University Presidents 1845-2000

National_University_of_Ireland,_Galway_-_geograph.org.uk_-_12024Dr. Patrick F. Fottrell, 1996-2000

Patrick F. Fottrell was born in Youghal, Co. Cork in 1933. He graduated from UCC with B.Sc. and M.Sc. degrees in Biochemistry. He obtained his Ph.D. degree from the University of Glasgow, and continued his research there following the award of the prestigious Beit Memorial Fellowship. He has an active research record and was awarded the D.Sc. degree by NUI, as well as other national and international awards. He was elected to membership of the Royal Irish Academy in 1975 and served as Vice-President of the Academy in 1979. Dr. Fottrell held a lectureship (1965-1970), Associate Professorship (1970-1976) and Professorship of Biochemistry (1976-1996); he was Registrar of NUI Galway (1986-1991). He held several Visiting Professorships at Harvard University between 1972 and 1995 and returns to Harvard on the completion of his Presidency in 2000.

He introduced the first strategic plan for the University in 1997 – Strategic Plan 2006. The implementation of this plan under his leadership resulted in considerable strengthening of the research activities in the University. With funding from private and state sources, five new research centres such as the Irish Centre for Human Rights and the National Centre for Biomedical Engineering Science were established. The largest new building programme in the history of the University, funded at a cost of £53m, was initiated during his presidency and included the Information Technology Centre, the Arts Millennium Building and the Biomedical Engineering Science Building.
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Dr. Colm Ó hEocha, 1975-1996

Colm Ó hEocha was born in Co. Waterford in 1926. He was educated at UCG, where he was awarded the degrees of B.Sc. and M.Sc. He continued his studies to doctorate level at the University of California, Los Angeles and at Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, California. In 1963, he was appointed to the first Professorship of Biochemistry at UCG.

Dr. Ó hEocha was one of Ireland’s most respected academics. He received awards and honours from the governments of France, Italy and Poland, and universities in Ireland, the U.K. and the United States. He was a member of the Royal Irish Academy and Chairman of the Arts Council for five years. In 1983, Dr. Ó hEocha was appointed Chairman of the New Ireland Forum, an important forerunner to the recent Northern Ireland peace talks. Under his Presidency UCG continued to expand. Student numbers doubled, research flourished, and the present modern campus took shape.

Dr. Martin J. Newell, 1960-1975

Martin J. Newell was born in Galway in 1910. He studied at St. Joseph’s College and UCG, where he graduated with B.Sc. and M.Sc. degrees both with first class honours. He then attended St. John’s College, Cambridge for three years where he conducted research on quantum theory. He lectured in Mathematics at UCG from 1935, became Professor in 1955 and President in 1960.

During his Presidency student numbers at UCG increased dramatically from 1,000 to 3,500. The campus was greatly extended, a physical development plan was prepared, and the first phase of a major new building programme was implemented. Staff numbers increased greatly and many new disciplines were added to the curriculum. He published numerous mathematical papers throughout his career as well as a number of Irish language Mathematics textbooks for university students. He was the last President to reside with his family in the Quadrangle.

Monsignor Pádraig de Brún, 1945-1959

Born in Grangemockler, Co. Tipperary, Pádraig de Brún received his secondary education at Rockwell College where his Mathematics teacher was Éamon de Valera. He went on to study Mathematics at UCD, the Sorbonne and the University of Gottingen. Following his ordination in 1913, Pádraig de Brún returned to Ireland and was appointed Professor of Mathematics at Maynooth College. He believed passionately in the importance of the Irish language and was an active member of the Gaelic League. While at Maynooth, and later in Galway, he translated numerous scientific and literary texts from French, German, Greek and Latin into Irish. The breadth of his learning was acknowledged when he was elected first Chairman of the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies in 1940. In 1945, he was appointed to the Presidency of UCG. On retiring in 1959, he became Chairman of the Arts Council, a position he held until his death in June 1960..

Monsignor John Hynes, 1934-1945

John Hynes was born in Newbridge, Co. Roscommon in 1875. He was educated at Maynooth, and following ordination was attached to the diocese of Elphin. In 1911, he was appointed Dean of Residence at UCG, the first Catholic priest to occupy that position since the Synod of Thurles. It was the first of many roles he was to fill in the College.

He was appointed Secretary in 1914 and Registrar in 1916. In 1924, he became Professor of Archaeology. In 1910, at a time of acute financial crisis in UCG, the government offered to double any funding for UCG that might be raised locally. Monsignor Hynes lobbied the County Councils of Connaught until they agreed to strike a rate to support the College. His efforts resulted in an annual increase of funding of £3,000, thus guaranteeing the survival of UCG.

The regard in which he was held by the students was shown in the welcome given to him on his return from Dublin in 1934, when his election as UCG President by the NUI Senate was announced. About three hundred students met him at Galway railway station and escorted him through the streets as far as the College.

Alexander Anderson, 1899-1934

Born in Coleraine, Co. Derry, Alexander Anderson was one of many Ulster students who attended Queen’s College Galway during its first half-century. He graduated with an M.A. in 1881 and proceeded to Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, graduating there in 1884. The following year he returned to QCG to take up the chair of Natural History. From 1899 he combined that chair with the office of President. As well as being an able administrator and popular teacher, Anderson was a distinguished physicist and gave his name to a method for measuring co-efficients of self-induction (Anderson’s Bridge).

Alexander Anderson occupies a unique position in the history of this College, overseeing, as he did, the transition from QCG to UCG, and from a university of the United Kingdom to the designated Gaelic University of Saorstát Éireann. At the time he became President, QCG had fewer than one hundred students. On his retirement, there were over six hundred. He was a staunch advocate of multi-denominational education and successfully defended his College against threat of closure on two occasions.

William Joseph M. Starkie, 1897-1899

William Joseph M. Starkie was born in Sligo. He was educated at Trinity College, Cambridge and Trinity College, Dublin. He graduated with first class honours from Cambridge University in 1883, and as senior Moderator in Ethics and Logic from Dublin University in 1888. From 1883 to 1886 he held the Chair of Classical Literature in the Catholic University of Dublin (later UCD). In 1890, he became a Fellow of Trinity College but resigned on being appointed President of QCG in 1897. He also occupied the professorial chair of History and English Literature.

He left QCG in 1899 to become Resident Commissioner of National Education, a post he held until his death in 1920. He was President of the Classical Association of Ireland in 1911, and was elected to the Irish Privy Council in 1914. He published several studies of Irish education, and contributed to numerous journals on topics of Education and the Classics. While at Galway he produced a translation of Aristophanes’s ‘Vespae’.

Thomas William Moffett, 1877-1897

Thomas William Moffett was born in Dublin. He was educated at Trinity College Dublin and graduated in 1843 as Senior Moderator in Ethics and Logic. He was awarded an LL.D. degree the previous year. He came to Galway in 1849 to become the first Professor of Logic and Metaphysics at QCG. In 1863, that chair was combined with the chair of History and English Literature.

He was appointed Registrar in 1870 and he remained in this post until he became President in 1877. He was also a Senator of the Royal University and President of the Royal Galway Institution. He had a life-long interest in social and economic questions. As Barrington Lecturer at the Dublin Statistical Society (1849-56), Moffett travelled throughout Ireland delivering public lectures on Economics. Besides numerous essays in Literature, Philosophy and Economic Science, he was the author of Selections from the Philosophical Works of Bacon, with Translation and Notes. Sir Thomas Moffett retired in 1897 and returned to Dublin where he continued to take an interest in QCG through the Alumni Association.

Edward Berwick, 1849-1877

Edward Berwick was a son of the Rev. Edward Berwick, Rector of Esker, Co. Dublin. He studied Law at Trinity College Dublin and was called to the Irish bar in 1832. He was appointed Vice-President of Queen’s College Galway in 1845 and became President following the death of Joseph Kirwan in 1849. His initial report of 1850 emphasized the difficulty of establishing a successful university within a district decimated by famine. Berwick was frequently called on to defend the College against its various detractors, particularly in the run-up to Gladstone’s University Bill of 1873, which proposed to abolish QCG. Against charges that the College in Galway was not attracting sufficient numbers to warrant its funding, Berwick repeatedly and patiently urged the government to grant sufficient time for the institution to take root. Following the loss, in quick succession, of his brother, sister and only child, “life did not seem to possess much interest for him”, according to his successor, Thomas Moffett. Edward Berwick died in office in 1877.

The Rev. Joseph W. Kirwan, 1845-1849

Joseph William Kirwan was born in Galway in 1796. He entered Maynooth in 1817 and was ordained in 1822. He won academic prizes in each year of his course and emerged with a Doctorate of Divinity. He was appointed parish priest of Oughterard in 1827 and was responsible for building the parish church there. Kirwan won a reputation as a thoughtful and eloquent speaker. In 1845, when the bishopric of Galway became vacant Kirwan was one of the candidates considered. Once the Colleges’ Bill had passed through parliament and Galway had been chosen as the site for the Western College, Kirwan applied for the position of President and received the appointment.

As the controversy over the ‘Godless Colleges’ heightened, Kirwan became a regular target for abuse from its opponents. Despite repeated calls for his suspension, not least from the Archbishop of Tuam, Kirwan held his position and presided at the opening of the College on 30th October 1849. By then his health was failing. He suffered a series of strokes during 1849 and died on 24th December 1849.

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