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News Release

Ulster To Honour High Achievers

26th January 2012


Leading figures in the world of education, science, business, the arts and sport are among those who will be honoured at University of Ulster graduation ceremonies this year.

US Open Golf Champion Rory McIlroy, Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson, actor Sir Ian McKellen and Snow Patrol frontman Gary Lightbody head a distinguished line-up of peacemakers, musicians, media personalities and other outstanding individuals who will receive honorary doctorates.

Sir Alex Ferguson, who has gained a reputation as one of the world’s most admired, respected and successful football managers, is to receive the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Science (DSc) in recognition of his services to football.

The former Dunfermline Athletic and Glasgow Rangers player has had a glittering managerial career, lifting just about every domestic and European honour with Manchester United as well as steering Aberdeen to the Scottish League title and the European Cup Winners Cup.

He also spent a brief spell as manager of the Scottish national football team during the 1986 World Cup in Mexico but will forever be associated with the ‘Red Devils’. 

Northern Ireland golfer Rory McIlroy has quickly established himself as a major force in international golf as a Major winner and Ryder Cup hero.

Last June, the Holywood golfer secured his first Major title at the 2011 US Open championship at the Congressional Golf Club with a record 16-under par score, beating the field by eight shots.

The youngest winner of the US Open for almost 90 years will be awarded the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Science (DSc) for his contribution to golf, following in the footsteps of his compatriots Graeme McDowell who received an honorary degree last year after capturing the 2010 US Open Championship and Darren Clarke who was honoured by the University in 2002 and won the Open Championship last year.

In March 2010, he officially opened the University’s Sports and Exercise Sciences Research Institute laboratories on the Jordanstown campus.

Snow Patrol founding member and lead vocalist, Gary Lightbody will be awarded the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Letters (DLitt) for services to the music industry. A native of Bangor in County Down, the musician-songwriter went to university in Scotland in 1994 to study English literature and English language. While he was there, the seeds for Snow Patrol – which has gone on to become one of Northern Ireland’s most successful music exports - were sown. The band has enjoyed huge success across the world, especially with the songs ‘Chasing Cars’, ‘Run’ and ‘Just Say Yes’ which was used as the campaign theme tune during Derry-Londonderry’s successful bid to become 2013 UK Capital of Culture. 

Actor Sir Ian McKellen, CBE, is to receive the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Letters for his services to acting. His work has spanned genres from Shakespearean and modern theatre to popular fantasy and science fiction and he has many television, film and stage appearances to his credit. He is possibly best known outside the theatre for roles such as Gandalf in the ‘Lord of the Rings’ film trilogy, his role in X Men and a surprise appearance as a con artist in ITV’s soap ‘Coronation Street’. He has been filming Peter Jackson’s two-part film version of ‘The Hobbit’ whose cast includes University of Ulster Chancellor James Nesbitt.

Irish American businessman William ‘Bill’ Flynn, former chairman of Mutual of America, will receive the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Laws (LLD) for his services to Peace and Reconciliation.  

A first-generation Irish-American with roots in Mayo and Down, he is considered by many to have played a pivotal role in the Northern Ireland peace process. In 2009 he was awarded an honorary CBE in recognition of his exceptional contribution to peace and reconciliation in Northern Ireland.

Biotechnology entrepreneur Dr Susan Whoriskey from Boston will be awarded Doctor of Science for services to Biotech industry and entrepreneurship. Dr Whoriskey helped build two of Massachusetts most successful biotech companies, Cubist Pharmaceuticals and Momenta Pharmaceuticals.

She is a member of the Clinical Translational Research and Innovation Centre’s (C-TRIC) International Advisory Panel. C-TRIC, the award winning clinical research facility based at Altnagelvin Hospital, was developed as a joint partnership between the University of Ulster at Magee, Western Health and Social Care Trust (Western Trust) and Derry City Council, with funding for the project provided by ILEX urban regeneration company and Invest Northern Ireland.

Celebrity TV chef, author, journalist and mother Rachel Allen will be awarded the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Science for her contribution to Culinary Arts. The Dubliner learnt her craft – and met her husband - at the world-renowned Ballymaloe Cookery School in Cork.

Rachel’s popular television series on both RTE and BBC and best selling cookery books are all based on her basic philosophy that good ingredients simply prepared give great results.

Ms Rosemary Kelly OBE will be awarded the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Letters (DLitt) for services to the arts and education. The former chairperson of the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and a Governor of the Irish Times Trust, she is also former Head of Public Affairs and Company Secretary for BBC Northern Ireland.

She has served on a number of public and voluntary bodies including the Ofcom Content Board in London (the broadcasting regulator); Chairman of the Ormeau Baths Gallery (the contemporary art gallery in Belfast), Deputy Chairman of the Ulster Orchestra, and on the Council of the University of Ulster. She was also a founding member of the Irish Film and Television Academy, and was awarded an OBE in January 2009 for services to the arts. 

Edmund (Ed) Curran, veteran journalist and former Belfast Telegraph Editor in Chief, will be awarded the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Letters (DLitt) in recognition of his services to journalism. Ed joined the Belfast Telegraph in 1966 as a graduate trainee reporter and worked his way up to editor.

He held the position for 12 years before becoming editor-in-chief and was also launch editor of sister paper, the Sunday Life. In 2006, he was awarded the OBE 2006 for services to Journalism. Since retiring as Editor in Chief, he has continued to contribute a regular column to the paper. He has also played a prominent role in the training of journalists, serving on the board of directors of the National Council for the Training of Journalists.  

Tom Kelly OBE, Group Chief Executive of Stakeholder Communications, is one of Northern Ireland’s most high profile current affairs commentators and has directed many high profile PR and political campaigns.

Named as one of Ireland’s top 50 most influential businessmen in Britain by a leading business newspaper, he received an OBE in 2006 for his services to business. He will be awarded the Honorary Degree of Doctor of the University (DUniv) for his services to the community.

Arlene Cassidy, Chief Executive of the charity Autism Northern Ireland, will be awarded the Honorary Degree of Doctor of the University for her services to Autism. She joined Autism NI in the early 1990’s having previously worked as a social worker in both statutory and voluntary sectors. In her role as Chief Executive, she has provided the strategic leadership and helped Autism NI become the lead voice for Autism in Northern Ireland and the major catalyst for policy and procedure change with statutory, voluntary and government sectors.

The leadership shown by two Belfast headmasters, Andy McMorran, former principal of Ashfield Boys High School in Belfast and PJ O’Grady, the retired principal of St Patrick’s Bearnageeha, will also be recognised by the University.

Both will be awarded the Honorary Degree of Doctor of the University (DUniv) for the role they played in helping to transform their respective schools and for their contribution to the local community.

Paul Smith CBE, the founder and chairman of the global light entertainment company Celador Entertainment Limited, the umbrella company for Celador Films, Celador Radio, Celador Theatrical and LUSAM, will be awarded the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Sciences for services to Media and Enterprise.

Since it was formed in 1983 as an independent production company, Celador has produced a numerous popular light entertainment shows, including ‘Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?’ The company co-produced the film ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ that won seven BAFTAs, four Golden Globes and eight Oscars, including Best Director and Best Picture in 2009.

The degrees will be conferred during the summer and winter graduation ceremonies of the University of Ulster. Specific dates for each conferral will be made public at a later date.


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