Alumni engagement and philanthropy

QUEEN’S CELEBRATES 175 YEARS AND HONOURS PRESIDENTS OF THE LEARNED SOCIETIES  Lanyon Building with superimposed black and white image of earliest known graduation photo

11 November 2020

As part of the celebrations, Queen’s has awarded Honorary Degrees to four Presidents of the Learned Societies in the UK and Ireland.

World leaders in healthcare, medical science, engineering and the humanities, the Presidents are from four of the most renowned Learned Societies in the world – the Royal Society of Edinburgh; the Royal Irish Academy; the Academy of Medical Sciences; and the British Academy.

They were awarded their Honorary Degrees during a remote 175th Anniversary Honorary Graduation event (Tuesday 10 November) streamed via the University’s website.

The Honorary Graduates include:

During the event, His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales gave a pre-recorded royal reflection to mark the special occasion and the Chancellor of the University, Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton, delivered a special message of congratulations.  

Speaking remotely during the ceremony, Secretary Clinton congratulated the Honorary Graduates on this honour saying:

“I am delighted to be part of this virtual ceremony and I wish to offer my sincere congratulations to Sir David Cannadine, Professor Peter Kennedy, Dame Anne Glover and Sir Robert Lechler on this honour.

“Queen’s has played such an influential role over the past 175 years, and has emerged as an international centre of excellence in research and education at the heart of the community it serves and I am honoured to be part of your present and your future.”

Professor Ian Greer, President and Vice-Chancellor of Queen’s University Belfast commented:

“The Learned Societies play a hugely important role in contemporary life. They are a hub of intellectual activity – what Seamus Heaney called ‘exercise of mind’ – and they represent leadership of exceptional ability.

“It is an honour to award these world-leading, highly distinguished individuals Honorary Degrees on this very special 175th Anniversary occasion. We warmly welcome them to the Queen’s family.”

Speaking on behalf of the four Presidents upon receiving their Honorary Degrees, Professor David Cannadine, Dodge Professor of History at Princeton University and President of the British Academy said:

“As Queen’s celebrates 175 years of academic excellence, we are delighted that the University has chosen to honour each of us personally, and also the work of the British Academy, the Academy of Medical Sciences, the Royal Society of Edinburgh and the Royal Irish Academy.”

Following the event, Queen’s launched a dedicated website which includes an anniversary podcast series about some of the Queen’s people who have made a difference to society across the world over the past 175 years.

The University has many distinguished staff and alumni including world celebrated poet, playwright and Nobel Prize winner, Seamus Heaney; former President of Ireland, Mary McAleese; inventor of the portable defibrillator, Professor Frank Pantridge; pioneer in the field of kidney disease treatment, Professor Mollie McGeown; world leading physicist and originator of ‘Bell’s Theorem’, Professor John Stewart Bell; and leading cancer expert and the late Vice-Chancellor of Queen’s, Professor Patrick Johnston, to name but a few. 

2020 marks 175 years since the establishment of the Queen's Colleges in Belfast, Cork and Galway and the beginning of the history of Queen’s University Belfast. Since 1845, our world-leading researchers, pioneering students and inspirational alumni have been making a difference to society in Belfast and across the world.

The 175th Anniversary Honorary Graduation event and podcast series is available here:

Media enquiries to Zara McBrearty at Queen’s Communications Office on telephone:  +44 (0)7795 676 858.


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