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News Release

New Vice-Chancellor Announced

8th June 1999


It has been announced today that the Council of the University of Ulster has approved the appointment of the distinguished biomedical scientist, Professor Patrick Gerald (Gerry) McKenna, to the position of Vice-Chancellor of the University. He will take up his post on 1 October, on the retirement of Lord Smith of Clifton, the present Vice-Chancellor.

Those who applied for the position included eminent educationalists and academic leaders from inside and outside the United Kingdom.

Professor McKenna was born in Benburb, Co Tyrone and attended St Patrick's Academy in Dungannon. He was educated at the New University of Ulster and Queen's University, Belfast. He is 45 years of age and he and his wife, Phil have two sons.

Professor McKenna was Dean of the University's Faculty of Science until his appointment as Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research) in 1997. He had led the research team which was awarded the rare distinction of five star grading, representing international excellence in its field. Their work gave the University the best performance in its subject of any university in the United Kingdom.

Mr Robert Hanna, Chairman of the Council of the University said today:

"Northern Ireland is in the midst of a process of great change. The funding of higher education and the financing of participation are at the heart of the education debate. Our universities have a crucial role to play, not only in training our business and professional leaders but in helping to make Northern Ireland's economy more competitive. The Joint Committee of Council and Senate which oversaw the process of appointment, took all this into consideration in appointing a Vice-Chancellor who would provide leadership and direction to one of Northern Ireland's major institutions and employers. The Council feels that in Professor McKenna, the University will have a new Vice-Chancellor with the qualities to lead the University in its regional role and to help in continuing to develop a national and international reputation for its mission and its work."

The Vice-Chancellor-elect stated today that his new appointment was both a privilege and an immense challenge. He said:

"In recent years, I have been deeply involved with our leaders of political life, industry and commerce, the professions, arts and sport and education, at all levels, as part of the effort to regenerate the Northern Ireland community and its economy. During my work with local and national representative groups, committees and task forces, I have formed many enduring friendships and alliances and have gained great respect for the talent and energy of our local people and their leaders. The year 2000 is a watershed for all of us, and like my many colleagues in the public and private sectors, I am committed to ensuring that Northern Ireland will at last be able to move forward on equal terms with its competitors." He went on:

"It is critical for our prosperity that we are first class citizens of the knowledge society. It is my firm intention to ensure that the University of Ulster is at the forefront of the challenges that face Northern Ireland, using its scholarship and specialist resources and facilities in the service of regional growth and development. My personal philosophy of higher education is founded on the importance of quality - quality of education, quality of research, quality of the learning and working environment and quality of service. To allow the University to discharge its role, I will do all in my power to attract the level of investment in our work that such an unrivalled contribution to progress deserves. Our universities are the soundest investment of all.

"I look forward very much to the opportunity to lead the largest university on the island of Ireland," he concluded.

Note to Editors:

You will find enclosed a summary of the Vice-Chancellor-elect's curriculum vitae. He will take up his appointment on 1 October 1999. During the course of that week, our press office will organize face to face interviews and briefings with local and national media. During these interviews, Professor McKenna will present detailed views on how he intends to discharge his role as Vice-Chancellor, looking at the changing face of our universities and important matters such as their contribution to training, job creation and in an Northern Ireland context, the process of reconciliation. It is the policy of the University not to allow any interviews or attributable remarks before then and you are asked not to contact the Vice-Chancellor-elect directly.

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