University of Galway announce 2023 Alumni Award winners

Professor Oliver O'Reilly

Professor Oliver O'Reilly

University of Galway has announced the winners of the 2023 Alumni Awards to be presented at a gala banquet on Friday June 16, 2023. The Alumni Awards recognise individual excellence and achievements among the University’s 128,000 alumni worldwide. These awardees are leaders who have demonstrated impact and excellence in their fields on a local, national, and international level.

Now in its 22nd year, the awards boast an impressive roll call of 133 outstanding alumni. The winners of the eight Alumni awards to be presented at the 2023 Alumni Awards Gala Banquet are:

Alumni Award for Business and Commerce - Sponsored by Bank of Ireland

Jim Clarken, CEO of Oxfam Ireland, Irish Human Rights and Equality Commissioner, EU Fundamental Rights Agency Chair. He is a Commissioner at the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission and is Chair of the EU Fundamental Rights Agency. He is a leading commentator on global issues relating to human rights, inequality, sustainable development and the role of business in promoting and protecting rights, and is a passionate advocate for gender equality, contributing to political and public debate in a wide range of international fora. Jim worked at senior management and board level in manufacturing and service industries for over 15 years prior to joining the INGO sector.

Alumni Award for Arts, Literature and Celtic Studies

Ray Burke, Journalist and former Chief News Editor at RTÉ. From Oranmore, Co Galway, Ray Burke was conferred with a BA Degree in 1975. During his time at the University, he won Connacht Cup, Harding Cup and Collingwood Plate medals with the UCG soccer First XI and he was a contributor to Unity magazine.He worked as a journalist in London from 1977–1984 and joined the Irish Press in Dublin in 1984, becoming News Editor in 1989. He was a News Editor at RTÉ News from 1995 and Chief News Editor from 2010 until his retirement in 2018.

He is the author of critically-acclaimed books on James Joyce and on the Irish Press and ghost-writer of the bestselling Charlie Bird memoir Time and Tide. He has contributed to books on Irish newspaper history, was keynote speaker at Gregory/Yeats Autumn Gathering, 2016, and has presented workshops on Nora Barnacle, James Joyce and Oliver St John Gogarty. He contributes An Irishman’s Diary and book reviews for The Irish Times and has written for the Connacht Tribune and the Century Ireland website.

Alumni Award for Engineering, Science and Technology

Professor Oliver O’Reilly, Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education, University of California, Berkeley. Professor O’Reilly has been a faculty member at the University of California, Berkeley (UCB ) since 1992 and he currently serves as the Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education. His research interests span the fields of continuum mechanics and nonlinear dynamics. He has applied these interests to a range of applications including MEMS resonators, brake squeal, the dynamics of toys, motorcycle navigation, axially moving media, artificial and natural satellites, spinal kinematics, and vehicle collision dynamics. In 2017, his work on why shoelace knots come untied when we walk appeared in over 100 popular press articles, television features, and radio programs. Professor O’Reilly has authored three textbooks and co-authored a monograph and over 100 publications. He received UCB’s Distinguished Teaching Award in 1999 and the Faculty Service Award in 2022.

Alumni Award for Law, Public Policy and Society - Sponsored by RDJ

Major General Maureen O’Brien, Deputy Military Adviser to the Secretary General of the United Nations. Major General Maureen O’Brien graduated from University of Galway with BSc in 1980 and HDip in Education in 1981. Major General O’Brien was appointed as Deputy Military Adviser to the United Nations Secretary General in 2021. Her appointment followed an 18-month tour of overseas duty as acting Force Commander on the Golan Heights in Syria.

Alumni Award for Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences - Sponsored by Medtronic

Dr Dapo Odumeru MBE, Regional Quality Assurance Manager, NHS Blood and Transplant. Originally from Nigeria, Dr Dapo Odumeru attended Kings Hospital in Dublin. From there he attended University of Galway, receiving his BSc in Microbiology, followed by a PhD in Pharmacology from UCD. He also played rugby for both University of Galway, Connaught under 20s, UCD and Irish Universities. After moving to the UK, Dr Odumeru became Regional Quality Assurance Manager at the NHS Blood and Transplant Division, and founded Blood for Life, an organisation that raises awareness of the need for more blood and organ donors from the African, Asian, and Caribbean communities. In recognition of this work, he received an MBE in 2016 from Queen Elizabeth.

Gradam Alumni don Ghaeilge - Sponsored by Ollscoil na Gaillimhe

Máirín Ní Ghadhra, Broadcaster, RTÉ. Máirín Ní Ghadhra has been working for RTÉ since the 1980s, firstly as a continuity announcer and later in the News Department. Máirín presents An tSeachtain le Máirín Ni Ghadhra and Adhmhaidin on RTÉ’s Raidió na Gaeltachta, as well as 7Lá on TG4. She is one of the station anchors for special election and budget broadcasts. Máírín has covered many of the most important news stories of the last quarter century for the radio including the concluding of the Good Friday Agreement, the Saville Tribunal into the events of Bloody Sunday, the Scottish independence referendum and presidential elections in South Africa and the United States. She also worked on a series of extended interviews, Glórtha an Údaráis, to commemorate the establishment of Údarás na Gaeltachta in 1980, as well as Mná na Meán a series of extended interviews with several of the Irish language’s best known female broadcasters.

Alumni Award for Contribution to Sport

Tony Regan, former Head of Sport at University of Galway. Tony “Horse” Regan served as Head of Sport at University of Galway for over 35 years and is recognised as a national figure in third level GAA circles. He managed five Sigerson Cup teams to success in 1980, 1981, 1983, 1984 and 1992. He also trained the winning Fitzgibbon team in 1977 and 1980 and in his final year, was instrumental in the 2010 Fitzgibbon Cup success.

He was instrumental in the development of Dangan playing fields and running track and the establishment of the current indoor sports facilities and swimming pool on the main campus. In 1994, Tony oversaw the establishment of the University’s sports scholarship programme. This contributed enormously to enabling athletes reach their full potential. He encouraged and facilitated sports at all levels of participation, and addressed issues of equality by providing parity of esteem to both male and female competitors who represented the University locally, nationally, and internationally.

Alumni Award for Emerging Leaders - Sponsored by Deloitte

Geraldine Lavelle, Author, Writer. Geraldine Lavelle’s life changed in an instant in 2013 when she was involved in a horrific road accident while out for a routine cycle ride. The Castlebar woman suffered a spinal cord injury that left three-quarters of her body paralysed. Overnight, Geraldine had to adapt from being an independent, physically active young woman to a new world where she required assistance to perform the most basic tasks.

Since acquiring her disability, Geraldine has worked at Abbott Diagnostics, lectured in health science and physiology at ATU Sligo and qualified as a special needs assistant. She is raising awareness about the challenges of inclusivity for those living with disabilities and participation in sporting activities. She is also a passionate advocate for people living with disabilities and has contributed regular articles to the Western People, Sligo Champion, and several national media outlets.

Her new book, ‘Weathering the Storm’ is an account of her journey over the last nine years from the days following her accident to her emergence as a powerful and articulate voice for people with disabilities in Ireland.

Speaking on the announcement of the Awards recipients, President of University of Galway, Professor Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh, said it is the mission of the university to make the world a better place through its teaching, research, and impact.

“ Our Alumni Awards programme recognises alumni who make a positive difference in the world and who are leaders in their chosen fields.

“I’m particularly pleased this year that we can honour a diverse group of alumni who have made a positive impact in the world and for the world, both nationally and internationally.

“I congratulate each awardee and I look forward to welcoming them back to their alma mater for the Gala Banquet in June.”

For online reservations, visit or contact Colm O’Dwyer at 091-494310

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