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Vice-Chancellor's Update - July 2019

We have just finished this year’s Summer Graduation Ceremonies when over 4,000 students received their degrees.

It is always a great pleasure to see our students complete their studies and move on to the next chapter in their lives. Among our graduates this year were 14 Honorary Graduates who were honoured for their significant contributions across the world of business, science, sport, academia and the arts. You can read more about our Honorary Graduates on the Graduation webpages.  This was our largest Summer Graduation with 17 ceremonies taking place over six days. It takes a tremendous amount of effort and teamwork to make an event of that scale happen, so I would like to thank all those involved in ensuring Graduation was such a success – great work showcasing Queen’s at its very best! 

Just before Graduation, we hosted another prestigious event when we welcomed the Ireland Funds to the University. Among the guests were: Chairman of Ireland Funds America, John Fitzpatrick; Secretary of Ireland Funds America, Sheila O’Mally; and members of the Board of Directors Loretta Brennan Glucksman and Shaun Kelly - all of whom are Honorary Graduates of Queen’s. The Ireland Funds is a global philanthropic network established in 1976 to promote and support peace, culture, education and community development through the island of Ireland, and Irish-related causes around the world. With chapters in 12 countries, the network has raised over $600 million for deserving causes in Ireland and beyond, benefiting more than 3,200 different organisations. At Queen’s, the network has supported a number of projects, including the McClay Library, Seamus Heaney Centre and the Homework Clubs. We look forward to progressing opportunities for future collaboration with the Ireland Funds.

Last month, we also welcomed former President of Ireland Mary McAleese back to Queen’s to launch the Queen’s Management School Annual Mary McAleese Diversity Lecture series. The new series is part of the Management School’s mission to promote greater equality and diversity in the workplace. Mary McAleese is a former Pro-Vice-Chancellor at Queen’s and we are delighted that she has loaned her name to this new lecture series. 

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All of you will be aware that over the past couple of years we have lost two men who made an enormous impact on our university and Northern Ireland: our Vice-Chancellor Professor Patrick Johnston who passed away in June 2017 and Chancellor Tom Moran who died last August. Following Paddy and Tom’s deaths, we have been considering how we can most appropriately honour them and I am pleased to be able to share our plans with you.

Tom was very supportive of Paddy’s ambitious vision for Queen’s, of which a key factor was the creation of a Graduate School. That vision became a reality in April 2016, when the Graduate School opened. The Graduate School has had an enormous impact on Queen’s, delivering an outstanding student experience promoting a culture of opportunity with both economic and social innovation and impact.  The Graduate School will now become the Thomas J Moran Graduate School, ensuring Tom’s legacy continues for many generations of students to come. We have also commissioned a portrait of Tom by Colin Davidson and plan to host an annual event in New York – the Thomas J Moran lecture.  

Paddy as you know was a world-leading cancer researcher who was passionate about patient care. The establishment of the Centre for Cancer Research and Cell Biology represented the realisation of his long-held ambition around transforming cancer services in Northern Ireland. Paddy saw the potential of Northern Ireland becoming a global leader in cancer care and the benefits that would bring and he ensured that potential became a reality.  In recognition of Paddy’s impact on cancer services, the CCRCB building will be renamed the Patrick G Johnston Centre for Cancer Research and will have an official naming ceremony later in the year.

I hope you will agree that these are fitting plans for two men who not only had a tremendous impact on our university, but on wider society.

We are now approaching the end of the academic year and I would like to thank you all for the support you have given me during my first year as Vice-Chancellor.

However, there is still plenty happening at the University over the summer – work will be ongoing in the development of action plans in response to the staff survey and we look forward to welcoming students from around the world as part of our International Summer Schools. Staff are also preparing for this year’s Belfast Pride Festival and Parade, the centre piece of which will take place on Saturday 3 August. Over 230 staff took part in last year’s Parade and I am sure there will be a larger turn out this year.

The summer is also a busy period for many staff as we prepare to welcome a new cohort of Queen’s students in September 2019.  For all those colleagues involved in admissions and clearing, and staff in student accommodation and estates, my thanks to you all.  Many colleagues both within Queen’s and external to the University have commented on the excellence of Queen’s Summer Scheme in the PEC.  To those involved in delivering this scheme, my thanks for your contribution to this great programme which clearly has enormous impact which goes beyond the Queen’s community. 

I hope you all have a great Summer and I look forward to working with you all in 2019-20.