This week Professors Jane Grimson and David McConnell were inaugurated as new Pro-Chancellors at Trinity College Dublin at a special ceremony at the Provost’s House.
Appointment to the office of Chancellor or Pro-Chancellor is considered to be the highest accolade the University can bestow. In practice the office is reserved for the most distinguished graduates and academic members of staff who have made exceptional contributions to the College over the course of their career, or for illustrious members of the external community notable for their special contribution to society. Pro-Chancellors have all the powers and privileges of the Chancellor when acting in place of the Chancellor, such as when awarding degrees of the University of Dublin, but they also hold office in their own right.
Professor Jane Grimson
Professor Grimson is a graduate in Engineering from Trinity, followed by an MSc and PhD in Computer Science from the Universities of Toronto and Edinburgh, respectively. She returned to Trinity College in 1980 to take up a post as Lecturer in Computer Science. She was elected to Fellowship in 1991 and appointed to a personal chair in Health Informatics in 2003. She was awarded the O’Moore Medal in 2007 for contribution to the field of health informatics in Ireland. She is a former Dean of Engineering and Systems Sciences, Pro-Dean of Research, and Vice Provost. From 2006 until her retirement in 2014, she was partially seconded to the newly established Health Information and Quality Authority, initially as Director of Health Information and subsequently as Acting Chief Executive.
Professor Grimson is a chartered engineer, member of the Royal Irish Academy and Fellow of the Irish Academy of Engineering, and the Royal Academy of Engineering. She is a past President of Engineers Ireland (formerly the Institution of Engineers of Ireland), the Irish Computer Society, Irish Computer Society and the Healthcare Informatics Society of Ireland. She was a member of the Board of Science Foundation Ireland and chaired the Irish Council for Science, Engineering and Technology and is currently a trustee of the Mary Robinson Foundation – Climate Justice – and a board member of the Health Research Board.
She has published widely in the field of database systems and health informatics and has a particular interest in promoting the recruitment, retention and promotion of women in engineering and in research generally. She currently chairs the Gender Equality Task Force at the NUI Galway.
Professor David McConnell
Professor David McConnell entered Trinity College, graduating with a First and Gold Medal in Genetics in 1966. He received his PhD in Biochemistry from the California Institute of Technology in 1971. Appointed as a Lecturer in Genetics in Trinity in 1970 he continued his attempt to isolate and analyse a regulatory gene called a promoter, using the just discovered genetic “scissors” called restriction enzymes. He obtained an Eleanor Roosevelt Fellowship from the IUAC to travel to Harvard University in 1976-77 to apply Walter Gilbert’s revolutionary method of DNA sequencing to a promoter.
On his return he led the development of genetic engineering and biotechnology in Ireland, publishing widely on molecular genetics. He succeeded George Dawson as Head of Genetics in 1987 and was appointed Professor of Genetics in 1990. Teaching and research in genetics was expanding rapidly and was stimulated by the endowment of the Smurfit Chair of Medical Genetics (1989) and the building of the Smurfit Institute of Genetics (1998).
He was elected a Fellow in 1978 becoming a Senior Fellow in 2007, Chair of Fellows (2009-14) and Fellow Emeritus in 2014. He became a member of the European Molecular Biology Organisation in 1976 and of the Royal Irish Academy in 1984. He held office as Vice-Provost for the Quatercentenary (1991-92), Registrar (1997-99) and Vice-Provost (1999-2001).
Professor McConnell advised the IDA on promoting biotechnology in Ireland and consulted with the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation on the introduction of biotechnology to developing countries. He advised on the establishment of Science Foundation Ireland (2000), and was a member of the European Research Council (ERC) Group which reported (2003) on the importance of a Europe-wide competitive research programme focused on excellence. The ERC was founded in 2007.
Professor McConnell was Chairman of the Adelaide Hospital, President of the Zoological Society of Ireland, Chairman of Fota Wildlife Park and Chairman of the Irish Times Trust. He is an Honorary Life Member of the Royal Dublin Society (2009) and Honorary President of the Humanist Association of Ireland (2009). He is also President of the College Historical Society (2003) of which he was Auditor (1964-65).