NUI Galway Honours Four Outstanding Individuals with Honorary Degrees

Friday, 24 June 2011

Four outstanding individuals were conferred with honorary degrees from NUI Galway today (Friday 24 June, 2011). Those conferred were Margaret Atwood, Seán O’Rourke, Professor Gio Wiederhold and Seán Campbell.

Speaking at the conferring ceremony, NUI Galway President, Dr James J. Browne said: “NUI Galway is fortunate to be associated with many outstanding honorary graduates throughout its history and those being honoured this year form a particularly distinguished group. Each has made an outstanding and distinctive contribution to the diverse fields of literature, youth affairs, journalism and computer science. NUI Galway is very pleased to be in a position to recognise these exceptional individuals”.

Margaret Atwood was conferred with a Degree of Doctor of Literature (honoris causa). The Canadian author has published more than forty books of fiction, poetry, and critical essays.

Her newest novel, The Year of the Flood (2009) is, in the author’s words, “the meanwhile” or the “simultaneal” to her 2003 Giller Prize finalist, Oryx and Crake.

Other books include the 2000 Booker Prize-winning, The Blind Assassin: Alias Grace, which won the Giller Prize in Canada, The Robber Bride, Cat’s Eye, The Handmaid’s Tale, and The Tent. Margaret has a strong connection with the West of Ireland and has contributed poetry to a collection edited by Des Lally in 2008 entitled Captivating Brightness: Ballynahinch. Profits from the book were donated to Cancer Care West. Margaret Atwood lives in Toronto with writer Graeme Gibson.

Seán O’Rourke was conferred with a Degree of Doctor of Laws (honoris causa). A native of Portlaoise, Seán completed a BA in English, History and Legal Science at NUI Galway, graduating in 1977. Seán was awarded the 2006 NUI Galway Alumni AIB Award for Literature, Communications and the Arts, and is the founding chairperson of the Alumni Association’s Dublin Club.

He first joined RTÉ in 1982 as presenter/reporter in Radio News features. He was Political correspondent with the Irish Press between 1984 and 1989, when he returned to RTÉ as Programme Editor/Presenter, working on the News at One, Morning Ireland and This Week.

Since 1995, Seán has been presenter of the News at One. In 2003, Seán began presenting The Week in Politics, a weekly review of political events on RTÉ One. He was Radio Journalist of the Year in 1997 and won PPI Awards for News Broadcaster of the year in 2008, 2009 and 2010.

Professor Gio Wiederhold was conferred with a Degree of Doctor of Science (honoris causa). Gio Wiederhold is a Professor Emeritus of Computer Science, Electrical Engineering, and Medicine at Stanford University, still teaching part-time. Gio Wiederhold was born in Italy and received a degree in Aeronautical Engineering in Holland in 1957. In 1976 he obtained a PhD in Medical Information Science from the University of California at San Francisco and joined the Stanford faculty. Gio consulted with several computing enterprises in Europe and Asia.

Professor Wiederhold is one of the pioneers in Computer Science who created the foundations for modern Web and information technology, which shaped society and the economy throughout the world. He is one of the founding fathers of Databases as a research field in Computer Science and has initiated Knowledge Base Research while at DARPA.

During his career he has pioneered the combination of Database and Knowledge Bases. His research contributions are fundamental for the Semantic Web, which is the main research topic of the Digital Enterprise Research Institute, (DERI) one of NUI Galway’s flagship research institutes.

Seán Campbell was conferred with a Degree of Doctor of Laws (honoris causa). Seán Campbell is Chief Executive Officer of Foróige, Ireland’s leading youth organisation and has worked for the organisation for over 25 years.

A native of Dundalk, Co. Louth, Seán is a graduate of UCD and holds a BA and a Higher Diploma in Education. He volunteered for two years in Zambia. During his time at Foróige, Seán has played a pivotal role in the continuous and rapid development of Foróige and the youth work sector.

One of Seán’s most notable achievements is bringing the Big Brother Big Sister youth mentoring programme to Ireland. Seán was a driving force in the development of Foróige’s relationship with the Child and Family Research Centre at NUI Galway which, among other things, led to Foróige’s partner status in the UNESCO Chair in Children, Youth and Civic Engagement.

Today’s graduands join the ranks of previous honorary conferees which include among many others Nelson Mandela, Hilary Clinton, Christy O’Connor Snr and Jnr, Enya, the late Merv Griffin, Anjelica Huston and Fionnuala Flanagan.

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