Honorary Conferring Ceremonies

The Doctor of Philosophy (honoris causa) is the highest award that Dublin City University can bestow. The award not only recognises outstanding achievements, it also serves as an inspiration for our younger citizens, including our students, who aspire to excellence.

DCU honorary graduates include Nobel Prize winners ETS Walton, Mother Teresa, John Hume, Muhammad Yunus and Seamus Heaney. A complete list of DCU's honorary graduates is available here. 

Below you will find details of our recent honourees.

John Saunders

On Thursday October 26 2023, Dublin City University conferred the award of Doctor of Philosophy (Honoris Causa) on John Saunders, President and CEO of FleishmanHillard, the leading global public relations agency. 

Prof Daire Keogh, Jean Saunders, John Saunders, Colin Saunders, Brid Horan

DCU President Prof Daire Keogh, Jean Saunders, John Saunders, Colin Saunders, DCU Chancellor Brid Horan.

In his citation, Martin Molony, DCU School of Communications, said: "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.”

Terence O'Rourke

On October 25 2023, Dublin City University conferred the award of Doctor of Philosophy (Honoris Causa) on Terence O’Rourke, chairperson of ESB and former Managing Partner of KPMG. Mr O’Rourke was a member of the DCU Governing Authority for eight years up to 2021.


Prof Daire Keogh, Terence O'Rourke and Prof Anne Sinnott

Prof Daire Keogh, Terence O'Rourke and Prof Anne Sinnott

In her citation, Deputy President of DCU, Prof Anne Sinnott, said: “Throughout his career, Terence has demonstrated a commitment to public service. His voluntary contributions to the arts, education and other fields have had a real impact."

He is someone who believes in people, who believes in encouraging and supporting them to reach their full potential. And while he has worked at the highest levels in business and other fields he has never lost the human touch or his sense of humour."

Rosaleen Blair

On Friday September 1 2023, Dublin City University conferred the award of Doctor of Philosophy (Honoris Causa) on Rosaleen Blair CBE, entrepreneur and founder of Alexander Mann Solutions (AMS), the global talent acquisition and business solutions firm. 

Rosaleen Blair standing in front of the DCU letters

Rosaleen Blair

In her citation, Prof Maura McAdam, DCU Business School, said: “Rosaleen’s leadership, vision, and commitment to ethical business practices have had a profound impact on the business world, inspiring others to follow in her footsteps."

Her accomplishments demonstrate that success can be achieved through hard work, determination, and a commitment to making a positive impact on the world.”

Bertie Ahern and Monica McWilliams

On Thursday, March 2 2023 Dublin City University conferred the award of Doctor of Philosophy (Honoris Causa) on former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, and Professor Monica McWilliams, campaigner for peace and a signatory of the Good Friday Agreement on behalf of the Northern Ireland Women’s Coalition. The special ceremony marked the 25th anniversary of the 1998 signing of the Good Friday Agreement.


Bertie Ahern and Monica McWilliams

Bertie Ahern and Monica McWilliams receive honorary doctorates at the Helix

In her citation, Prof Yvonne Daly said: "Monica, you are a woman of great strength; a woman of courage; one who has made it easier for other women to stand up and speak out; a woman to look up to. Thank you for leading, for listening, and for building peace in Northern Ireland."

In his citation, Dr Eoin O'Malley, School of Law and Government, said: “No one can doubt the key role Bertie Ahern had in delivering a deal that has allowed a kind of normality that seemed impossible some years before.

Since his retirement from active politics Bertie Ahern has brought his skills and experience to bear on other conflicts, and many other people and places have sought to learn the lessons from Ireland.”

Kenneth Milne

On November 29th 2022, Dublin City University conferred the Doctor of Philosophy (Honoris Causa) on Kenneth Milne, historian and educationalist.

Shows Professor Daire Keogh, President of DCU, Dr Kenneth Milne, and Brid Horan, Chancellor DCU

Dr Kenneth Milne with DCU President Prof Daire Keogh and DCU Chancellor Brid Horan

In her citation, Prof Anne Lodge, Director of the Church of Ireland Centre (CIC) in the DCU Institute of Education said: “In parallel with his professional achievements, Dr Milne is well known for his decades of voluntary service for a wide range of institutions. He has made invaluable contributions both as the chair and as a member of bodies such the Council of Trinity College Dublin, the Board of Tallaght Hospital, and the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment… Dr Milne wears these lifetime achievements lightly. He is a modest, self-effacing and courteous man, always willing to serve and never expecting to be thanked or made the centre of attention.”

Sjur Bergan

On June 17th 2022, Dublin City University conferred the Doctor of Philosophy (Honoris Causa) on Sjur Bergan, outgoing Head of the Council of Europe’s Education Department.

Sjur Bergan receives honorary doctorate from DCU

Sjur Bergan with DCU President Prof Daire Keogh and DCU Chancellor Brid Horan


Delivering the citation for Sjur Bergan, Ronaldo Munck, the Director of the Centre for Engaged Research at DCU, said: “It’s hard to think of another individual who has had such a positive and meaningful impact on Higher Education in a European and, indeed, in an international context. As Head of Education at the Council of Europe over many years, his work opened new horizons for students and educators across Europe, gave refugees and asylum seekers opportunities to work and study, and reinforced the democratic and civic values of Europe’s Higher Education institutions."

Moya Brennan and Dómhnal Slattery

On Thursday May 26th 2022, Dublin City University conferred the award of Doctor of Philosophy (Honoris Causa) on Irish folk musician Moya Brennan and Avolon chief executive Dómhnal Slattery.

Delivering the citation for Moya Brennan, Dr. Síle Denvir of DCU’s Scoil na Gaeilge said: “Moya has played on the greatest stages in the world with many, many famous singers and musicians, but her generosity of spirit and grounded connection with her roots always bring her back home to the stage her father carved out for her and for her siblings in Tábhairne Leo in Mín na Leice.”

Delivering the citation for Dómhnal Slattery, Dr Cathal Guiomard, Assistant Professor in Aviation Management at DCU’s Business School, said: “He has been vocal on the need for the aviation firms like Avolon to be positive corporate citizens. He put words into action in the early days of the pandemic, when Avolon chartered three aircraft to fly millions of pieces of PPE from China to Ireland, an initiative carried out in conjunction with U2 and the aircraft leasing community in Ireland.”

Seán de Fréine

On December 1st 2022, Dublin City University conferred the award of Doctor of Philosophy (Honoris Causa) on Seán de Fréine.

Sean de Freine

Seán de Fréine with DCU President Prof Daire Keogh, and DCU Chancellor Brid Horan

Seán de Fréine is a scholar and a public servant whose work has been of fundamental importance in the cultural sphere in Ireland for six decades. He has been a foundational influence on the sociolinguistics of Irish society and on questions of language policy. Since the 1960s onwards, his published work has been central to academic and public discussion of issues of language, society and identity in Ireland.

In his citation, Professor Ciarán MacMurchaidh, Fiontar & Scoil na Gaeilge at DCU, said: “We are here this morning to honour and celebrate not only Seán de Fréine, the man, but his incredible contribution to Irish society. Service is at the heart of this contribution – as an advocate for the Irish language, a thinker and writer, a public servant and one who has consistently put the common good to the fore in all his many achievements.”

Annette Kennedy and Vivien Lusted

On May 7th 2021, Dublin City University conferred the award of Doctor of Philosophy (Honoris Causa) on Annette Kennedy, Vice President, Irish Council of Nurses, and on Vivien Lusted of the Irish Red Cross.

Delivering the citation for Annette Kennedy at this virtual ceremony, Dr. Daniela Lehwaldt, DCU School of Nursing, Psychotherapy and Community Health, said, “Annette has always been a leader, from her days as a nurse tutor, to her time as head of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation, to her current position as President of the International Council of Nurses, representing around 20 million nurses in 130 countries worldwide."


In the citation for Vivien Lusted, Dr. Denise Proudfoot, DCU School of Nursing, Psychotherapy and Community Health highlighted her exceptional work for the Irish Red Cross and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in conflict zones around the world. Dr Proudfoot said, "The delivery of effective health and nursing care in such challenging and dangerous settings underlined Vivien’s depth of determination and resourcefulness. It was her work on behalf of prisoners in Iraq that led to Vivien being awarded the prestigious Florence Nightingale medal."

This award is the highest international honour in Nursing. Vivien is just one of five Irish nurses to receive the award, since it was established over a century ago. 

Jim Gavin honorary conferring at the Helix, December 2019

Jim Gavin meets young fans at the Helix, December 2019

Jim Gavin

Record-breaking Dublin Football Manager Jim Gavin was conferred with the award Doctor of Philosophy (Honoris Causa) on December 11th 2019. The doctorate was awarded in recognition of his achievements in guiding Dublin's Senior Men's Football team to five All-Ireland victories in a row.

In his citation, DCU’s Director of Sport and Wellbeing, James Galvin, outlined Mr Gavin's many achievements, "The accomplishments of the Dublin men’s Gaelic Football senior team, while Jim Gavin has been in charge, have been truly astounding. Jim’s meticulous, detailed, forensic level of preparation has led Dublin to become the first ever men’s GAA team to win five All-Irelands in a row. But that is just one of an impressive array of achievements.”

Micheál O’Muircheartaigh and Joe Schmidt

Legendary RTÉ sports commentator and writer Micheál O’Muircheartaigh, and Ireland's most successful ever Ireland Rugby Head Coach, Joe Schmidt, were conferred with the award of Doctor of Philosophy (Honoris Causa) on April 30th 2019.

"Throughout his life, Micheál has lived life to the full. Brimming over with equal measures of energy and curiosity, Micheál has lived by the motto Why put off until tomorrow what you can do today." Micheál O'Muircheartaigh's Citation

 “Joe is a humble man who shuns the limelight... Yet, behind the quiet exterior, he is an ambitious, dedicated and driven individual with an extraordinary work ethic. His values are those that he demands of his players: humility, discipline (on and off the pitch) and relentlessness.” Joe Schmidt's Citation

Paula Meehan

One of Ireland’s foremost poets, Paula Meehan, was conferred with the award Doctor of Philosophy (Honoris Causa) on March 21st 2019. The doctorate was awarded in recognition of Paula’s extensive literary contribution, including a number of poetry collections. The Dublin-born poet’s works reflect the local lore and powerful oral traditions of the inner city community where she grew up.

"Her verse is elegantly wrought, often magically incantatory, and always accessible, but, like Seamus Heaney’s, charged with a challenging undercurrent. In it Paula Meehan gives voice to her people and her place.” Paula Meehan's Citation

H.E. Dr Amal Al Qubaisi 

H.E. Dr Amal Al Qubaisi, Chairperson and Speaker, Federal National Council, UAE, was conferred with the award Doctor of Philosophy (Honoris Causa) on June 21st 2018. Dr Al Qubaisi was recognised for her efforts in championing diversity and inclusion in the Arab world. 

“It is impossible to summarise her achievements without reaching for superlatives, and constantly re-using words such as “first” and “only”. Dr Al Qubaisi has made history on several occasions, but more importantly, she has used her position not only to defend the rights of her fellow human beings, and to promote tolerance, respect and dialogue, but also to challenge other leaders to do likewise." H.E. Dr Amal Al Qubaisi's Citation

Willie Walsh 4.11.17

Willie Walsh

Willie Walsh, Chief Executive of International Airlines Group, was conferred with the award Doctor of Philosophy (Honoris Causa) on 4th November 2017. He was recognised for his entrepreneurial ambition and significant contribution to the aviation industry. 

“Today, we are recognizing a local man who has led and continues to lead an extraordinary career in aviation… At the time when Willie Walsh took over as its CEO, Aer Lingus was losing millions of euro a day and was facing rapid oblivion. Several significant European airlines at that time did collapse. However, by 2003, under Willie’s leadership, Aer Lingus had become a budget airline and was back in profit.”  Willie Walsh's Citation

Steve Myers 3.11.17

Prof Steve Myers

World-renowned physicist Professor Steve Myers, OBE, was conferred with the award Doctor of Philosophy (Honoris Causa) on November 3rd 2017.

The work of Belfast-born scientist, who has spent most of his career at the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN) has led to key developments in our understanding of the nature of the universe.

“Professor Myers’ career has been characterised by the creation and translation of knowledge, and most recently the translation of knowledge gleaned from a lifetime's work of developing accelerator and detector instrumentation for basic science at the highest level into applications in the area of medicine with a direct impact on people's lives.” Professor Steve Myers Citation

Group photo of President Brian MacCraith, Dr. Martin Naughton, President Bill Clinton and Sr Stanislaus Kennedy

President Bill Clinton, Sr Stanislaus Kennedy, Martin Naughton

President William J Clinton, 42nd President of the United States; Sr Stanislaus Kennedy, social innovator and campaigner on homelessness and Mr Martin Naughton, entrepreneur and founder of Glen Dimplex were conferred with the award Doctor of Philosophy (Honoris Causa) on 17th of October 2017.

“Peace-making is always difficult, but there can be little doubt that the conflict in Northern Ireland was ultimately resolved because that great beacon of liberty, the United States of America, decided that it could use its influence to make the vital difference. That fateful decision was taken in the Oval Office by President Bill Clinton.” President Bill Clinton's Citation 

“Her core commitment is to equality and to self-respect and dignity for all members of society, regardless of their abilities or disabilities, their faith or ethos.  She sees the stillness and beauty within all people and encourages us all to do so. In her own words, ‘Through listening you can learn how to rise above adversity, and learn to truly value other people who are very different from you.” Sr. Stanislaus Kennedy's Citation

"Martin received very little handed to him on a silver platter and has been described as a “self-made” man. His global business success has been, in large measure, due to his vision, his perseverance, his dedicated focus on research and development and his ability to motivate and bring people with him on an extraordinary business success story." Mr. Martin Naughton's Citation