Leading Physicist Peter Higgs and Author Lia Mills Awarded Honorary Degrees

Posted on: 24 June 2016

Nobel Prize winner and world leading physicist, Professor Peter Higgs who discovered Higgs Boson,  along with renowned authors, JP Donleavy, Lia  Mills, and human rights activist, Hina Jilani  were conferred  with honorary doctorates at Trinity College Dublin today.  Trinity’s most senior student, the 97-year old Joe Veselsky was also awarded an Honorary Master of Arts Degree.


World renowned Physicist and Nobel Prize winner, Professor Peter Higgs was conferred with a Doctor in Science (Sc.D). Professor Higgs was jointly awarded a Nobel Prize in Physics with the Belgian scientist Francois Englert for their theory about the existence of a fundamental particle of the universe that confers mass on to matter. Scientists using the Large Hadron Collider at Cern in 2012, confirmed that they had found a particle that matched this theory. It marked the culmination of 49 years of work since Professor Higgs first described the new type of particle while working at Edinburgh University. Over the years Professor Higgs has maintained strong links with Ireland. He is also a supporter of basic research.

In her oration, Public Orator, Professor Anna Chahoud said: “This theoretical physicist has unlocked the secret behind the interaction of forces in the universe; he has lent his name to the invisible field of energy through which subatomic elements move and acquire mass; he predicted a reality that experiment would eventually prove, at the Large Hadron Collider in Geneva in July 2012. ‘I invented a nice model’, he says of his phenomenal theory.”

Renowned, American born author, playwright and poet JP Donleavy was conferred with a Doctor in Letters (Litt.D).  Born in Brooklyn, he came from New York to Trinity to study science and has lived mostly in Ireland ever since. He was part of the group of young Irish writers who in late-1940’s Dublin came to form what would later be regarded as the vanguard of modern Irish literature. He developed a wide canon of work, including ‘A Fairy Tale of New York’ and more latterly, he scripted and starred in a televisual paean to his Ireland, ‘In All Her Sins and Graces’. But it is his novel ‘The Ginger Man’, drawn loosely on his experiences at Trinity, for which he will best be remembered. In 1955 this seminal work caused such a furore that it was banned outright in both the US and Ireland. ‘The Ginger Man’ is universally acknowledged as being in the top 100 Novels of the 20th century by the Modern Library. It is also a multi-million selling book and cult classic. 

Novelist and short story writer, Lia Mills, who recently published the acclaimed  novel ‘Fallen’, was conferred with a Doctor in Laws (LL.D).   In 2006   the author was diagnosed with advanced squamous cell carcinoma in her cheek and gums.  Afterwards she published a memoir of the experience, ‘In Your Face’ and went on to co-found the Mouth, Head & Neck Cancer Awareness Ireland (MHNCAI) Group, a  public awareness  campaign on mouth cancer. It includes the Dublin and Cork dental schools, the Irish Cancer Society, the Dental Health Foundation, the Irish Dental Association, and cancer survivors. Trinity is leading the campaign nationally and worldwide. With Trinity’s Dr Denise MacCarthy, she co-edited ‘Word of Mouth: Coping With and Surviving Mouth, Head and Neck Cancers’, a collection of stories and articles written by patients and professionals involved in their care.  Her most recent book, ‘Fallen’, a novel set during the 1916 Rising, was selected as Dublin’s One City One Book choice for 2016 and, for the first time, Dublin teamed up with Belfast for a Two Cities One Book Festival. 

The renowned Pakistani lawyer and social activist, Hina Jilani was conferred with a Doctor in Laws  (LL.D). An Advocate of the Supreme Court of Pakistan since 1992, Hina Jilani has dedicated her life to fighting for human rights and democracy in Pakistan and around the world. In 1980 she founded the Women’s Action Forum to campaign for women’s rights and challenge Pakistan’s discriminatory laws. She was one of the founders of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan and has conducted many landmark cases. In 2000 she became the first Special Representative of the UN Secretary General on Human Rights Defenders.  She was also appointed to  the International Commission of Jurists.

At 97, Joe Veselsky is Trinity’s oldest student   and was awarded an honorary Master of Arts degree. He has taken extra-mural courses in the School of Histories and Humanities every year since 2010. He is an inspiring example of lifelong learning. His parents and elder brother were killed in Auschwitz. Having joined the Resistance, he was later decorated with the Order of the Slovak National Uprising. Post-war his passion was table tennis in which he ranked 7th nationally and captained the Czechoslovak team. With his wife, Katarina, he escaped the Prague coup of 1948 and came to Ireland  where he established his own jewellery business. He made an abiding contribution to Irish life through sport: as captain of the Irish table tennis team for over twenty years. He was made a Commander of the Slovak Order of the White Double Cross for outstanding achievement in sport and for his contribution to the development and maintenance of diplomatic relations between Slovakia and Ireland.

“His is an incredible story of courage and perseverance. As a young man he witnessed the German invasion of his country and joined the Czech Underground Movement in the Carpathian Mountains. He battled through the horrors of the Second World War and suffered the tragic loss of his parents and brother at Auschwitz; his brave opposition to the German Army earned him the Slovak National Uprising Medal. In the aftermath of the Czech coup d’état of 1948, he sought a new home and found it in Ireland.”





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