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Key figures from across health, sport, business, property and local government in Northern Ireland will be recognised by Ulster University as this year’s honorary graduates.

One of the eight honorary graduates is being recognised for the important role they have played in response to the COVID-19 pandemic - Dr Patricia Donnelly led the successful roll-out of the Northern Ireland COVID-19 Vaccination Programme.

Leading figure in the business community, Jackie Henry, is being recognised for the key role she has played in the economic prosperity and growth of Northern Ireland, and also for her advocacy of diversity, inclusion and social mobility, particularly in building skills and providing access to education. Patrick McKillen’s inspirational career in property development and hospitality, together with his role in promoting peace and reconciliation across Ireland, will also be recognised among this year’s honorary graduates.

For the role he has played over the decades in promoting peace and reconciliation within Derry-Londonderry and across Northern Ireland, together with his key role in welcoming our new university students to the city, Jim Roddy will be conferred as an honorary Ulster University graduate.

Outstanding sporting achievements are also being celebrated this year - Dr Karen Weekes will be conferred in recognition of her solo crossing of the Atlantic, together with the significant role she has played in promoting the UN sustainable goals of gender equality and ocean conservation.

The University will be conferring Agnes Lunny for the significant advocacy role she has played at the highest level of government to secure investment in social care reform, together with her inspirational leadership role in the establishment and success of the Positive Futures charitable organisation. We are also recognising the exceptional contribution and leadership that has been demonstrated by Jenny Pyper, as both Interim Head of the Civil Service and Utility Regulator for Northern Ireland.

In addition, John Shiels, Chief Executive of Manchester United Foundation, will also be conferred in recognition of his outstanding contribution to the personal development of young people through education, sport and community engagement.

Congratulating the recipients, Ulster University Vice-Chancellor, Professor Paul Bartholomew said:

As we look forward to welcoming our graduates and their families to celebrate the achievements of the Class of 2022, I am delighted to announce this year’s cohort of honorary graduates who have made outstanding contributions in their fields of expertise, and who we hope will serve as positive role models to the many thousands of students we welcome through our doors each year.

It is right we take time this year to reflect and recognise the resilience and determination shown by our students, staff, and our partners, as we face the challenges of emerging from the global pandemic and adapting to a changed learning landscape. It is as important as ever for us at Ulster University to recognise the breadth of talents of those who have made a significant impact on our society.

This year, we’re celebrating people who have truly played their part in supporting people from across Northern Ireland – whether that’s by directly supporting the public through the response to COVID-19 and vaccination roll-out, or those who have spent their careers creating economic prosperity and improving social mobility, promoting peace and reconciliation, achieving sporting excellence and using their platform to promote sustainability and gender equality, and those who have devoted their lives to public service and local government.

Our graduates have worked hard over the last couple of difficult years to complete their studies and are now equipped with the skills and knowledge to go out and make a difference themselves; closing one chapter to begin the next. This year’s honorary graduates and their demonstration of hard work, determination, integrity, leadership and public service have created a blueprint that I am sure will continue to inspire the Class of 2022, and us all.