Olympians, filmmaker, campaigners and philanthropists honoured at UCC Alumni Awards

17 Nov 2023
Eleven inspirational alumni were honoured with a Alumni Achievement Award. Photo credit: Provision
  • Eleven inspirational alumni were honoured with UCC Alumni Achievement Awards.
  • The Awards celebrated its landmark 25th anniversary at a special ceremony in the Aula Maxima, UCC.

Olympic medal-winners, an Oscar-nominated filmmaker, a world-renowned botanist, activists, philanthropists and volunteers are among those who were honoured last night at the UCC Alumni Achievement Awards, which celebrates its landmark 25th anniversary.

A total of eleven inspirational alumni were honoured with an Alumni Achievement Award, one of the highest accolades given by UCC. They are:

  • Diana Beresford-Kroeger, botanist and author
  • Campaigner Mary Crilly of the Sexual Violence Centre Cork
  • West Cork community lynchpins, John and Catherine Field of J.J. Field & Co.
  • Leading lawyer Michael Jackson, Managing Partner of Matheson LLP
  • Doug Murray, Oscar nominated and Emmy award winning sound engineer
  • Olympic Gold medallist rowers Paul O’Donovan and Fintan McCarthy
  • Activist and author Katherine O’Donnell
  • Businessman, philanthropist and Cork University Foundation Chair Neil O’Leary
  • Amel Sami, researcher and educator

President of UCC, Professor John O’Halloran commended the awardees; “I am delighted to celebrate the outstanding accomplishments of our awardees. Each one embodies UCC’s tradition of independent thinking and is a source of great pride to the university.”

A life dedicated to the preservation and protection of rare and native trees

Botanist, medical biochemist, author and filmmaker Diana Beresford-Kroeger is being honoured for her contributions to sustainability and science. Diana has dedicated her life and career to the preservation and protection of rare and native trees. She has made it her mission to nurture and protect the global forests for future generations. In doing so she is protecting the world from the devastations of climate change.

Helping thousands of survivors for forty years

Campaigner Mary Crilly is co-founder and CEO of the Sexual Violence Centre Cork. Through her work at the centre, Mary has helped thousands of survivors access important support services. 2023 marks 40 years of the centre in Cork.

Nominated for an Oscar at the end of a stellar career

Doug Murray is an Emmy-winning and Oscar-nominated sound engineer, known for his work on films such as The English Patient, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, and Planet of the Apes. In 2023, Doug was nominated for an Oscar for his work on The Batman.

Olympic gold-medal heroes

Olympic gold medallists Fintan McCarthy and Paul O’Donovan both began their rowing careers at Skibbereen Rowing Club, along the banks of the Ilen river in West Cork. Since they started rowing together the duo has amassed an impressive collection of medals, including Ireland’s first ever rowing gold medal in 2020 at the Tokyo Olympics.

Community champions of their hometown

John and Catherine Field are at the heart of the community in Skibbereen, West Cork. They are directors of the family business, J.J. Field & Co., which includes Fields of Skibbereen SuperValu, an award-winning supermarket known for championing the very best of local. John Field was founding member of the Ludgate Hub in Skibbereen, a digital workspace that helped to drive innovation in the West Cork area.

A leading light in legal matters

Leading lawyer Michael Jackson is Managing Partner at Matheson LLP. His tenure at the firm has seen Matheson expand and grow to become the highly awarded company that it is today. Under his leadership, Matheson recently partnered with the university to launch the UCC and Matheson Innovation Partnership, creating scholarships and lecturing opportunities in law, technology and innovation.

An activist dedicated to justice for all

Katherine O’Donnell has been an activist for four decades. She has been involved in, most notably, the Justice for Magdalenes Campaign and, more generally, with justice issues and the LGBTQ+ community. She is now Professor of Philosophy at UCD.

A renowned figure in finance and philanthropy

Midleton native Neil O’Leary is being honoured for his contributions to business, philanthropy, and voluntary service to UCC. O’Leary has served the Cork University Foundation board since 2013, serving three UCC presidents. He is the founder and CEO of Ion Equity, an award-winning financial services firm and the founder of MyDawa, a leading e-health business in East Africa.

A commitment to bringing better health and education to her native Sudan

Researcher, educator and volunteerAmel Sami has spent her career committed to improving patient outcomes in oral medicine and to promoting learning and well-being to society, specifically in her native Sudan.

Organised by Alumni and Development UCC, the Alumni Achievement Awards are an annual celebration of UCC’s alumni. Since 1998, the university has honoured a total of 119 graduates. Previous winners include author Doireann Ní Ghríofa, RTÉ broadcaster Marty Morrissey, psychologist Maureen Gaffney, and Michelin-starred chef Ross Lewis.

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