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Honorary Degrees 2017-18

On Friday 22 June 2018 at 3pm, honorary degrees of the University of Dublin were conferred on Hillary Rodham Clinton, Paul Drechsler, Ann Martha Rowan, Tony Scott and James Harris Simons at a Commencements Ceremony in the Public Theatre (Orations PDF)

Hillary Rodham Clinton (LL.D.)

Hillary Rodham Clinton has devoted much of her life to public service and has made an enormous contribution to society; from receiving a Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree from Yale in 1973 to completing a three-year term as the 67th Secretary of State of the United States in January 2013. During her tenure she advocated for an expanded role in global economic issues and for developing relations with non-governmental organizations to act as local advocates for development. She highlighted women's rights as a way to promote peace, vibrant civil society, and long lasting change. Secretary Clinton is a long-time supporter of the Peace Process in Northern Ireland, initially while First Lady of the US, supporting pro-peace women's groups and continuing through to the present day. She has received many prestigious awards for her contributions to society, including the Secretary of Defense Medal for Outstanding Public Service, the President's Award of the League of United Latin American Citizens, Role Model of the Year by the United Steel Workers of America; and the Martin Luther King Jr Award.

Paul Drechsler (LL.D.)

Paul Drechsler has built a remarkably successful career in Industry and has shown outstanding commitment to promoting business as a force for good in society especially by supporting education. He was Board Member of ICI PLC before becoming Chief Executive of one of the UK’s largest construction firms, Wates Group, and honoured with a CBE for services to industry and is now Chairman of Bibby Line Group. In 2015 he was appointed President of the Confederation of British Industry.  A Trinity Graduate in Engineering, he has used his immense problem-solving and leadership skills to contribute to society to help combat poverty, specifically through promotion of education. He is Chairman of the Board of the charity Teach First which addresses educational disadvantage. He is a tireless supporter of Trinity through his own efforts and the influence of others. In 2005 he joined the Business School Advisory Board and was Chair of the Business School Development Steering Group.

Ann Martha Rowan (M.Litt.)

Ann Martha Rowan served as Archivist in the Irish Architectural Archive for more than 30 years. During this time she single-handedly initiated and completed the Dictionary of Irish Architects ( (2009), which was an enormous accomplishment and produced “one of the most valuable pieces of research.... in Irish Archival history”, to quote her nominators. The dictionary, which is openly available on-line, contains 6,700 entries for the period 1720-1940, each containing a biography of the architect, a list of his/her buildings (covering 49,000 buildings on the island of Ireland) and a bibliography. It has been described as “transformative“ to the history of Irish architecture and has been universally praised for comprehensiveness and impeccable academic standards. This pioneering project is a great success story for the Digital Humanities.

Tony Scott (D.Ed.)

Tony Scott has made enormous contributions to science education in Ireland and internationally. He co-founded the Young Scientist exhibition in 1963 and has been actively involved in its organisation for more than 50 years. It became an example for similar competitions in other countries and in 1989 the European Union Contest for Young Scientists was established, with winners of the Irish competition taking a top prize on 14 occasions. Throughout an academic career in Physics at UCD he was known as an inspirational teacher and his research led to the development of the smoke alarm. He served as Dean of Science, the first Director of Public Affairs and on the Governing Authority of UCD. While President of the Royal Dublin Society he was involved in reviving the Boyle medal: Ireland’s most prestigious scientific award. He has had a profound effect on science education and public awareness of science, giving generations of young students the opportunity to become engaged in, and develop a passion for, science.

James Harris Simons (Sc.D.)

Dr Jim Simons is a renowned mathematician, entrepreneur and philanthropist who has embodied scientific excellence throughout his extraordinary career. As a mathematician his work had profound influence on the development of modern theoretical physics providing a framework for the combination of geometry and topology with quantum field theory where the “Chern-Simons Action” is central. In 1982 he founded Renaissance Technologies, a private hedge fund investment company based in New York, which by 2015 had $65 billion worth of assets under management. His philanthropic activities are outstanding. In 1994, with his wife, Marilyn, he established the Simons Foundation, whose mission is to support basic scientific research.  The Simons Foundation has since provided substantial funding to scientists and institutions in the U.S. and abroad, supporting diverse areas such as mathematics, physics, ocean science, brain science and the science of autism. In 2017, the foundation launched an internal research division, the Flatiron Institute, dedicated to the advancement of multiple areas of science through computational methods. Dr Simons is proposed for his numerous contributions to mathematics and philanthropy, for serving society at large by promoting science as a driver of development, for responsible financial management and truly international philanthropic activities.


Related Events:

1. To celebrate Hillary Rodham Clinton's award of an honorary doctorate, Trinity hosted a public lecture and conversation with the Chancellor.

Date: Friday 22 June 2018
Time: 12pm
Venue: Edmund Burke Theatre, Arts Building

2. To celebrate Ann Martha Rowan’s award of an honorary Masters, the Discipline of History of Art and Architecture will organise an event with students, to be arranged at a time convenient to Ms Rowan in the next academic year.

3. Dr James Harris Simons visited Trinity Campus on the morning of June 22nd and met informally with several academic colleagues to discuss their current research.

4. Paul Drechsler gave a talk at the Institute of International and European Affairs (IIEA)- entitled Business continuity during political uncertainty on June 21st. He also spoke at a Trinity meeting with leading senior executives of Irish Companies on June 20th and he addressed the Trinity Graduates at an alumni event in London on June 26th. 



On Friday 8 December 2017 at 3 pm, honorary degrees of the University of Dublin were conferred on Catriona Crowe, Gero Miesenböck, George Kildare Miley, Brian O'Driscoll and Olivia O'Leary at a Commencements Ceremony in the Public Theatre (Orations PDF)


Catriona Crowe

Catriona Crowe (Litt.D.)

Catriona Crowe was Senior Archivist of the National Archives of Ireland until her retirement last year, and has made outstanding contributions to learning, most recently through her initiation and management of the 1911 online census project. Historians of twentieth century Ireland, both in Ireland and abroad, recognise Ms Crowe as the pre-eminent authority on the state’s modern records.  Ms Crowe has also been heavily involved in community development activities in the north inner city. She has been a research associate of the Trinity Research Centre for Contemporary Irish History since 2004 and has also provided invaluable advice on the acquisition and care of very important collections of papers donated to College since 2001.

Gero Miesenboeck

Gero Miesenböck  (Sc.D.)

Gero Miesenböck  is Waynflete Professor of Physiology and Director of the Centre for Neural Circuits and Behaviour at the University of Oxford. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society and a Member of the Austrian and German Academies of Science. Gero pioneered the field of research called optogenetics, which allows the function of specific neurons in the intact brain to be remote-controlled with light. He has used optogenetics to investigate mechanisms of sleep, learning and memory, and action choice. Potential clinical applications notwithstanding, optogenetics has revolutionised brain research by providing a long-sought tool to link neural activity causally to cognition and behaviour. These profound contributions to neuroscience have been recognised by numerous awards including the Massry Prize, the BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Award, the Heinrich Wieland Prize, and The Brain Prize.

Gero Miesenboeck

George Kildare Miley (Sc.D.)

George Miley is Emeritus Professor of Astronomy at Leiden University. His research area is distant radio galaxies. He has (co-)authored more than 350 refereed research papers and was involved in several fundamental discoveries. His distinctions include the Shell Oeuvre Prize, a professorship of the Netherlands Royal Academy of Arts and Sciences, an honorary fellowship of the UK Royal Astronomical Society and an asteroid named after him. In 2012 he received a Dutch knighthood for his services to astronomy and society. Miley has championed the use of astronomy as a unique tool for education and development, in particular for very young children and to stimulate international development. In 1997 he initiated the Low Frequency Array (LOFAR), a revolutionary radio telescope, with stations spread over Europe, supporting the development of an all Ireland facility (i-LOFAR) at Birr Castle. Professor Miley was born and educated in Dublin, at Gonzaga College and UCD, and although he has spent most of his working life in The Netherlands, he retains an interest in the development of Irish astronomy and education and has offered practical support to Irish initiatives.

Brian O'Driscoll

Brian O’Driscoll (LL.D.)

Brian O’Driscoll is the most capped Irish rugby player and the second most capped in rugby union history, having played 141 test matches, 133 for Ireland (83 as captain) and 8 for the British and Irish Lions. He scored 46 tries for Ireland, making him the highest try scorer of all time in Irish rugby. He is the 8th highest try scorer in international rugby union history, and the highest scoring centre of all time. O'Driscoll holds the Six Nations record for most tries scored with 26. He has scored the most Heineken Cup tries (30) for an Irishman. He was chosen as Player of the Tournament in the 2006, 2007 and 2009 Six Nations Championships. He holds a Grand Slam title, four Triple Crowns, three Heineken Cups and four Pro-12 Championships. He has been a patron of many charities and in particular has been an ambassador and fundraiser for Temple Street Children’s Hospital. For example gala dinners in London and Dublin (2013) raised substantial funds for ISPCC, the Irish Rugby Union’s Charitable Trust and Temple Street Children’s Hospital.

Olivia O'Leary

Olivia O'Leary (LL.D.)

For more than four decades, Olivia O’Leary has been recognised as one of Ireland’s foremost journalists and broadcasters. Moving from RTE to BBC’s Newsnight was a key moment in her career and she became that programme’s first senior female presenter in 1985. She returned to RTE to host flagship programmes Today Tonight, Prime Time and Question and Answers, winning awards for these and BBC Radio 4’s Between Ourselves. Also writing for the Irish Times, Olivia O’Leary became established as one of the most formidable reporters in political journalism when the domain was almost exclusively male. She is known for her sharp intellect and literary prowess, and earned an early reputation for tenacity and focus as an interviewer. Importantly, her work has contributed to social cohesion and consciousness: reporting from Northern Ireland in the 1970s, she addressed the complexities of the social and political situation and her current Drivetime column always gives food for thought. She seems to sum-up the feelings of the nation, as she did in her address to Queen Elizabeth II in 2011.

Related Events

To celebrate Professor Gero Miesenböck’s award of an Honorary Doctorate, the School of Genetics and Microbiology hosted the following lecture:

Date:     Friday 8 December 2017
Time:     11.00am
Title:      Optogenetics
Venue:  The Atrium, Smurfit Institute of Genetics
All welcome

To celebrate Mr Brian O’Driscoll’s award of an Honorary Doctorate, the Department of Sport hosted an informal Q&A session with student Sports Clubs on Friday 8 December – by invitation.

To celebrate Ms Olivia O’Leary’s award of an Honorary Doctorate, Ms O’Leary will participate in a public discussion in the new year – date and venue to be confirmed.


Last updated 13 December 2019 by