Former two-time world boxing champion Bernard Dunne has seen some big occasions in his career.
However, the Dubliner reckoned his graduation as a Master of Science in Sport, Exercise and Performance Psychology from University of Limerick ranked right up there.
The former professional boxer and former WBA (Regular) and European Super Bantamweight champion was one of hundreds of students graduating from UL at this week’s summer conferring ceremony.
It was the first full in-person conferring ceremony to take place at UL - where graduates could also invite their families to attend - since the pandemic began.
More than 700 students were conferred from the faculties of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, Education and Health Sciences and Science and Engineering on Tuesday afternoon.
They join the more than 117,000 University of Limerick alumni based all around the world.
In total, there was 723 students conferred, including 13 PhDs. These included large cohorts of graduates from the Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery (BMBS) and the Postgraduate Diploma in School Leadership programmes.
Bernard Dunne said he “started the course a number of years ago and absolutely loved it because I was already working in the area.
“I had no grey hair before I started this course and look at me now,” he laughed.
Dunne said of the Masters at UL: “I loved it – it helped frame and gave me tools to use immediately with athletes, with coaches, with management, so that gave me instant tools that were transferable into what I was doing.
“I get asked to work with a lot of teams as performance coach and now I actually have a piece of paper which says I can do it. It is an amazing thing to have, my wife and my daughter are here and we are having a family day today – and it is just such a big occasion to graduate with a masters,” he added.
Speaking to graduates during the ceremony, UL President Professor Kerstin Mey congratulated the students for their success in spite of the challenges thrown up by COVID-19.
“Your journey through education has been exciting, challenging and indeed not without a great deal of effort and commitment, but today you are celebrating the fact that you have excelled academically and all while we faced some of the darkest and most challenging days in recent history,” Professor Mey said.
“Succeeding in the face of the COVID-19 cannot be underestimated as it shows tenacity, focus and strength of character for each and every one of you to be graduating here today. Be proud of your accomplishment. I am sure, your family, your friends, your tutors and your peers share in that pride.”
Professor Mey’s remarks to the new graduates also reflected that UL is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year with a year of events to mark the anniversary of the establishment of the university in 1972 as the National Institute of Higher Education.
“This is an occasion that brings with it many reasons to celebrate and indeed to look to the future.
“Since our inception as NIHE in 1972, this institution has been agile in its growth. As we begin a year of celebrations marking our 50th anniversary, we remember how we started, as pioneers, entrepreneurs and disruptors and we look forward towards how we will carve a course for our next 50 years as change agents.
“As you leave here today with your academic award, you too will become the leaders, pioneers and entrepreneurs that will drive societal change for the better.
“Some of you will be the disruptors in asking how we do things differently, but all of you will be capable of meeting the challenges ahead.
“Today closes one chapter of your life, while also opening the pages for new beginnings. As our ambassadors in society, your work across whatever discipline or sector you will work in, will be representative of UL’s motto Eagna chun Gnímh – Wisdom for Action.
“UL is a collective of extraordinary people. That makes me and this institution very proud.
“Feel tall, be proud, savour and relish the achievement of today and go out into the world to make a change,” Professor Mey added.