The founder of the Galway Advertiser; the first female conductor at the Academy Awards; and the west of Ireland man who spearheaded the global Covid-19 response are all among 14 individuals who will be conferred with Honorary Degrees by NUI Galway in 2021.
Ronnie O’Gorman is the founder and owner of the Galway Advertiser which celebrated its fiftieth birthday this year. At the time of its inception in 1970, it was a novel concept in this country but has since gone on to become the highest circulation regional newspaper in Ireland.
Mr O’Gorman is a renowned historian, key to the restoration of Coole Park/Thoor Ballylee, and has been at the heart of the development of Galway from being a market town to a bustling city, through his promotion of the west and the region culturally and historically.
A chance meeting
Born in Salthill in Galway city, Ronnie went to university in London in the 1960s to study literature and drama, with ambitions of becoming an actor, but a chance meeting in the British capital with a man involved in the emerging free newspaper business, altered the course of his life, and he was invited to work at the Westminister Press. He returned to Galway in 1970 with a determination to create a free paper for the city similar to those he saw in England.
On Thursday April 16 1970 the first edition of the Galway Advertiser hit the streets. He was the Galway Advertiser’s editor from 1970 until retiring in 2001, and now serves as the chairperson of the Galway Advertiser Newspapers Ltd and continues to write a weekly column for the paper, Galway Diary, focusing on aspects of history of Galway city.
Galway-born composer Eímear Noone, who was born in Kilconnell, Ballinasloe, grew up playing music on the tin whistle, flute and piano, travelling to Dublin every Saturday for lessons at the Royal Irish Academy of Music. She made history at the Oscars last February when she led the orchestra which performed the music of composers shortlisted for Best Original Score.
Eimear has composed and recorded music for many video games and feature films. She is the world’s leading conductor of video-game scores and responsible for some of the most enduring soundscapes in best-selling videogames with a global reach of over 100 million people. She has conducted orchestras across the world including the Royal Philharmonic, Danish National Symphony, Sydney Symphony, Philadelphia Orchestra and many others.
Mike Ryan, executive director of the World Health Organisation (WHO ), has steered responses to lethal disease outbreaks around the world, including Covid-19, and worked in some of the world’s trouble spots, including Iraq where he was taken hostage.
Others included in NUI Galway’s 2021 Honorary Conferring span the world of arts, media, academia, healthcare and business are:
Dick Byrne - Architect by profession and life-long contributor to the arts in Galway.
Professor David Harper - Professor of Palaeontology at Durham University and leading international expert on palaeontology and evolution.
Jean Kelly - Retired Chief Director of Nursing and Midwifery, Saolta University Health Care Group, University Hospital Galway.
Professor Hubert McDermott - Former Professor of English at NUI Galway and former Governing Authority member.
Dr Martina Newell-McGloughlin - Director of International Biotechnology, University of California, Davis.
Eímear Noone - Renowned musical conductor and composer.
Máirtín O’Connor - Renowned traditional musician and composer.
Ronnie O’Gorman - Founder and owner of Galway Advertiser.
Mary O’Malley - Renowned poet and member of Aosdána.
Evelyn O’Toole - Founder and CEO of Complete Laboratory Solutions (CLS ).
Bob Quinn - Film-maker, director, photographer, writer, editor and member of Aosdána.
Dr Mike Ryan - Executive Director, Health Emergencies Programme, World Health Organisation (WHO ).
Dr Jerome Sheahan - Retired statistician/mathematician, NUI Galway.
Ailbhe Smyth - Irish academic and activist.
Speaking about the conferrals, President of NUI Galway Professor Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh said: “NUI Galway is fortunate to be associated with many outstanding honorary graduates throughout its history and those being honoured this year form a particularly distinguished group.
“Each one has made an excellent and distinctive contribution to public life, the betterment of society and the interests of humanity.
“NUI Galway is very pleased to be in a position to respect and recognise these exceptional individuals. Each of those we honour also have a special bond with our region - drawing on the unique experiences, strengths and challenges with which we as a University also engage – our values of Respect, Openness, Sustainability, and Excellence; our profile on human rights, and our emphasis on excellence, creativity and innovation. In honouring these exceptional individuals, we also signal what we value in areas that matter to us and to our society.”
The University aims to hold the Honorary Conferring ceremony next summer in line with public health guidelines.