Professor William James Smyth
Professor William Smyth has, in his recent appointment as Master of St Patrick's College, Maynooth, shown himself to be a distinguished leader in the field of Higher Education. The complex negotiations concerning the institutional structure of St Patrick's College have been noted for the tolerant and conciliatory tone with which the Master has addressed them. Professor Smyth, who moved to Maynooth as Professor of Geography in 1978 at the age of twenty nine, possesses a rare ability to bring together contrasting viewpoints. Not only does he possess Irish, British and Canadian citizenships, he is an ex-Newry CBS student whose scholarly interests concern the history of the Orange Order.
In being appointed Pro Vice-Chancellor of the National University of Ireland, Professor Smyth has consolidated his reputation as a competent, responsible and innovative administrator, perhaps one of "the young light-hearted masters of the waves", mentioned by Matthew Arnold in The Scholar-Gypsy.
The award that is presented today also marks the powerful contribution that St Patrick's College, Maynooth has made to Irish education. In this, its Bicentennial year, we acknowledge the profound, continuing religious heritage of the College. In recent years Maynooth has added a dynamic, secular institution to its foundation which has grown rapidly in the past decade. The legacy of Reverend Professor Nicholas Callan, whose invention of the induction coil underpins the name of Maynooth in the field of science, still burns bright as shown by the rapid development of Science and Technology at the College. This development will add to the excellent record in History, Classics and Celtic Studies, subjects in which Maynooth enjoys an international reputation.
Today's award marks the inestimable benefits which St Patrick's College, Maynooth has given to Irish education, to the Roman Catholic Church and to Irish society. Our praise also extends to the clear-sighted modernisation of the College which, through the vision and guidance of Professor Smyth and his colleagues will enhance and develop the exemplary work for which St Patrick's is known.
It is essential to recognise today social, charitable and personal contributions which have had a substantial and long-lasting impact on the well-being of what are commonly referred to as 'these islands'.