Honorary degrees awarded at Trinity College

Three exceptional individuals  – former Chief Justice of Ireland Susan Denham, Oxford University Professor of Vaccinology Adrian Hill and Trinity’s own Director of College Health Service Dr David McGrath – were today conferred with honorary degrees of the University of Dublin at Trinity College Dublin

The degrees, Trinity’s highest honour, were awarded by the University Chancellor Dr Mary McAleese in a ceremony conducted in Latin in the historic Public Theatre.

At the honorary degrees ceremony were (l to r) Prof. Adrian Hill, Provost Dr Linda Doyle (in back), Susan Denham, University Chancellor Mary McAleese (in back), and Dr David McGrath

More on the awardees:

Susan Denham (Doctor in Laws)

Susan Denham, a graduate and former Pro-Chancellor of Trinity, has had an illustrious career in the Irish legal system serving as Chief Justice of Ireland from 2011 to 2017. Prior to this she had been in turn, a barrister, senior counsel, High Court judge and member of the Supreme Court. Her contributions to law and society are outstanding: she wrote some of the most significant judicial decisions in the history of the State; her work, as a judge, in relation to the court system generally was extraordinary resulting in, amongst other things, the establishment of the Court of Appeal; and she played a significant role in the establishment of the European Network of Councils for the Judiciary, placing Ireland in a leadership position of a crucial European network. In particular, it is notable that she has been a pioneer in the promotion of female participation at the highest levels of the legal profession. She entered into an entirely male-dominated profession. She was only the second-ever female judge in the Irish Superior Courts, the first female Supreme Court judge and the first female Chief Justice. Her role in challenging the culture of the legal profession at all levels cannot be overstated.

Public Orator Professor Anna Chahoud said: 

Her name is associated with momentous reforms, from the creation of the Court Service in support of all law-courts in the State, to its inclusion in the European Network of Councils for the Judiciary, which she contributed to establishing in the early years of the new millennium. Clarity, calm, and diplomacy were the hallmarks of her style and authority in court, just as they are permanent traits of her strongly principled character.


Adrian Hill (Doctor in Science)

Professor Hill is Director of the Jenner Institute and Professor of Vaccinology at Oxford University, and Professor of Human Genetics at the university’s Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics. He is also Co-leader of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine group. He is a Foundation Scholar and graduate of Trinity College Dublin and was made an Honorary Fellow in 2008. In 2021 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society and appointed an Honorary Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire (KBE) in Queen Elizabeth’s 2021 Birthday Honours. Professor Hill’s group has been one of the leaders in the development of adenoviral and other vaccines against infectious diseases such as malaria and Ebola, and has tested them in clinical trials in Africa and Europe. In conjunction with the Serum Institute of India and AstraZeneca his group has developed a ChAdOx1 vector-based SARS-CoV-2 vaccine which has been the basis for large-scale vaccination programmes against COVID-19 in low-and middle-income countries. Finally, it is notable that despite his remarkably busy schedule, Professor Hill has always shown extraordinary support for Irish students, graduates and researchers.

The Public Orator reflected on Professor Hill’s leading role in the COVID-19 pandemic, and on the moment when he:

announced the breaking news: a new vaccine, which typically takes ten to fifteen years to be developed and tested, was shortly to become available … We are proud to honour a scientist who, by his own admission, ‘fantasises about saving the world’.


David McGrath (Doctor in Science)

Dr McGrath is a General Practitioner and former president of the Irish Student Health Association. Prior to joining Trinity, Dr McGrath was head of department at the University of Edinburgh Student Health Service. In this role he was instrumental in expanding the premises and outreach of the Practice into the Community and was the essential link between the Practice, the University and Lothian Health Board. At that time, he played an important public health role in co-ordinating management of disease outbreaks and developed a strategic plan for the university’s response should an avian flu outbreak occur. As Director of the College Health Service in Trinity, his most notable achievement prior to the Covid-19 pandemic has been in spearheading the move to a tobacco-free campus. His commitment to the health and wellbeing of the entire Trinity community has had a particular spotlight shone upon it during the Covid-19 pandemic. His tireless and incredible efforts in supporting the most vulnerable students and staff in our community, and limitless dedication in ensuring College remained a safe environment for staff and students are particularly noteworthy. He was instrumental in having the College Health Service designated as a HSE testing site for diagnostic PCR testing for symptomatic individuals, and spearheaded a programme for on-campus vaccination, the only university in Ireland to provide these two services in-house. His leadership and strategic planning skills have positioned Trinity to be as safe as practicable during the past two years. His tireless commitment to Trinity, and his endeavours to ensure staff and students alike are protected and given the best possible health care and advice, are simply exceptional.

Our medical man, my friends, is determined, clear-thinking, always reassuring. He has worked tirelessly to make sure that our College would be a safe place at the most dangerous of times,

said the Public Orator.

Our distinguished colleagues describe him as “the beating pulse in the Trinity community,” as “a constant pillar of sound information and common sense.” To all of us this exceptional physician is simply ‘Dr David’.



Media Contact:

Catherine O’Mahony, Media Relations Officer | omahonc7@tcd.ie |