Friday, 5 September 2014

UCD Honorary Doctorate conferred on Liam Connellan

The conferring of an Honorary Doctorate of a University on any graduate is a singular honour which is deservedly treasured by the recipient and his or her family. Each year UCD awards a limited number of these distinctions only to graduates who have made an outstanding contribution to society in their chosen profession.

There was no award made to an Engineer in 2013. In 2014, UCD decided to honour an exceptional Engineer - Dr Liam Connellan. I first got to know Liam in Engineers Ireland as a very active senior engineer in the late 1990s as an active contributor to lectures and debates long after he retired as Chief Executive of IBEC (formerly the Confederation of Irish Industry when Liam joined). His committment to helping to grow the Irish economy and create jobs was obvious. He also appeared to have boundless energy and abiding interest in a whole range of engineering endeavours.
UCD President, Dr. Andrew Deeks presenting Dr. Liam Connellan with the award

It was only when he became President of Engineers Ireland (then the Institution of Engineers of Ireland) in 2001 that I learned of his leadership skills and his motivational speeches to a wide audience quoting the global greats like JFK to great effect. I recognised an exceptionally gifted communicator whose passion and commitment for his message engaged easily with his audience.

Liam Connellan, President of Engineers Ireland (2001-2002)

He then became in turn and sometime simultaneously President of the Irish Academy of Engineering, President of the Royal Dublin Society, Chairman of the National Roads Authority and Chairman of Voelia (Transport Energy Water) who built and run the Luas light rail network. He is an active member of the Board of the Peter McVerry Trust which assists homeless young men. The common thread running through all of this is his committment to an efficient but just society and to a growing Irish economy through the provision of essential public infrastructure in transport, energy and water.
On the international front he was on the Board of the Irish College in Paris and President of the German Irish Chamber of Industry and Commerce. In terms of kinship with both of the great European powers there are few Irish people (if any) who have been awarded Knight Commander's Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany and also Chevalier of the Order of Merit of the Republic of France! Liam has both distinctions but they sit lightly on his shoulders for Liam is a humble man always concerned about everyone else's well being and not his own.

Incoming Dean of Engineering (post September 1st 2014), Prof. David Fitzpatrick,
UCD President, Prof. Andrew Deeks, Dr. Liam Connellan and
UCD Dean of Engineering (pre September 1st 2014), Prof. Gerry Byrne
After I became EGA President I was pleased to award the 2013 UCD EGA Distinguished Graduate Award to Liam Connellan which had been long overdue in my view.  Looking back now over the years, I don't believe that I ever sought any other role model in my career other that the example of public service and the care of others that Liam sought. I was therefore deeply honoured to have been personally invited to his Conferring last Monday and to the celebratory dinner hosted by the President in his honour in Ardmore House Belfield. There I sat with his wife Marie and his lovely and talented family who rightly feel so proud of him as all members of the profession also feel those who are privileged to know him.  He is a true icon of Irish Engineering.

Changing Dynamics as EGA Gold Medals Presented on Conferring Day

Last Monday was Conferring Day for this year's UCD Engineering Graduates. This event on a bright sunny September was preceded by an EGA Business Breakfast to award Gold Medals and Prizes to our brightest and best students in each discipline of engineering.
At the presentation of EGA Gold Medals L-R: Front Row, Joseph Thompson (Mechanical), Grace Brennan (mother of Karl) (Chemical)
and Rhona Wade (Electronic).  Back Row, EGA President PJ Rudden, Jason Hannon (Engineering with Business),
Padraig McDonald (Biosystems), Éadaoin McLoughlin (Electrical), Mark Gilsenan (Civil), Peter Landy (Biomedical) and
Principal of College of Engineering and Architecture/Dean of Engineering Prof. David Fitzpatrick

What was especially striking about this year's graduates was not only the large number of Masters Degrees awarded in the principal engineering disciplines but the array of niche areas where UCD now offer a Masters is highly impressive eg Biomedical, Engineering with Business, Structural Engineering with Architecture, Electronic and Computer Engineering, Materials Science and Engineering, Energy Systems - all designed and geared for the changing dynamics of current and future engineering employment.

The transition from the traditional BE degree is moving quite fast as the vast majority of graduates were awarded a 5 year Masters Degree or a transitionary 3 year Bachelor of Science Degree leading to a 5 year Masters. This is driven by the requirement of Engineers Ireland from 2013 onwards to only award the title of Chartered Engineer to those engineers who have a 5 Year Masters or equivalent together with adequate professional training and experience.

There was not only a 'changing of the guard' on Degree types but this year in UCD a total change of leading academic personnel on the podium. New President Dr Andrew Deeks awarded the degrees accompanied by the newly appointed Principal of the College of Engineering and Architecture and Dean of Engineering Prof David Fitzpatrick. I also spotted new UCD Vice President for Innovation Research and Impact Prof Orla Feely on the podium. All three are engineers and living proof of the 'new order' where economic growth based on research innovation and manufacturing is driving Ireland's recovery. As my past blogs (UCD EGA and Engineers Ireland) in recent years have repeatedly stated, this underlying technological driver of growth has been obvious to a few since the Celtic Tiger died but is only becoming increasingly accepted now in the industrial, media and political worlds.

All of this change in my view and UCD's rapid response to this evolving 'new order' will place UCD on the cusp of competitive excellence among global Engineering Schools and Colleges world wide. The new UCD Strategic Plan to be unveiled later this year by President Deeks will set UCD on an ambitious new growth path of academic excellence and internationalisation to compete on the world stage.  A subset of that will be the new College of Engineering Development Plan.
Larry O'Toole presenting the RPS Civil Engineering
Gold Medal to Mark Gilsenan

Padraig Somers presenting the Helsinn Birex Pharmaceuticals
Chemical Engineering Gold Medal to Karl Brennan's mother, Grace

Peter Cunningham presenting the SSE Airtricity Electrical
Engineering Gold Medal to Éadaoin McLoughlin
Mike Murray presenting the S3 Electronic Engineering Gold
Medal to Rhona Wade
The winners of 2014 UCD Engineering Gold Medals were Mark Gilsenan, Karl Brennan, Éadaoin McLoughlin, Rhona Wade, Joseph Thompson, Padraig McDonald, Jason Hannon and Peter Landy in Civil, Chemical, Electrical, Electronic, Mechanical, Biosystems, Engineering with Business and Biomedical Engineering respectively sponsored by RPS, Helsinn, SSE Airtricity, C3, CRH and Crospon. The 2014 Gold Medal for Architecture sponsored by Arup was awarded to Sarah Doheny.

There were also a growing number of specialist prizes for Scholarships, Travel Bursaries, Awards and Certificates. Sponsors were Roughan O'Donovan, Martin McAdam, PM Group, Cylon and Institution of Mechanical Engineers. Deserving winners were Nora Gyetvai, Eoin McMullan, Kevin O'Toole, Michael Halton, Andrea Doherty, Sean McLoughlin, Darren Roche, Thomas Gallagher, Seamus O'Keeffe, Joe Flanagan, Michael Clancy, Anton Katayev and Tom Keane.

UCD and the EGA wish to especially thank our various sponsors without whom this Gold Medals and Prizes event would not be possible for the deserving students who have worked so hard to obtain these sought after accolades.
Jack Golden presenting the CRH Mechanical Engineering Gold Medal
to Joseph Thompson
Prof. Colm O'Donnell presenting the EGA Biosystems
Engineering Gold Medal to Padráig McDonald

Dr. Eamonn Ambrose presenting the EGA Engineering with Business Gold
Medal to Jason Hannon

Dr. John O'Dea presenting the EGA Crospon Biomedical Engineering
Gold Medal to Peter Landy

Also the EGA Board decided last year that one years free membership post graduation of the Engineering Graduates Association would apply to all engineering graduates in a particular year. No need to apply - the UCD Alumni Office will write to each new graduate this Autumn.