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University of Ulster To Honour High Achievers

10 April 2011

Leading figures in sport, business, broadcasting, the health and legal professions are among those who will be honoured by the University of Ulster at graduation ceremonies this summer.

Liverpool Football Club manager Kenny Dalglish, US Open champion Graeme McDowell, broadcaster Miriam O’Callaghan and actress Susan Lynch are just some of the distinguished public figures who will receive honorary doctorates at ceremonies in Coleraine, Belfast and Londonderry.

The University of Ulster will award honorary doctorates to:

Chris Browne, DSc (Doctor of Science) for management leadership

Strabane woman Chris Browne is Managing Director of Britain’s third largest airline, Thomson Airways, where she developed the airline’s customer service strategy and significantly increased its customer satisfaction ratings – as well as putting it at the top of the chartered sector’s punctuality league tables. She joined First Choice in 1999 where she established Travel Choice Direct, before becoming Managing Director of Retail and Direct and then Managing Director of First Choice Airways. After overseeing the merger of ThomsonFly and First Choice Airways in September 2007, she embarked on her current role and oversees an airline with 60 plus aircraft, flying from 22 UK airports to more than 80 destinations across the world.

Myles Wickstead, LLD (Doctor of Laws) for services in promoting African development

Myles Wickstead has had a long history of involvement in promoting development in Africa and is a former head of the Secretariat for the Commission for Africa, which was established by Tony Blair when he was Prime Minister, and whose report ‘Our Common Interest’ formed the basis of the G8’s Gleneagles communiqué. Based in Nairobi between 1993 and 1997, he headed the British Government’s Development Division in eastern Africa and oversaw development programmes in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. He co-ordinated the 1997 Government White Paper on ‘Eliminating World Poverty: A Challenge for the 21st Century’, served on the board of the World Bank in Washington DC between 1997 and 2000 and was the British Ambassador to Ethiopia and Djibouti from 2000 to 2004. On leaving government in late 2005, he has served on a number of board of Non Government Organisations, Trusts and Foundations, including Comic Relief’s International Grants Committee, the Baring Foundation and chairing CONCERN UK. He has also been a specialist advisor to the Parliamentary International Development Select Committee.

Sheelagh Hillan, DSc for Services to the pharmacy profession and public life

One of the best known figures in pharmacy in Northern Ireland, Sheelagh Hillan has been a dedicated chemist and fundraiser for a number of charities. Her family’s chemist shop has served the Randalstown community for over 62 years. However, she also has served on the Homefirst Community Health and Social Services Trust, the Health Service Tribunal and the Mental Health Review Tribunal and is a former president of the Pharmaceutical Society of Northern Ireland. In 2000, Mrs Hillan was honoured with an MBE for services to the pharmaceutical profession. She has also been a tireless fundraiser for charities – especially cancer charities.

Graeme McDowell, DSc for services to golf

The Portrush golfer had a phenomenal season last year, becoming the first Northern Ireland professional golfer to capture a major title in 63 years with his victory at the US Open in Pebble Beach. If that wasn’t enough, he also clinched the Ryder Cup with the winning putt for Colin Montgomerie’s European side against the United States at Celtic Manor in Wales. Victories in four tournaments on either side of the Atlantic last year, including a dramatic victory over Tiger Woods at the Chevron World Challenge, have seen him climb to Number Four in the world rankings. Proud of his Portrush roots, he has had a distinguished career at all levels of the game – as a schoolboy, US collegiate, amateur and professional. As well as being passionate about golf, Graeme McDowell has also shown tremendous dedication to three charities – the Multiple Sclerosis Society Northern Ireland, the international humanitarian charity GOAL and CRY (Cardiac Risk In The Young). 

Teresa Doherty, LLD for services to the promotion of human rights and humanitarian law

In a legal career spanning 33 years, Justice Teresa Doherty has been a leading figure in international human rights law and is the Presiding Judge in the Special Court for Sierra Leone. She began practicing law in Northern Ireland in 1976 before pursuing her career in Papua New Guinea. In 1987, she was appointed a Principal Magistrate there and a year later become the first woman to hold high judicial office in the country as a judge in the Supreme and National Courts. In 1998, she returned to private law practice in Northern Ireland where she worked until 2003. Since 2002, she has served as a Life Sentence Review and Parole Commissioner in Northern Ireland. From 2003-5, Justice Doherty served as a Judge of the High Court and the Court of Appeal of Sierra Leone. In 2005, she was appointed by the UN Secretary General to the Special Court for Sierra Leone which is looking into violations of human rights law in the country since November 1996.

Len O’Hagan, DSc for services to business development

A champion of business and the arts in Northern Ireland, Len O’Hagan is a prominent businessman who has chaired the Belfast Harbour Commissioners since December 2006. He has held a number of senior positions in a range of international companies including as Managing Director of the Jefferson Smurfit Group, CEO of Fitzwilton PLC and the chairman of Safeway Ireland. He is currently the chairman of business consultancy company OHC Corporate Advisers Ltd, the chairman of Rockingham Motor Circuit and the chairman of Belfast’s next exciting arts venue, the Metropolitan Arts Centre which is to open its doors next year. He is the Deputy Lieutenant for the County of Down and Vice President of the Ireland US Council.

Frank Cushnahan, DSc for services to commercial and business development

An independent financial and management consultant, Frank Cushnahan is a former chairman of the Belfast Harbour Commissioners who has undertaken a number of major financial and reform initiatives for the Northern Ireland Executive and has held many non-executive and executive board positions within the private and public sectors. He is the chairman of the Ministerial Advisory Panel of the Performance and Efficiency Delivery Unit, and chairs the Office of First Minister and Deputy First Ministers’ Audit Committee. Mr Cushnahan also serves on the Northern Ireland Advisory Committee to the Irish Republic’s National Asset Management Agency.

Howard Hastings, DSc for services to the hospitality and tourism industries

Hotelier Howard Hastings is chairman of the Northern Ireland Tourist Board and Managing Director of Hastings Hotels, which runs the Europa, the Culloden Estate and Spa, Ballygally Castle, the Everglades Hotel and the Slieve Donard. He is a director of the Merrion Hotel Ltd and is a former chairman of the Institute of Directors in Northern Ireland, and a founding chairman of the Northern Ireland Hotels Federation. Mr Hastings has served on Tourism Ireland, in the Training and Employment Agency, Investors in People, the New Deal taskforce and the Tourism and Hospitality Training Council.

Jim McCusker, DUniv (Doctor of the University) for services to trade unionism and labour relations

Distinguished trade unionist Jim McCusker has over 35 years experience of employee relations,service as general secretary of the Northern Ireland Public Service Alliance (NIPSA) for 26 years. NIPSA is Northern Ireland’s largest trade union representing 40,000 members in the civil, public and voluntary sectors. In March 2008, he was appointed as the chair of the Labour Relations Agency’s board and in February 2011, and is to serve in that role until 2014. He is a member of the European Economic and Social Committee and a former member of the Council for Health Regulatory Excellence and Concordia.

Kenny Dalglish, DSc for services to soccer and charitable activity

One of the most successful players and managers in history of the game in Britain, Kenny Dalglish carved out a successful playing career with Glasgow Celtic, Liverpool and Scotland before going on to further triumphs as the manager of Liverpool, Blackburn Rovers and Celtic.

As a player, he won every domestic club honour a professional in England and Scotland could achieve, as well as winning three European Cups. In the 1980s as player-manager of Liverpool FC, he cemented his iconic status among supporters at Anfield by continuing the team’s remarkable domination of the English game as well as leading the club with great dignity through the Hillsborough stadium disaster which claimed 96 lives.

Following his resignation in 1991, he returned to the dugout as the manager of Blackburn Rovers helping them capture the 1994-95 Premier League title. After spells at Newcastle United and Celtic, he delighted many Liverpool fans by taking an ambassadorial role for the club in 2009 and this year returned as manager.

Capped 102 times by his country, Scotland’s prolific goalscorer has also been a tireless fundraiser for cancer charities alongside his wife Marina, raising £2 million for a chemotherapy centre in the centre of Merseyside.

Bill Wolsey, DSc for services to entrepreneurship and business development

Originally from the Ballysillan area of north Belfast, the hotelier and entrepreneur’s first love was football, and as a teenager he had an unsuccessful trial with Arsenal.

After studying catering management and gaining experience in the hospitality industry in a variety of jobs in London, he returned to Northern Ireland and invested his savings in revitalising The Trident Inn in Bangor –  a project from which his company Beannchor was born. He initially focussed on buying pubs in the Co Down town. His next foray was on the Lisburn Road in Belfast where he opened a different type of bar – TaTu – and after its success he revamped a bar complex known as Franklin’s Gate in Belfast city centre – opening up a bar, restaurant and nightclub. In 2006, he spotted a gap in the market for a luxury city centre hotel and purchased the former headquarters of the Ulster Bank in Waring Street and opened the Merchant Hotel. He also recently opened the Little Wing chain of gourmet pizza restaurants in the city.

Judith Hill, DSc for services to nursing and palliative care

A former Chief Nursing Officer for Northern Ireland, Judith Hill began her career at St Thomas’s Hospital in London where she specialised in palliative care and focussed on nurse education. She rose through the ranks to the role of Nurse Director in both the Wessex and South West Regional Health Authorities and also played a key role in the UK Central Council for Nursing, Midwifery and Health Visiting where she drew upon her experience in clinical nursing, nurse teaching and senior nurse management. In 1995, she became the Chief Nursing Officer in Northern Ireland and played a key role in the development of integrated nurse and midwifery education in higher education, oversaw the introduction of nurse prescribing,  developed the guidance and assessment criteria for free access to nursing care in the independent sector and chaired the review of palliative care services. In 2005, she was appointep chief executive of the Northern Ireland Hospice and has played a critical role in establishing the hospice as a leading carer for adults and children.

Kate Allen, LLD for Services to the promotion of human rights and to mark Amnesty International’s 50th

Director of Amnesty International Kate Allen first carved out a career in local government as a policy officer in the Greater London Council, at Haringey Borough Council and Camden Council where she set up a women’s committee. She moved to the Refugee Council where she served as deputy chief executive and headed the UK’s emergency evacuation programmes from Bosnia and Kosovo. She also chaired the Asylum Rights Campaign – a coalition of 100 refugee agencies, lawyers and community organisations – during the passage of significant asylum and immigration legislation. In 1998/9, she was seconded to the Home Office to work on the 1999 Immigration Act. A year later, she took over as the Director of Amnesty International in the UK, with offices in London, Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast and has participated in many research and lobbying missions around the world – including in Nepal, where she met high level members of the Nepalese military and Maoist rebel leaders in 2006 to discuss human rights concerns.

Born in Newry, Co Down, Susan Lynch is one of Northern Ireland’s best known and accomplished stage and screen actresses. The sister of actor John Lynch, she has appeared twice opposite University of Ulster Chancellor James Nesbitt on the big and small screen – in the hit movie ‘Waking Ned’ and as his estranged wife in the current ITV medical drama ‘Monroe’. In 1993, she made a huge impression in an episode of Jimmy McGovern’s psychological crime drama ‘Cracker’. She has also turned in memorable performances as a mermaid in John Sayles’ ‘The Secret of Roan Inish’, in the thriller ‘Downtime’ opposite Paul McGann and the BBC adaptation of John McGahern’s acclaimed novel ‘Amongst Women’. One of her most celebrated roles was as James Joyce’s lover Nora Barnacle alongside Ewan McGregor in Pat Murphy’s biopic ‘Nora’. Ewan McGregor received an honorary doctorate from the University of Ulster in 2001.

Miriam O’Callaghan, DLitt for services to broadcasting

One of Ireland’s most respected broadcasters, Miriam O’Callaghan has enjoyed a successful television and radio career on both sides of the Irish Sea. A former researcher for Eamonn Andrews on Thames Television’s This Is Your Life, she trained in the BBC and produced shows such as ‘Kilroy’  before landing a role in front of the camera on a BBC European-based youth show called ‘Extra’. This drew her to the attention of BBC2’s flagship nightly news and current affairs programme ‘Newsnight’ where she was taken on as a high profile reporter with a particular focus on the Northern Ireland peace process.

Headhunted by RTE in 1993, she presented an economics and business programme called ‘Marketplace’ before signing an exclusive contract to present RTE1’s news and current affairs programme ‘Prime Time’. In 2005, she also forged a career as a chat show host with the popular ‘Saturday Night with Miriam’ series and in 2009 she made her debut as a radio presenter with ‘The Miriam Meets’ programme. She runs production company Mint productions with her husband, Steve Carson. The company has been responsible for many documentaries, including series on former irish premiers Charles Haughey and Bertie Ahern. She also successfully made the case last autumn for University of Ulster honorary professor and Nobel Peace Prize laureate John Hume to be declared ‘Ireland’s Greatest’ in a RTE series, helping edge out Michael Collins, Mary Robinson, James Connolly and Bono.

Richard Moore, LLD for Services to reconciliation and children’s rights

Hailed by His Holiness the Dalai Lama as a hero, Children In Crossfire founder Richard Moore has been an inspirational champion of reconciliation and children’s rights. Blinded at the age of 10 by a rubber bullet which struck his face in his home city of Londonderry, Richard Moore did not succumb to bitterness but instead chose to use his blindness to see life in a different way. Not only did he track down Charles Innes, the soldier who blinded him, in order to personally forgive him (they have since struck up a close friendship – travelling to India together to meet the Dalai Lama last year). In 1996, Mr Moore set up the charity Children In Crossfire,  which works with health and educational workers and children’s rights advocates in some of the world’s poorest and most troubled nations to improve the lot of children – particularly in the early years. The Dalai Lama is a patron of Children In Crossfire and received an honorary degree from the University of Ulster in October 2000