Launch of Campaign 'Inspiring Generations' NYC

The Morgan Library, New York City

14 June 2019

Good afternoon and welcome, all, to the New York launch of ‘Inspiring Generations’

This is the first comprehensive philanthropic campaign in Trinity’s history; it’s the largest such campaign ever held on the island of Ireland; it has been years in the planning – we’re very excited about it and delighted that you’re here with us this afternoon.

This is our third launch outside Dublin, following London and Paris. Over the next few months, we’ll also be bringing the message to San Francisco, Singapore, Hong Kong, and Sydney.

This campaign builds on the magnificent run of recent achievements for Trinity:

  • from acceptance into the elite League of European Research Universities,
  • to the launch of plans for our landmark Engineering, Environment and Emerging Technologies Institute, E3
  • and the opening just last month of the inspiring new building for the Trinity Business School which will further our reputation as a leading global destination for business education and research.

These achievements show what Trinity can achieve when the whole community – staff, students, and alumni - work together. This Philanthropic Campaign, unique in its scale and reach, has benefitted from the tremendous involvement of so many people.

Our goals with this campaign are ambitious but achievable: we’ve set out to raise 400 million euro to support our mission in education and research, and we want to inspire 150 thousand hours of volunteering from the Trinity community around the world.

The naming of this campaign - ‘Inspiring Generations’ – reaches back to our great past, and looks forward to a remarkable future.

Trinity owes its very start to the grant of lands from Dublin Corporation in 1592. This donation initiated a cycle of giving - of bequests, grants of land, trust funds and endowments – which got our university up and running. This ‘giving’ ranges from the Erasmus Smith Trust that established chairs in Hebrew, history and physics in the 18th century; to the campaign to build the Berkeley Library in the 20th century, to the bequest from Atlantic Philanthropies to establish the Global Brain Health Institute in the 21st century.

In 2013 we created the ‘Benefactors’ Roll of Honour’ to acknowledge how much Trinity’s greatness has depended on donations through the ages.

This ‘giving’ extends beyond the financial – it also involves giving time and expertise. Across the centuries, graduates and friends have remained involved with the life of the college and its students. They’ve inspired generations through mentoring, coaching, fund-raising, serving on committees of clubs and societies, and establishing alumni associations in cities and regions around the world. That’s why we’ve set the target of 150 thousand hours of volunteering – we want to build on the extraordinary enthusiasm that people feel in being part of the great story of Trinity College Dublin.

And, of course, when we talk about inspiration, we’re talking about the achievements of staff and graduates.

Take Samuel Beckett, who graduated from Trinity in 1927 and was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1969.  Beckett made his home in France, where he was honoured by the French Republic for his part in the Résistance to the Nazi occupation during World War Two.

But he maintained a lifelong relationship with Trinity.  In the 1960s he donated proceeds from the performance of his play ‘Krapp’s Last Tape’ here in New York City, to the fund that built the Berkeley Library.  And in 1969, he donated important documents to the college, thus ensuring that Trinity Library is today a global centre for Beckett scholarship.

We chose Beckett and a young present-day student, who has written her dissertation on his work, to encapsulate the theme of ‘Inspiring Generations’ in a specially-commissioned artwork that you’ll see more of in a moment.

Or take another Nobel Prize winner, Bill Campbell. As a Trinity undergraduate in the 1950s, he was inspired by his lecturer, Desmond Smyth, to start research into parasitic worms. Two decades later, this interest led to the discovery of a cure for river blindness – every year, 25 million people are treated with the drug he invented and that he was instrumental in persuading Merck to distribute free of charge. We’ve now established a William C. Campbell Lectureship in Parasite Biology – so that more students can be inspired.

Or think of former President of Ireland and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson. What an inspirational role model she has been - as Trinity student, professor, senator and Chancellor. To each of these roles, she’s brought her passion for justice and social reform. There’s a clear connection between her early student advocacy of human rights in the 1960s, and her current advocacy of climate justice, which has helped inspire our students in their campaigns to divest from fossil fuels and end single-use plastics on campus.

We’re building this Campaign on the remarkable legacy of graduates like Samuel Beckett, Bill Campbell, and Mary Robinson. We want future generations to be inspired, as they were.

*        *        *

In Trinity we pride ourselves on offering opportunity to talent. This is a place where people of extraordinary ability can maximise their potential and make extraordinary contributions to the world.

Last year we secured over 100 Euro million in research funding. We’re among the most successful universities in Europe in terms of winning competitive research grants. Our staff perform exceptionally.

And this current academic year, we’ve been named the 10th best university in the world for Climate Action and the best university in Europe for educating entrepreneurs.

Our campus is a place of excellence and achievement, discovery and creativity. With this Campaign, we’re inviting graduates and friends to be part of our story and to support this university of proven success.

The flagship projects of the Campaign have been carefully chosen where Trinity can create excellence and impact. These transformational projects, two of which you’ll hear more about in a moment, include:

  • One, Putting Ireland at the forefront of research and technological innovation for generations to come with our new E3 Institute, and with the creation of Dublin’s Grand Canal Innovation District;
  • Two, Ensuring that the Old Library and its extraordinary collections continue to exist for future generations;
  • Three, Developing Ireland’s first comprehensive cancer care centre, the Trinity St James’ Cancer Institute;
  • Four, Building a Law School to rival the best in the world.

These initiatives will be underpinned by a ‘New Generations’ programme to bring the best talent to Trinity from Ireland and the world. Academic faculty and researchers are the lifeblood of the University and a fundamental aim of ‘Inspiring Generations’ is to fund new Professorships and tenure-track academic posts across the University.

Simultaneously we’ll create more pathways to bring talented students to college, from backgrounds not traditionally represented at third-level. The success of the Trinity Access Programme over 26 years has changed the lives of thousands of students and has made us a recognised world leader in educational access.

An investment in Trinity is an investment in Ireland’s future, in our young people, and in global research.

The generosity of alumni and friends inspires us time and again. We know that people want to help for many different reasons, whether from:

  • deep attachment to their alma mater;
  • Or wanting to support Ireland’s economic, social and cultural growth;
  • Or belief in the importance of higher education in promoting humanistic and progressive values;
  • Or from commitment to finding solutions to global challenges and scaling up interdisciplinary research;
  • Or, very likely, a combination of all these reasons.

*        *        *

I want to take this opportunity to thank all of you, here in this room, who are already supporters of Trinity, some of you for many years.

The strength and enthusiasm of Trinity alumni and supporters has encouraged us to publicly launch Inspiring Generations with campaigns around the world.

Trinity students and graduates have been coming to the United States for many years – some for hardworking, enjoyable summers on the famous J1 visa, and some to make their lives here after graduation. It’s not surprising that the community of Trinity alumni and friends in New York is so important in our global network.

I was delighted last year to strengthen Trinity’s formal relationship with New York City and the United States through the launch of our strategic partnership with Columbia University. This offers students a wonderful opportunity to take a four-year Dual BA in the Arts and Humanities, where they spend two years consecutively in Trinity and Columbia and graduate with a degree from both universities. We’re close to agreeing a joint programme also several other subjects.

Last September, we welcomed the first group of students to Trinity. There were over 150 applicants for 39 places and we’re already planning with Columbia to expand the range of courses on offer in the programme.

*        *        *

With Inspiring Generations we’re inviting our community of alumni and supporters to join us in making our ambitious vision a reality, so that Trinity can inspire future generations to make a positive impact on the world.

Trinity succeeds because it has always reached out – it reaches out across the island of Ireland, and to the outside world; it reaches out to the frontiers of research in arts, humanities, science and health sciences; it reaches out to expand educational access and extend public engagement; it reaches back to a great past in order to build a great future.

With this Campaign we’re reaching out to all those around the world who want to make a difference, and who have confidence in Trinity’s power to make that difference.


When many people act together, inspired by similar aims, great things can happen. I believe that we should all seek to make a difference, while we still can. Samuel Beckett said this most movingly, particularly since he wasn’t a man for facile optimism. He said:

“Let us do something, while we have the chance! It is not every day that we are needed.”

Thank you.

*        *        *