Leaders from the worlds of science, law, communications and business have been honoured with the conferring of honorary doctorates by University of Limerick.
Pioneer of Ireland’s public relations and communications sector Terry Prone; solicitor, businessman and tireless civic leader Michael Houlihan and two of UL’s founding professors, Professor Roy Hayhurst and Professor Evan Petty (posthumously) were celebrated as ‘four outstanding’ candidates for University of Limerick honorary doctorates.
UL President Professor Kerstin Mey, speaking at the ceremony, said: “The bestowing of a UL honorary doctorate represents the opportunity to honour those who have inspired, and worked tirelessly to make great contributions in their fields of endeavour. As a University proudly celebrating 50 years of making a difference, we honour individuals who have made unique and powerful contributions to this University and those who have made outstanding contributions and achievements in society.”
Honorary Doctor of Letters:
Over the course of her career, Terry Prone has been an actor, a writer, a journalist and an advisor to successive governments. She has written 30 books, served on numerous public service boards and now runs her own communications consultancy.
Terry Prone had cultivated connections in the media during her teenage years and began a successful freelance career that spanned radio, TV and print. She quickly excelled both as a writer with the Irish Press and as a radio reporter at RTÉ. She has also written for The Irish Times, the Irish Independent, The Sunday Telegraph, The Times, The Guardian, the Daily Mail and more. During this time, Terry Prone developed a reputation as a top-class author.
While the media has been a central tenet of Terry Prone’s career, her true passion is training. She has spoken about the joy of helping people unlock their potential and firmly believes that clear communication can help change people’s lives. It was these principles that prompted her to move into communications in the 1970s. Along with Bunny Carr and Tom Savage, her late husband, Terry Prone was central to the establishment of Carr Communications, a company that was set up with the bold new idea of offering not only public relations advice to corporate clients but also media training to journalists, broadcasters and politicians.
Nearly 50 years later, Terry Prone is now the chairman of the Communications Clinic, a company she founded with Tom Savage in 2008. As one of the pioneers of Ireland’s PR industry, Terry has adapted with the times; her firm has worked with some of the biggest brands in the world and has offered guidance to a line of government ministers over the years. She worked with Enda Kenny, then Taoiseach, on a crucial state-of-the-nation address he delivered in 2011.
Politics can be a difficult business, often laden with spin, but Terry Prone has always brought a deep sense of integrity to her work. For her, the truth is absolute. In her own words, if you get your message right and you’re truthful, you can change lives.
Evan R. Petty
Honorary Doctor of Science (posthumous):
With a distinguished research and academic record combined with much industrial experience, Evan Petty was well prepared for the challenge of designing the first-degree programmes in engineering and applied science at the newly established National Institute of Education in Limerick in the 1970’s. In the few months prior to the opening of NIHE, he, together with the small academic and technical team, had the onerous task of establishing and equipping a variety of temporary laboratories in the old stables buildings while chairing the admissions committee, which selected the first 113 students from over 1,000 applicants.
The World Bank recognised the potential of the fledgling institute assessed plans Evan had drawn up for some 50 laboratories in the first phase of the proposed 8,000-student campus. After gruelling week-long negotiations, the World Bank team agreed with Evan and his colleagues on a £2.7 million equipment list. At a time when the established universities were starved of funds and the total annual capital expenditure for the Irish university sector was only £2.2 million, the scale of the proposed investment was seen as extraordinary.
The excellent work of Evan Petty and his small team ensured that Limerick laboratory facilities were comparable to those in the world’s leading high-tech universities. This, in turn, combined with the talent in advanced materials and manufacturing that Evan succeeded in recruiting, resulted in a most unexpected decision: Analog Devices of Boston decided to select Limerick as the venue for the construction of Ireland’s first silicon-chip facility. Many of Limerick’s first graduates were recruited by Analog Devices.
Unlike many academics who are committed to research, Evan Petty was also noted for the quality of his teaching and served as the first Director, Quality of Teaching and Learning at University of Limerick. He was an active member of the European Society for Education and Training of Engineers and was elected as its President in 1991.
Honorary Doctor of Economic Science
In deciding to honour founding Professor Roy Hayhurst, University of Limerick pays tribute not only to his exceptional creative leadership of the College of Business but also to all the members of the founding academic community with whom he worked.
In efforts to recruit Roy Hayhurst to Limerick, arrangements were made for meetings with senior executives at Shannon Development. These individuals helped convince Roy that there was a rare possibility of combining academic resources with development finance to create a new dynamic. In due course, this vision bore fruit in a range of joint ventures in which Roy played important roles, including the Innovation Centre, the Regional Management Centre and the National Technological Park.
Roy’s new Bachelor of Business Studies differed radically from the conventional Irish B Com, and its graduates were selectively sought after by employers. The programme’s academic standing was highlighted by the access links he built in New York with Fordham University’s MBA programme. At an early stage, the embryonic College of Business led the way in developing post-experience programmes for specialist sectors such as banking and An Garda Síochána. Later, under Roy’s guidance, a new MBA programme and pioneering programmes in international education were launched.
In addition to his service and achievements at Limerick, Roy Hayhurst made a significant contribution to the national education scene. He served as a member of the National Council for Educational Awards and Board of Studies and worked with many institutions in the roles of Course Accreditor and External Examiner.
The thousands of graduates who have benefitted from Roy Hayhurst’s pioneering work have helped transform the Irish economy from inward and protectionist to open and entrepreneurial.
Honorary Doctor of Laws
A solicitor, businessman and civic leader, Michael Houlihan has been instrumental in developing both the mid-west region and University of Limerick. He has been a tireless and persuasive voice for progress and has demonstrated vision, imagination and diplomatic dexterity in building partnerships that have stimulated growth across Munster.
Whether as the first Clare man to serve as president of the Law Society of Ireland or as the driving force in transforming his small family law firm into a nationally recognised practice with more than 50 staff, Michael has always pushed standards. Through his actions, he has been a powerful flag-bearer for this part of the island and helped redefine the perception of what was possible for a solicitor from outside Dublin.
However, Michael Houlihan’s contribution to this country extends far beyond his own distinguished career. He has always known that the collective is greater than the individual, and he has championed community and civic causes for decades. His legacy lies in the dozens of projects across Limerick and Clare that would not have been possible without his expertise and dedication. Several of these are dotted around the UL campus. Between 2006 and 2014, during his term as chair of the UL Foundation, Michael helped deliver more than a dozen major capital developments, including the Analog Devices Building, the Glucksman Library and the Bernal Institute – a world-leading centre of science and engineering launched by then-Taoiseach Enda Kenny in November 2016.
Having been a member of the Governing Authority, Finance Committee, Audit Committee, Joint Honorary Doctorate Committee and Nominating Committee, Michael has given years of service to the University. He was an active collaborator with Ed Walsh, Chuck Feeney and the Glucksman family and offered sage and astute counsel to successive administrations as UL grew in size and scale.