2004 Press Releases

17 Sep 2004
Conferring Ceremonies at University College Cork - 17 September 2004

Conferring ceremonies concluded today (17 September 2004) at University College Cork with over 481 undergraduate and postgraduate students conferred from the Faculties of Law, Food Science & Technology and Engineering.  There were 155 from the Faculty of Law followed by 148 from the Faculty of Food Science & Technology and 178 from the Faculty of Engineering.

The Conferring addresses were given by Professor David Cox, Dean, Faculty of Arts, UCC (see below) and Professor Pat Fottrell, former President, NUI Galway and Chairperson, Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) (see below).

Text of address by Professor David Cox:
I would like to begin by adding my congratulations to the congratulations that have already been given to those graduating this morning.

I would also like to thank the President for inviting me to speak to you today.

It is a particular challenge for me as Dean of Arts to address the degree congregation of the Faculty of Law. It is sometimes suggested that there are significant differences between graduates in Arts and those in Law. A caricature of an Arts Graduate (and indeed of a Dean of Arts) might be someone who is vague and absent-minded; lacking the clarity of thought and the intellectual rigour that comes from a legal training.

This may, perhaps, be evident today, because I am going to talk to you about artistic creativity, or, at least, one aspect of it, but do listen carefully as I intend to get the law into it somehow.

I am going to tell you the story of an incident in the life of an American composer. It occurred many years ago and, as I don?t have an American accent, it is a biographical rather than an auto-biographical story.

The context in which the incident took place is of a young man who was third-generation American. That is to say that, like so may others, his grandparents had emigrated to the United States of America in the last years of the nineteenth-century.

They were a large family, five sons and three daughters (so our American composer had lots of aunts and uncles), and they were brought up in a small house and in the very competitive environment that can occur in large families. The children all worked hard, taking advantage of the opportunities that were available in a new country, and became successful businessmen and lawyers. In fact, one uncle became Chief Justice of the United States Court of Appeals in Washington  (which is, I understand, second only to the United States Supreme Court).

The father of my American composer was an entrepreneur who had various business interests in the Chicago area. He ran a cleaning business that included the cleaning of dental surgeries and he developed a method for extracting the gold dust that was left over from the gold fillings of the rich clients from all the other dust lying on the surgery floor. Later, he had a business repairing slot machines in Chicago. The business was sold and the family left for Florida. The final, and most successful, career move was to buy a swamp, drain it, and build real estate on it.

I have explained this family background at some length in order to establish the context in which a child with artistic pretensions was brought up. Everyone around him, and it was a large extended family, was a "high achiever" in business or in the legal profession. He, himself, was the younger of two brothers, the elder followed family tradition and became a lawyer. He chose instead the creative, not to say Bohemian life, and became a composer. There was, of course, consternation in the family, because, you can take it from me, a life as a composer, is one of the most difficult and least successful careers you can choose. No-one is willing to play your music and few people want to hear it. You have to be dead before your music is taken seriously.    

Anyway, our young composer settled in New York, because that was the centre of American artistic life, where he wrote aggressive, dissonant music in a modern idiom, and what few performances there were of his music were not well received by an American audience with very conservative tastes in music. He lived in various "flops" (a temporary abode where you sleep in some-one else?s bed whilst they are at work during the day) and supported himself, in the midst of the greatest super-business culture in the world, by selling train tickets in a ticket office during the night. Otherwise he composed, writing art-music with a conviction that he had a unique, valid and valuable musical voice

After seven years of this existence, he decided to give up his job in the ticket office in order to become a full-time composer. His family were seriously concerned at this decision and his mother travelled to New York to see him.

The following exchange took place:

Mother: "It?s not too late to admit that you a failure as a composer and become a lawyer"

He replied:  "No-one is a failure who is doing what they want to do in life"

It is that sentiment that I want to leave with you today, "No-one is a failure who is doing what they want to do in life"

In other words: one?s view of oneself is ultimately determined by one?s own integrity.

I suggest to you today that, in the midst of all the celebrations, you make three resolutions: "Be true to yourself, be true to your discipline, and be true to your college, and the ideals and values it has given you."

For the record, our American composer, became a successful composer of music for commercials in the medium of television and for films, and when all those uncles and aunts eventually died, he was able to use their legacies to reach a wider and more appreciative audience by recording and promoting his art-music.

I wish you all success and fulfilment; the trick in life is to achieve both.

Thank you.

Text of address by Professor Pat Fottrell:


Thank you very much President for this opportunity to address the graduation ceremony this afternoon. It is indeed a great honour and privilege. I am delighted to be able to share some of today?s excitement with you and your families.

For the theme of today?s address let me go back about 500 years to the time of Leonardo Da Vinci, one of the world?s greatest artists/engineers/scientists. He was encouraging a group of students at the University of Florence to continue with their studies or professions. At that time as the young students knew the two most powerful professions were the Army and the Church. Leonardo?s response in Latin which was  the universal academic language then, was "Nam et ipsa scientia potestas est" ? "Knowledge itself is power".

You have been empowered with  knowledge during your studies at this great University and with an excellent education. The objective of a good education is, in general terms, to prepare people to lead a full and responsible life. Because you have been education in a University with very active research programmes you have good analytical and problem solving skills that will compliment your knowledge base. The blending of undergraduate and graduate education with the conduct of research and scholarship as you have here at UCC, is the very best learning environment for students. As graduates of this learning environment you are very well equipped to engineer a better world and shape the future.

And you have every reason to be optimistic about the future. For many years Ireland has a well earned reputation for attracting inward investment for manufacturing and services.

For some time now the Irish Government and its Agencies are promoting Ireland as a knowledge economy to win high value and high skills-based investments. The International competition for these investments which will create highly paid employment is very keen. But this is where you come in. Because the greatest influence on the final choice of location for new inward investments is your skills, flexibility and positive attitude. There have been some outstanding successes which are most encouraging for you.

For example:

Intel - a world leader in ICT and already employing >3000 in Ireland

Wyeth - Pharmaceutical and Food manufacturing - 2 billion for a new biotechnology facility in Ireland.

In the South of Ireland we have seen major investments by:




Schering Plough

Genzyme  in Waterford and many others.

Upto 50% of graduate employment in these industries and that % will continue to grow as the level of skill requirement increases. So the present and the future is indeed very promising for graduates. Side by side with these exciting developments there are some very important things happening in Ireland which are also highly relevant to you. Ireland is now being actively promoted as a location for inward investment for research and development and innovation. In terms of high skills this brings us into competition in the premier league or the "Champions League" to use soccer comparisons. Although we are relatively new players in this league where success takes investment and time we have had some recent significant wins. For example, Bell Laboratories decided a few months ago to establish a research headquarters in Ireland. Why is this such a big deal? Well just about everything in digital communications we use today originated in Bell Labs whether over telephone wires or optical fibres. Bell Labs developed stereo-recording, the first long distance TV transmissions, sound in the cinema, the first fax-machine, lasers and optical networking and mobile phones. Why would such a high powered research organisation decide to come to Ireland. Many factors were involved including personal connections (G.W.) but a major factor is that Ireland is seen as a good location for research investment.

Some of the companies in biopharma/biotechnology areas that I mentioned previously are also making decisions to locate more R & D investments in Ireland. Others will
follow because of the quality of our researchers, post-doctoral, postgraduate and undergraduate personnel.

Many of our indigenous industries including manufacturing industries are becoming more R & D active although we have some catch-up to do here. More incentives are on the way to promote R & D including tax breaks. Also there is a welcome
increase in small spin-off high tech home grown industries.

A new culture of innovation is now emerging in Ireland which will lead to a vibrant and forward looking economy. Our Universities and IOT?s have a key role in fostering the development of these industries.

We have had some outstanding research centres in our Universities over the years (eg NMRC). In the past 5 years the research environment has undergone major changes thanks to Government investment in research at Universities. About 1 billion euro is being invested to improve infra-structure and support researchers and students and develop industrial interactions through two government agencies ? the Higher Education Authority and Science Foundation Ireland. The Irish Government has publicly committed to sustain this funding in the long term because a stop/go culture will fail. The recent report of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development has important recommendations for strengthening our Universities and Institutes of Technology. The challenges ahead are great.

Strong well funded research Universities educating talented young people such as you and generating new knowledge in collaboration with industry is the best investment Ireland can make to achieve a knowledge driven economy that is the Irish Government?s objective. Other Countries are doing this and so must we if we wish to remain competitive and develop Ireland as a location for research investment and innovation. UCC and the other Irish Universities have had a major influence on the location of highly skilled manufacturing in their respective areas. Government support for education and research is critical for future more competitive investments. The economy and well-being of  country depends on such Universities.

Ireland in now rising to a new stage in its development where more research and development is taking place than ever before. This will spawn innovation and a risk taking culture where there will be no stigma attached to trying and failing- rather it will be seen as a plus. As seen in other Countries vibrant and research Universities are critical for the development of modern competitive economy of which you will help to engineer.

In conclusion, may I wish you every possible success and happiness your future careers. Thank you.



University College Cork

Coláiste na hOllscoile Corcaigh

College Road, Cork T12 K8AF