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John Saunders, Jean Saunders and Prof Daire Keogh
(L-R) John Saunders, Jean Saunders and Prof Daire Keogh, President of Dublin City University Photo: Julien Behal

John Saunders receives honorary doctorate from DCU

Today (Thursday October 26) Dublin City University conferred the award of Doctor of Philosophy (Honoris Causa) on John Saunders, President and CEO of FleishmanHillard

Mr. Saunders joins noted figures from politics, sport, literature and industry in receiving this award from DCU, including David Trimble and Seamus Mallon, Willie Walsh, President Mary McAleese, Micheál Ó Muircheartaigh, Dómhnal Slattery, Former Chief Justice Susan Denham and most recently, Terence O’Rourke.

About John Saunders

John Saunders is President and Chief Executive Officer of FleishmanHillard, a leading global public relations agency. Mr. Saunders was appointed to the role in November 2015. He had previously held the role of regional president for Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA).

Before assuming his regional leadership positions, he was managing director of FleishmanHillard Saunders. He founded the business in 1990 and grew it into Ireland’s largest public relations consultancy and one of FleishmanHillard’s most successful international offices. 

Prior to his public relations career, Mr. Saunders was a staff journalist with RTÉ.

A native of Dublin, he and his wife Jean have three children: Colin, Caroline and Hannah, and four grandchildren, Matilda, Maisie, Maya and Lucy. He currently lives in St. Louis, Missouri.


Prof Daire Keogh, Jean Saunders, John Saunders, Colin Saunders, Brid Horan
(L-R) Prof Daire Keogh, President of Dublin City University, Jean Saunders, John Saunders, Colin Saunders and Brid Horan, Chancellor of Dublin City University Photo: Julien Behal

In a In a citation delivered at the event, Martin Molony from the School of Communications, said:

“John’s unfolding story on Dublin’s northside mirrored that of another: DCU’s story started as NIHE Dublin in the 1980s. Like John, NIHE was unconventional; like John, NIHE was innovative; like John, DCU has become a global leader - ranking No. 1 for Communications and Media Studies in Ireland and in the Top 200 of almost 4,500 universities worldwide.

While John has developed his career without the benefit of a university education, he attributes much of his success to having a set of “soft skills”, such as communication, leadership, and strategic thinking, and he regularly shares these insights with students at DCU.

John Saunders has achieved international success and the respect of his peers in the field of communications. He is an inspiration to our students to use their personal attributes for their own success and for the benefit of others. John has used his leadership of FleishmanHillard to put diversity and equality at the forefront of their business and galvanised their clients to do the same.”


Jean Saunders and John Saunders
Jean Saunders and John Saunders Photo: Julien Behal

In his remarks John Saunders said:

"The best communicators are outstanding listeners. We all love to be listened to but few of us want to listen."

 He also advised those graduating that rejection is different from failure. "Embrace rejection", he suggested adding " no one in this room has lost more times than I have". Rejection he said should be "your signal to find another route to success in both your personal and professional life.”

Prof Daire Keogh, President of Dublin City University, said

“John Saunders is a true pioneer of the Irish communications sector whose talents, hard work and leadership have brought him to the forefront of a global industry.

John’s leadership is distinguished by his strong commitment to Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, which are core values of our University. As someone with an instinctive understanding of the importance of ‘transversal skills’, John is a role model for our students. He exemplifies the importance of these adaptable personal attributes, which are vital for our graduates' success in a rapidly-changing world.”


John Saunders, Prof Daire Keogh and Brid Horan
(L-R) John Saunders, Prof Daire Keogh and Brid Horan Photo: Julien Behal