Launch of Campaign 'Inspiring Generations'

The Exploratorium Pier 15, The Embarcadero, San Francisco

26th June 2019

Good afternoon and welcome to the San Francisco launch of ‘Inspiring Generations’.

This is the first comprehensive philanthropic campaign in Trinity’s history and the largest such campaign ever to be launched in Ireland. It’s been years in the preparation, and we’re very excited about it.

This is our fourth launch outside Dublin, following London, Paris and New York. We’ll also be bringing the message to Singapore, Hong Kong, and Sydney.

Trinity has so many connections in the San Francisco area, through our work on innovation and entrepreneurship and through the Global Brain Health Initiative, or GBHI, our collaboration with UCSF, generously funded by The Atlantic Philanthropies. 

You’ll hear more about GBHI in a moment and I’m pleased to welcome tonight Dr Bruce Millar from the GBHI team in San Francisco.

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The ‘Inspiring Generations’ philanthropic campaign builds on a 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 make Trinity’s reputation as a leading global destination for business education and research.

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

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.

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Our university owes its very start to philanthropy:  the grant of lands from Dublin Corporation in 1592. This initiated a cycle of giving - of bequests, grants of land, trust funds and endowments – which put our university on the road to great things - from the Erasmus Smith Trust that established chairs in history and physics in the 18th century; to the Atlantic Philanthropies endowments in the 21st century.

This ‘giving’ extends beyond the financial – it also involves giving time and expertise. Throughout Trinity’s history, graduates and friends have remained involved with the college. They’ve inspired generations through mentoring, coaching, fund-raising, serving on committees of clubs and societies, and establishing alumni associations 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 but maintained a lifelong relationship with Trinity.  In the 1960s he donated proceeds from the New York performance of his play ‘Krapp’s Last Tape’ to the fund that built the Berkeley Library. 

We chose Beckett and a young present-day student Leah Kenny, who has written her thesis on Beckett, 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 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. Her current advocacy of climate justice 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.

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

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 – these are where Trinity can create excellence and impact. These transformational projects 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; and
  • 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. 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.

An investment in Trinity is an investment in Ireland’s future, in our young people, and in the research that helps solve global challenges.

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I want to thank all of you for coming here this evening.  The community of Trinity alumni and friends in the U.S. is so important in our global network. 

In particular, Trinity has many alumni in the West Coast, which is partly a testament to the abilities of our Computer Science and Engineering graduates.  It was thanks to the foresight of one man, Professor John Byrne, known as ‘the father of computing in Ireland’ – Prof Byrne set up Ireland’s first Computer Science department as early as 1969. He taught many people in this room, including me.  Since then, generations of our graduates have come to the West Coast, many of them to make successful careers in IT.

And let me mention two of our California-based alumni who are particular supporters and valued advisers of Trinity: Paul Johnson, Chairman of Exponent Inc., who has been one of the driving forces behind E3; he helped mould the E3 vision from the start, and his backing was critically important in enabling us to leverage State funding. And Stuart Coulson, one of the early internet pioneers, who has supported us in developing innovation and entrepreneurship across Trinity – you’ll hear from Stuart in a moment. 

The strength and enthusiasm of Trinity alumni, and supporters like Paul and Stuart, has encouraged us to launch Inspiring Generations globally, with campaigns around the world.

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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; 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.

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.


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