“Katherine Zappone is one of the most prominent social change engineers of modern Ireland who has brought passion, energy and expertise to the service of the ‘common good’ during a successful and rich career. For her multiple contributions to social and legal developments in the area of public policy and human rights, and to the wider public life of Ireland, we honour Katherine Zappone [today],” added Dr Paris.


Irish businessman, Declan McCourt was awarded an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Laws from UCD

Declan McCourt

“[Following a successful early career in international business] Declan returned to Ireland in 1979 where he took up the position of Chief Operating Officer of the TMG Group. However, it is the year 1982 that stands out as particularly significant in the already highly successful business career of Declan McCourt. It was in that year that he joined the OHM Group as partner and Chief Executive and, in the following years, played a pivotal and dynamic role in developing the Group. The OHM Group is now a leading automotive business, with a staff of some 200, that imports and distributes motor cars and commercial vehicles and is one which has an extensive wholesale and retail distribution network throughout Ireland,” said Professor Paul O’Connor, UCD School of Law, who gave the official citation at the conferring ceremony.

“Declan McCourt has displayed a deep and enduring commitment to Ireland and to the well being of the community at large. This generosity of spirit is demonstrated in his interest in health care and education. He has, for many years, served as Chairman of the Mater Foundation, the official fundraising body of the Mater University Hospital which, since 2001, has remitted over 18,000,000 euro to the hospital.”

“In the field of education he chairs UCD’s School of Law Development Council. This Council has, under his inspiring leadership, generated substantial resources for the law school among the more notable being the funding of two new Chairs in the areas of European Law and Commercial Law.”

Yale Professor and Cultural Sociologist, Jeffrey Alexander was awarded an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Literature from UCD

Prof Jeffrey Alexander (centre) pictured with Dr Andreas Hess (left) and Dr Hugh Brady, President of UCD (right)

“Jeffrey Alexander is one of the leading figures if not the intellectual voice of modern cultural sociology,” said Dr Andreas Hess, UCD School of Sociology who read the official citation at the conferring ceremony.



His many books, most outstanding perhaps The Civil Sphere (Oxford University Press 2006), The Performance of Politics (Oxford University Press 2011) and his studies on cultural trauma such as Remembering the Holocaust (Oxford 2009), are milestones in the field.

“In contrast to other attempts such as the sociology of culture or cultural studies, the focus is not only on the arts, theatre, music, modern media and so forth but Alexander’s cultural sociology combines the aspirations of classic sociology of a Max Weber or Emile Durkheim with some of the new insights from linguistics, social anthropology, and the philosophy of language and applies these to a wide range of social phenomena.”

“Alexander’s books and articles have been translated into all important academic languages. He is read in Chinese, German, French, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese, Spanish and many other languages. His articles belong to the most cited in the social sciences, and as Lillian Chavenson Saden Professor at Yale and in his role as one of the Directors of the Centre for Cultural Sociology at Yale, which he also helped to found, he has turned Yale into a centre of true sociological excellence that attracts scholars from around the world, including scholars from Ireland and UCD.”

“In his opus magnum The Civil Sphere and in the follow-up study The Performance of Politics Alexander tries to apply cultural sociology to modern civil society and its politics. They are attempts to understand the complex relations and interactions between established institutions and the more flexible or elastic civil sphere in which public opinion is being formed and in which various conceptualisations of justice are discussed and begin to take shape. As Alexander shows convincingly in the case of Obama’s first presidential campaign, the civil sphere is also the place where the open democratic struggle for symbolic representation and meaning takes place − with outcomes that are not always predictable,” added Dr Hess.


Physiotherapist, Dr Marie Elaine Grant was awarded an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Science from UCD

Dr Marie Elaine Grant

“As the first Irish person to be elected to the International Olympic Committee’s Medical Commission in 2011, she arguably became the most influential Physiotherapist of her time,” said Professor Colin Boreham, UCD School of Public Health, Physiotherapy, and Population Science, and who read the official citation at the conferring ceremony.

“Being the main contact for all Physiotherapy matters at the IOC in Lausanne, she assumed overall responsibility for Sports Physiotherapy provision at the 2012 London Olympics and all subsequent games, both summer and winter. In London, she oversaw the work of over 700 volunteer physiotherapists administering to over 10,000 athletes from 205 countries. She was also tasked with organising scientific symposia and a major research project running in parallel with the Games as well as compiling a detailed report on all aspects of Physiotherapy for the IOC.”

“Despite her involvement in the upper echelons of world sport, Marie Elaine Grant continues to promote and develop Irish Physiotherapy and its Chartered Society and was particularly proud that Ireland provided the greatest number of Physiotherapists to the London Games outside of the host nation. But above all, she has put Irish physiotherapy on the world map by her dedication and commitment to excellence, all accomplished  in the most personable, self-effacing and effortless manner,” added Professor Boreham.


Irish artist, Robert Ballagh was awarded and Honorary Degree of Doctor of Literature from UCD

Robert Ballagh

“Robert Ballagh’s vision, skill and dedication to his craft are some of the many reasons why he is, not only one of Ireland’s best known and most popular artists, but one of Ireland’s greatest painters as well,” said Mr Eamonn Ceannt, UCD Director for Capital Development, who read the official citation at the conferring ceremony.

“His early works adopted the style of the Pop-Art movement.”
“Subsequent works such as My Studio and the No 3 series set out to portray political events or to demystify art and articulate the process by which art happens. For Robert, art is a social product. Its integrity depends on its ability to respond honestly and accurately to the artist’s experience. Nude Descending a Staircase overcame the conventional architectural perspective of his previous paintings and marked a turning round of his own approach to painting” added Ceannt.

“His artistic range and mediums used are impressive. Landscapes, abstracts, book-covers, silkscreens, acrylics, oils and even a few sculptures.”

“But it is in portraiture that Robert is best known.”

“Like the Arnolfinis and Holbein’s Ambassadors, Robert’s portraits are not just likenesses of the sitter but are filled with symbolism and personal references that are unique to his subject.”


Former Provost of Trinity College Dublin, Dr John Hegarty was awarded and Honorary degree of Doctor of Science from UCD

Dr John Hegarty

“UCD honours Professor John Hegarty for his remarkable contribution to Irish higher education as a distinguished laser physicist of international repute, as the 43rd Provost of Trinity College Dublin and as a major catalyst for inter-institutional collaboration within the Irish higher education sector,” said Dr Hugh Brady, President of University College Dublin, who read the official citation at the conferring ceremony.

“When Professor Dermot Kelleher and I, in our roles then as Professors of Medicine at TCD and UCD, respectively proposed that we pool our efforts in the area of molecular medicine research and training, John gave the project his unequivocal support. The resultant Dublin Molecular Medicine Centre kick-started more than a decade of unprecedented collaboration between Ireland’s two leading universities that simply would not have happened without John’s vision.”

“John was elected the 43rd Provost of Trinity College in 2001 – a role that he performed with great distinction. During his term as Provost, John undertook an ambitious reform programme that included academic re-structuring, curriculum reform, major investment in research and an ambitious capital programme. Notable achievements included raising funding to establish Crann (the Centre for Research on Adaptive Nanostructures and Nanodevices), the construction of the Biomedical Sciences Institute, Naughton Institute, Science Gallery, Long Room Hub and the Lir Academy of Dramatic Art – to name but a few,” continued Dr Brady.

“Under John’s leadership Trinity climbed dramatically up the world rankings entering the world top 100 and top 50 in the Times Higher Ranking. But perhaps as important, and I suspect an achievement that John is equally proud of, initiatives such as the Long Room Hub, the Lir Academy and the Science Gallery brought Trinity much closer to its local community and the wider public than perhaps ever before in its long history.”

“A quick scan of experiments across the globe shows us that most mergers and consolidations driven by central government fail and often quite spectacularly.  Similarly, collaboration for the mere sake of collaboration is usually a recipe for dilution towards mediocrity rather than success. In contrast, however, the gains for individual institutions and national systems can be significant and sustainable when there is a confluence of visionary institutional leadership, committed and enthusiastic staff, and a supportive funding and policy environment – and when the explicit and measurable objective is an enhancement of the quality of the student experience, research productivity, efficiency and impact of the collaborating institutions,” he added.

“John Hegarty’s considerable achievements in the areas of education, research and innovation are a wonderful testament to the power of strategic collaboration.”


(Produced by UCD University Relations)


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UCD awards honorary degrees during graduation week
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