Honorary Conferrings Speeches Archive

    at Aula Maxima, UCC

  • 06 Jun 2008








Dr JIM BROWNE, President of NUI Galway on 6 June, 2008, on the occasion of the conferring of the Degree of Doctor of Science, honoris causa, on PATRICK FOTTRELL




A Leas-Sheansailéir agus a Uachtaráin, a chomhghleacaithe, a aíonna agus a dhaoine uaisle, ba mhaith liom a rá ar dtús gur mór an onóir domsa an deis seo a bheith agam an cur i láthair seo a chur ós bhur gcomhair. Duine den chéad scoth é An Dochtúir Pat  Fottrell agus níl aon dabht ná go bhfuil an céim oinigh seo tuilte go maith aige.




Dr. Pat Fottrell, a native of Youghal, graduated with the degrees of B.Sc. and M.Sc. from University College Cork and completed his Ph.D. at the University of Glasgow.  While in Glasgow he worked with Professor John Paul, the founder of the Beatson Institute for Cancer Research and a role model for the physician/scientist we are now trying to develop in Ireland.




Pat was awarded the degree of D.Sc. for published work by the National University of Ireland in 1975 and over the years has been the recipient of a number of important and prestigious academic awards including:




-                     A Beit Memorial Fellowship at the University of Glasgow



-                     A Fogarty International Fellowship at Harvard University



-                     Several Visiting Fellowships at Harvard University



-                     The Conway Medal presented by the Royal Academy of Medicine in Ireland



-                     Elected Member of the Royal Irish Academy




Pat has a tremendous record of achievement and innovation across a range of activities including teaching and research, the commercialization of research, university management and leadership and the development and implementation of public policy.




He was in turn, Senior Lecturer, Associate Professor and Established Professor of Biochemistry in NUI Galway.  In that role he established successful research programmes in coeliac disease (funded by the Wellcome Trust), female infertility, and osteoporosis in collaboration with Harvard University in the United States.  The results of his research were presented in over 120 research publications and 4 books.  Under his research leadership, NUI Galway developed a widely recognised expertise in rapid diagnostic technology, which in turn led to the creation of one of the very first campus companies, Noctech, which later became Cambridge Diagnostics.  All of this was accomplished in the 1970’s and 1980’s when research funding was extremely scarce, a  minority of academic staff were involved in industry-relevant research and the concept of campus companies was very new.




Pat Fottrell was elected Registrar and Deputy President of NUI Galway in 1986 and served with distinction in that role until 1991.  In 1996 he was elected President of NUI Galway by the Senate of the NUI, having being the preferred candidate following a series of staff consultations in Galway.  Indeed he was the last elected President of an NUI University.




As President, he led NUI Galway through a period of major change.  His leadership style, in particular his clarity of vision, his energy, his determination and his firm but collegiate approach facilitated significant change and development in the University.   Pat’s approach was to effect change in a quiet but very effective way.




Under his innovative and energetic direction, NUI Galway developed it’s first strategic plan, defined and agreed its research priorities, created major research institutes including the National Centre for Biomedical Engineering Science and the Irish Centre for Human Rights, increased student intake by over 30% and developed ab initio a robust quality assurance system. 




It is very widely recognised, inside and outside the University that decisions made and implemented by him during his Presidency are the basis of NUI Galway’s success in recent years.




Ta sé fíor bháúil don Ghaeilge agus mar Uachtarán na hOllscoile thug sé tacaíocht mhór don Ghaeilge. Chuir sé acmhainní ar fáil chun teagaisc agus taighde trí Ghaeilge a fhorbairt san Ollscoil féin agus taobh amuigh den Ollscoil in áiteanna mar an Cheathrú Rua agus Carna.




As President of NUI Galway, Pat contributed significantly to the Conference of Heads of Irish Universities, now the Irish Universities Association.  In particular he made significant inputs to the development of the 1997 Universities Act and to the evolution of the National University of Ireland, following on from that Act.




Since retiring from the Presidency of NUI Galway, and frankly I am not sure retiring is a word I should us in respect of Pat Fottrell, Pat has taken on a number of significant and high profile appointments.  He served for three years as Chair of the Governing Body of the Dublin Institute of Technology and led the development of a strategy to acquire and develop the new DIT campus at Grangegorman.  He chaired the national forum on the Flouridation of Public Water and the recommendation of that group has been implemented by Government.  He was invited by the Royal Irish Academy to chair the first Irish Council for Bioethics, and as Chair established the strategy and ground rules for the Council and recruited its first Director.  He chaired the Ireland-USA Fulbright Commission, led the development of its strategic plan and recruited its first Director.  He chaired the national group on Medical Education, whose recommendation on increasing entry into undergraduate medicine, initiating graduate entry medical education in Ireland and updating entry systems to medical school, are now being implemented and are transforming medical education in Ireland.




Given his record of achievement in scientific research and academic leadership, it was no surprise that Pat Fottrell was invited to Chair the Board of Science Foundation Ireland, or SFI.  Under his leadership SFI has allocated almost 1 billion Euros of research funding and has created a series of innovative competitive peer-reviewed programmes to support the highest quality research in Universities and to develop productive partnerships between University and industry-based researchers. 




It is very widely recognised that the work of SFI is absolutely critical to the future economic success of Ireland and the fact that Pat Fottrell has been entrusted by Government with the Chairmanship of that important body indicates clearly the esteem and high regard in which he is held.




Pat also serves on the Board of Teagasc and chairs its Research Committee; he is a member of the Board of Curators and Guardians of the National Gallery of Ireland and of the Galway Hospice Foundation.




In his free time Pat enjoys sport and from an early age was a keen soccer player and supporter. While a student there, he captained the UCC Soccer Club and was selected for the Irish Universities Soccer Team. Later he played for the University of Glasgow and has been a supporter of Glasgow Celtic since his student days in Glasgow.  Recently he has accepted an invitation from the Football Association of Ireland to chair a North – South Committee for the Development of Soccer in Universities and Colleges on the island of Ireland.




Pat’s record of achievement over a very long and distinguished career is, I am sure you will agree, very impressive.  They say that behind every great man there is an even greater woman. Pat has been blessed with Esther and their fine family of 4 children, Caitriona, Deirdre, Conor and Stephen.




Vice-Chancellor, it is entirely appropriate that the National University of Ireland, in this its centenary year, should honour Pat Fottrell. Over a long and very distinguished career, he has brought honour to UCC, to NUI Galway and to the National University of Ireland, and indeed was the last person to be appointed President of an NUI University by the Senate of the NUI. Nobody better embodies the spirit and the achievement of National University of Ireland.




A Leas-Sheansailéir, fear den chéad scoth é Pat Fottrell agus ar bhealaí éagsúla, is fíor a rá nach mbeidh a leithéid arís ann.




Praehonorabilis Vice-Cancellarie, totaque universitas.



Presento vobis hunc meum filium, quem scio tam moribus quam doctrina habilem et idoneum esse qui admittatur, honoris causa, ad gradum Doctoratus in Scientiae, idque tibi fide mea testor ac spondeo, totique Academiae.


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