EU Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science Máire Geoghegan-Quinn was among those recognised with an honorary degree from NUI Galway on Friday.
The Carna native was honoured alongside Lt Gen. Sean McCann, retired Chief of Staff of the Irish Defence Forces;, and Finian O’Sullivan Founder of Burren Energy Plc.
Speaking at the conferring ceremony, NUI Galway President, Dr Jim Browne said the university 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 outstanding and distinctive contribution to the diverse fields of political life, public policy and the international oil industry. NUI Galway is very pleased to be in a position to recognise these exceptional individuals.”
Commissioner Geoghegan-Quinn was conferred with a Degree of Doctor of Laws (honoris causa). The current EU Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science, she is a former TD for Galway West (1977-1997) and was the first woman Cabinet Minister since the foundation of the State.
Commissioner Geoghegan-Quinn is also a former columnist with The Irish Times, TV presenter, and non-executive director of both Aer Lingus and Ryan Hotels. She is a former member of the EU Court of Auditors and a former Member of the Governing Authority of NUI Galway.
Cork-born Lt Gen. Seán McCann was conferred with a Degree of Doctor of Laws (honoris causa). The recently retired Chief of Staff of the Irish Defence Forces was among the first of the Cadet classes to attend what was then University College Galway, and graduated with a Bachelor of Commerce degree in 1974. He is a graduate of the United States Command and General Staff College and was inducted into their International Hall of Fame in 2011.
He served overseas on six occasions and led the Defence Forces during the historic initial deployment of Irish personnel to Mali and Syria in particularly challenging operational environments. He is being honoured in recognition of the strong relationship between the Army and NUI Galway since 1969. Lt Gen. McCann was the first NUI Galway graduate to hold the post of Chief of Staff of the Irish Defence Forces.
Finian O’Sullivan was conferred with a Degree of Doctor of Science (honoris causa). A science alumnus of NUI Galway, he worked with Chevron as part of their frontier exploration and development team, concentrating on the arctic and western plain of Canada. In 1980 he joined the oil service company United Geophysical in California, undertaking exploration around the eastern hemisphere.
Moving to Australia in 1982 he led Geophysical Systems Corporation operations expanding through the region to India, China and Thailand. Following a period with Olympic Oil and Gas Corporation in Houston, while based in London, Finian set up his own company, Burren Energy Plc which developed and discovered hydrocarbon resources in Central Asia, India and West Africa in addition to a shipping and trading venture in the Caspian region. Burren Energy Plc was sold to ENI in 2008 and Finian joined the Bayfield Group in July 2008. Finian was also an NUI Galway Alumni Award Winner in 2009.
The three graduands join the ranks of previous honorary alumni which include among many others, Nelson Mandela, Hilary Clinton, Christy O’Connor Snr and Jnr, Enya, Anjelica Huston, Fionnuala Flanagan and Margaret Atwood.