News and Views

UCC honours two Cork citizens for their contribution to the city

15 Nov 2021
Don O'Leary and Pat Ledwidge (Provision)
University College Cork (UCC) this weekend honoured two Cork citizens in recognition of their lifetime of work for the good of their home city.

Director of the Cork Life Centre Don O’Leary and former Deputy Chief Executive of Cork City Council Pat Ledwidge received Honorary Doctorates at UCC’s Conferring Ceremonies this Saturday and Sunday respectively.
A former City Councillor and youth worker, Mr O’Leary has been director of the Cork Life Centre for the past 15 years, during which time the facility has developed a reputation as a unique, child-centred, developmentally-focused model of education, where young people have fun, develop their talents, and belong in ways they never thought possible.

Under his Directorship, the largely volunteer-run Cork Life Centre forged partnerships and collaborations with other institutions, including UCC, with the common goal of providing a place of learning for children outside the formal, mainstream education system.

Described by the Children’s Rights Alliance as “a passionate advocate for children’s rights and the embodiment of a child-centred educationalist”, Mr O’Leary recently retired as a member of the Board of Management at Oberstown Children Detention Campus, Ireland’s national facility for the detention and remand of children under 18 years.

While on the board at Oberstown, Mr O’Leary was a strident advocate for better quality care for children in detention including through improved education and post-placement care.

The award of this honorary doctorate to Don O’Leary is an acknowledgement of his impact, the work of the Cork Life Centre and the commitment and dedication of the staff and volunteers who support it.
A man in ceremonial graduation robes
Mr Ledwidge was honoured for his forty years of service to Cork City Council, during which time he has influenced Cork’s standing at a local, national, and international level.
A key aspect of Mr Ledwidge’s work has been the formation of worldwide links and strategic partnerships with key international cities. He played a pivotal role in Cork’s successful twinning with Shanghai, a significant achievement that paved the way for a number of further partnerships through Memoranda of Understanding between Cork and other Chinese cities, - Hongzhou, Wuxi and Shenzhen.
His work as a Board Member of the UCC-Shanghai University Confucius Institute has led to many Chinese teachers coming to UCC to develop Chinese language learning among our own university students, as well as primary and secondary school pupils.
A former President of the Irish Planning Institute - of which he is still a Board Member, Mr Ledwidge is a Member of the Board of Studies of the Masters in Sustainable Planning at UCC, and has served on other advisory committees of the university such as our Ignite and Springboard projects.
The esteem in which Mr Ledwidge is held internationally is evident in the list of honours he has been awarded, such as Magnolia Silver Award in 2014, followed by the Magnolia Gold Award in 2018 from Shanghai city, the 2020 Envoy of People’s Friendship of Wuxi, and the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Ireland-China Business Association. He received a similar award from the Centre for Local and Regional Governance here at UCC, along with an LGBTI Champion Award from the LGBTI Inter Agency Group.

Both men received an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Arts.
Commenting, UCC President Professor John O’Halloran said:

“Having last week paid tribute to the tireless patient advocate Dr Margaret Murphy, it gives me immense pleasure that UCC has awarded further Honorary Doctorates to those who have made an immeasurable contribution to our City, and whilst acting locally have had global impact.

Don O’Leary is a true pioneer of education and a champion for those who can flourish outside a mainstream school setting given the right opportunity, thanks to the work of Cork Life Centre. Staff here at UCC have seen first-hand the work Don has put in to ensure that no child is left behind.

“Pat Ledwidge’s progressive vision has seen Cork’s horizon stretch far beyond the Celtic Sea and Atlantic Ocean, and our city now counts Shanghai, among other Chinese cities, as close friends. These strategic partnerships, driven by Pat’s ambition, have been beneficial for Cork in many ways, particularly here in UCC where we have developed international relationships rooted in a mutual desire to expand educational opportunities,” he said.

Almost 4,700 students will be conferred at UCC during the month of November.

University College Cork

Coláiste na hOllscoile Corcaigh

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