Alumni Achievement Awards

University College Cork honours inspiring alumni at this year’s 
UCC Alumni Achievement Awards ceremony

Each year UCC honours alumni who have achieved outstanding success in their chosen fields.  UCC’s Alumni Achievement Awards programme recognises UCC alumni who have excelled in their life’s work, who have demonstrated leadership in their field and who have been a source of inspiration to students and of pride to the University.  An Alumni Achievement Award is one of the highest honours the University can bestow upon a graduate.  To acknowledge the extraordinary voluntary support of the University given by UCC alumni, an Alumni Award for Voluntary Service to UCC is also awarded to one exceptional graduate each year.

To date, UCC has honoured over 75 distinguished alumni with Alumni Achievement Awards.  Nominations are received from all corners of the globe. This year nominations were received from fellow alumni, from colleagues and from members of faculty and staff.  In 2017, seven alumni will receive an Alumni Award. 

Each awardee will receive a specially commissioned silver trophy, designed by Mr. Don O’Mahony, Silversmith, which takes its inspiration from the proverb 'Mighty Oaks from Little Acorns Grow’.  UCC is grateful to the following companies for their generous sponsorship of the 2017 UCC Alumni Achievement Awards: Bank of Ireland, Boston Scientific, and Henry Ford & Son.  University College Cork’s Alumni Achievement Awards ceremony, organised by the Development and Alumni Office, will take place on Friday, November 24, 2017.  

Alumni Achievement Award Recipients

Katherine Fitzgerald – BSc 1995 (UCC), PhD 1999 (TCD)

Prof. Katherine Fitzgerald received her B.Sc. in Biochemistry in 1995 from UCC her Ph.D. in Biochemistry in 1999 from Trinity College Dublin. After a post-doctoral fellowship at TCD she joined the Division of Infectious Disease at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. She is currently Professor of Medicine, the Worcester Foundation Chair in Biomedical Research and Director of the Program in Innate Immunity at the University of Massachusetts Medical School.

Prof. Fitzgerald’s research is focused on understanding the molecular mechanisms controlling the inflammatory response. Her group is interested in determining how the immune system discriminates pathogens, resident microflora and host molecules to protect the host from infection and avoid damaging inflammatory diseases. Her lab uses multifaceted approaches including immunology, biochemistry, molecular biology and genetics to understand these mechanisms. The long-term goal of her work is to determine how inappropriate activation of innate immunity underlies the pathogenesis of infectious, inflammatory and autoimmune diseases such as Systemic Lupus Erythematosis in humans.

Prof. Fitzgerald has received several awards including a MERIT award from the NIH, the Saint Patrick’s Day Medal, from the Irish Government and Science Foundation Ireland, the Milstein Award for Excellence in Interferon and Cytokine research (from the International Cytokine and Interferon Society), the Eli Lilly and Company Elanco Research Award (from the American Society of Microbiology) and the BD-Biosciences Investigator Award (from the American Association of Immunologists). She is ranked amongst the top 1% most cited researchers for Immunology for the last three years (Thompson Reuters, 2014, 2015 and again in 2016) and was recently elected President of the International Cytokine and Interferon Society (2019 term).

Commissioner Phil Hogan – BA 1981, HDE 1982 (UCC)

Phil Hogan is the EU Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development since November 2014. He is a graduate of UCC with a BA in Economics and Geography. Prior to his entry to politics, he established and subsequently directed an insurance and real estate business.  He also managed the family farm between 1981 and 1983. 

Sinead Kane – BCL 2004, LLM 2005 (UCC)

Sinead Kane received a Law degree from UCC in 2004 and a Masters in Law in 2005. She qualified as Ireland’s first legally blind solicitor in 2009. Her efforts to secure visually impaired legal professionals equal opportunities in court led to the introduction of legislation in 2008 allowing for visually impaired persons appearing before a court to have an assistant. She is currently completing a PhD in DCU’s Anti-Bullying Centre and is a motivational speaker and activist.

Sinead has also excelled in sport. She recently completed the World Marathon Challenge and became the first blind person in the world to run seven marathons on seven continents in seven days. She was also the first Irish female to complete this challenge. Sinead has been awarded with an Honorary Doctorate from the NUI for her contribution to legislation and legal policy in Ireland. She has overcome adversity throughout her life and now wants to help others to overcome the same obstacles. Sinead proves how those who persist in spite of a disability can develop determination, motivation, and creativity.

Founders of I Wish– Ruth Buckley BSc 1987 (UCC), Gillian Keating BA 1990, BCL 1994 (UCC), Caroline O’Driscoll BCL 1987 (UCC)

I WISH (Inspiring Women in STEM) is an initiative to inspire, encourage and motivate young secondary school female students to pursue careers in STEM. It was founded by three UCC graduates, Ruth Buckley, Gillian Keating and Caroline O’Driscoll.

Ruth Buckley is Deputy Chief Executive and Head of ICT and Business Services for Cork City Council. She has worked in a variety of change management and strategic leadership roles over a 25 year period in both the private and public sector.  She has held a number of leadership roles in other organisations and is currently Chair of the Cork Smart Gateway, a collaboration between Tyndall Research Institute, Nimbus and both local authorities in Cork. Ruth is also a founder member of the Water Systems and Services Innovation Centre based in Nimbus. Her career has spanned both private and public sectors and her education includes a BSc in Computer Science from UCC and an MBA from Henley Management College.  She is PMP and IPMA certified for over 18 years and studied leadership in state and local government at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government.

Gillian Keating is a partner in Ronan Daly Jermyn Solicitors, one of the top ten law firms in Ireland, where she leads the Corporate Commercial Practice and the Technology and Life Science sector groups. Gillian graduated from UCC with a BA in 1990 and a BCL in 1994 and has over 20 years’ experience advising multi-national and large indigenous companies and regulated entities on all areas of corporate and commercial law. She is a member of the Governing Body of UCC and Fota Wildlife Park and is Chair of the Audit Committee at UCC and is a member of the Audit Committee of Cork City Council. Gillian is also a member of the Advisory Board for the BIS degree at UCC and is an Adjunct Professor of Law at UCC. Gillian is also a Past President of Cork Chamber of Commerce.

Caroline O’Driscoll is a Tax Partner with KPMG Cork, having graduated from UCC with a BCL in 1997. She has 20 years’ experience advising on inward and outward investment to multinational companies.  She also advises start-up/high growth companies in the technology sector, as they internationalise their business overseas and on exit strategies. Caroline is very active in the Cork business community and was recently elected as Chairperson of it@cork, a not for profit representing the interests of over 200 companies operating in the technology sector in Cork. She regularly speaks at technology events, a highlight being as MC of the Machine Stage at Web Summit in 2014 and 2015. She received the Boots Women Mean Business Empowering Women award in 2015, and was named by Junior Chamber Ireland as one of Irelands Top 10 Outstanding Young People of 2016. She, along with her I Wish co-founders were jointly awarded Cork “Person of the Month” for March 2017.

Alumni Award for Voluntary Service to UCC

Eamonn Ryan BEd 1961 (St. Patricks), BA 1966, HDE 1967 (UCC)

Eamonn Ryan has made a very significant contribution to Gaelic games in UCC and in Cork as a whole. He is a current selector with the Cork Senior men’s squad, the only member of the outgoing committee to be retained for 2017-19.

Eamonn’s involvement with UCC GAA began in the 1960’s when he returned to third level education to complete a BA and HDip in Education at UCC. Prior to this, Eamonn had qualified as a primary school teacher from St. Patrick’s Training College, Dublin in 1961.

It is as a coach that Eamonn has excelled in the sport of GAA and his name is synonymous with Cork. During his tenure as coach of the Cork Senior Ladies Football Team, Eamonn has overseen the team win ten Munster Championship titles, nine National League titles, and ten All Ireland titles. Other teams he has coached and led to victory include Cork Minor Gaelic Footballers, Cork Juniors, na Piarsaigh and Ballingeary GAA Club.

Eamonn was appointed to the position of GAA Development Officer in UCC from 1999 to 2007 and assisted in coaching both UCC Gaelic Football and Hurling teams. He also coached UCC’s camogie team to Ashbourne Cup success. Eamonn is currently GAA tutor for the Sports Studies Department and is a tutor with the Department of Modern Irish since 2011. He also annually conducts a session for international students to enable them to experience first-hand our traditional games.

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