Dr Thomas J Moran Chancellor Citation
PROFESSOR PATRICK G JOHNSTON: THE PERSON
Citation by the Dr Thomas J Moran, Chancellor
Wednesday, 13 December 2017
Being the final speaker is not without its challenges but for me today being the final speaker is a great honour. Someone recently said to me that life is not about the quantity of the days we have but the quality of how we spent those days. As you’ve heard today Paddy’s days may have been way too brief, that may have been, certainly way too brief, but there is no question about the quality.
Looking back I sometimes wonder if Paddy’s internal clock alerted him to the fact that his time would be brief. I was always exhausted after my meetings with Paddy. His mind raced at a pace with which I found it difficult, if not impossible, to match. I sometimes asked him to slow down but Paddy never had a slow mode.
Long before our time as Chancellor and Vice-Chancellor, Paddy and I met simply as friends. I share with many people often when I tell the story of Paddy about the time he invited me to take a look at the new Cancer Centre. And we looked and he pointed out where the laboratories would be, where the patients would be, where the research would be, where the connection would be with the US and the Global Research Foundation. And all of a sudden I realised my feet were damp. And I looked down and I realised Paddy was showing me his dream. We were standing in a construction site and the mud was up over my ankles. But that was Paddy. He shared his dreams and made you believe.
Occasionally, during one of our meetings he would seek my advice. Here is this brilliant friend whom I so greatly admired coming to me, little more than a New York City street kid. I felt honoured to be in his presence always. As I sat here today I realised that we are witnessing the expanse of Paddy Johnston’s passions. We are seeing the heart and soul of our friend Paddy. You may have known Paddy the research scientist, the physician, the educator. Today we also saw a Paddy whose love of music and the vivid images communicated with words by great poets like Michael Longley and Seamus Heaney.
Listening to the University’s Orchestra of which Paddy was always so proud. Listening to them perform the extract of the New World symphony. Whether reading from James Joyce’s Ulysses you knew Paddy the traveller, the explorer. You learned of Paddy as Beowulf and his never ending fight against cancer and equally passionately against bureaucracy. We listened to the University staff choir and got a glimpse into Paddy’s vision for one all-inclusive University.
As a friend and later as a Chancellor, I witnessed many of these characteristics that were highlighted today. But there was still so much more to my friend. He understood that no matter, no matter what our position be, we each play an important role in the life of the University and the world at large. He helped us to believe in ourselves and reach further than we thought possible.
I’m here as Chancellor because Paddy believed in me. He made us believe. I commented that we were given a glimpse into the heart and soul of our friend Paddy. Well that glimpse would be totally incomplete without talking about Paddy’s love for his family. This was an important factor in his decision to move back from the States and believe me, we wanted him to stay in the States. But he moved back because he wanted his sons to know their extended family and enjoy all of the benefits of family just as he had enjoyed when he was a young man. He loved and was so proud of his sons and he and
Iseult have every right to feel proud of these wonderful young men. But what I always admired most about Paddy was the absolute purity of the love he shared with Iseult.
Love is a word we easily and carelessly use in our world of greeting cards slogans. But when it comes to Paddy and Iseult, there was no better word for what they had shared together. As sad as it is, it seems strangely appropriate that they would be there together in their beloved Donegal when Paddy’s time came. This was their special place. The home of so many of Paddy’s wonderful memories. It was there that Paddy would catch his breath and reflect on the many blessings of his life and his family.
We will all miss that twinkle in Paddy’s eye and that sly smile that made you feel that you were on the inside of something very special. Especially when he had something that had to be done and you’d say Paddy, can you do it? And he would give you that look with the twinkle and the smile out of the corners of his lips. How lucky we were to have him for as long as we did.
He has passed on but he will always be with each of us. We each carry our own special memories of Paddy. Those memories will always keep him alive in our hearts.
God bless you, Paddy. Thank you for being there for all of us and don’t ever let us stop dreaming about the possible.