Born in 1939, Professor Ed Walsh, the founding President of University of Limerick, is the son of a Cork butcher and cattle-dealer. President Emeritus Walsh was educated at Christian Brothers College, Cork, and studied electrical engineering at University College Cork before going to the University of Iowa in 1961 to gain masters and doctoral qualifications in nuclear and electrical engineering. In 1969, President Emeritus Walsh returned to Ireland and arrived in Limerick to be named the director of the, as yet, unnamed third level institute. Under his stewardship, the National Institute for Higher Education (NIHE) was born and would later attain University status as a result of the University of Limerick Act 1989. Ed Walsh remained on as University President until 1998.
Born in Belfast in 1942, Roger Downer, UL President Emeritus, is the son of Edith and Leslie Downer. President Emeritus Downer was educated at the Methodist College Belfast before going on to Queens University Belfast to study science and University of Western Ontario, where he studied for a PhD. The majority of Roger Downer’s academic career was spent at University of Waterloo, with sabbatical leaves at Hokkaido University in Japan and Oxford University. From 1998 to 2006, President Emeritus Downer held the positions of President and Vice Chancellor at the University and oversaw the growth of student numbers, research productivity and a physical expansion of the campus footprint.
Born in Boherbue, County Cork, President Emeritus John O'Connor graduated from University College Galway with a BA in History, Latin and Philosophy in 1966 and qualified as a chartered accountant in 1970. Two years later, in 1972, John O’Connor joined the National institute for Higher Education (NIHE) to help develop its finances and later became director of Finance and Physical Development in 1980. A successful 1983 bid for investment from the European Investment Bank led to the completion of Phase 1B of the development plan at the institution. Under John's direction, and with a generous pledged donation from Atlantic Philanthropies, a plan was in place by 1996 to construct a state-of-the-art sports arena, including an Olympic-size swimming pool. Amongst the many successes experienced by UL throughout the years, the establishment in 2007 of the Graduate Entry Medical School, is amongst the most notable and the extremely competitive tendering process which was led by John O'Connor. In 2006, and for one year, John O’Connor took on the role of acting President of the University. President Emeritus O’Connor retired from UL in 2012 and, sadly, passed away in August 2018.
Born in Mallow, County Cork, in 1957, UL President Emeritus Don Barry graduated from UCC with a BSc and MSc in Mathematical science before moving to the US where he graduated from Yale with a PhD degree in statistics in 1983. Don Barry returned to UCC that year and took up a post lecturing in statistics and, in 1997, became the holder of the first Chair in Statistics at University of Limerick. Don Barry, after taking up the post of Vice President Academic and Registrar at University of Limerick in 2004, was appointed President of UL by the Governing Authority in May 2007 where he remained until 2017.