A Celebratory Evening for Hugh Brady, President – University College Dublin (UCD)

Speech prepared and presented by Dr. Eddie O’Connor at a Celebratory evening for Hugh Brady, President of UCD from 2004 to December 2013.

Welcome Ladies and Gentlemen,

We are assembled here this evening to celebrate the outstanding Presidency of Hugh Brady at my old alma mater, UCD.

Hugh has transformed the university camps and the culture of the way UCD imparts its education.  The campus at the college in Belfield is scarcely recognisable now from before the time that Hugh took over as President.

I recall an occasion in 1969 when the Editor of the magazine “Awake” and future editor of the Irish Times came and asked me to sign a petition against the move to Belfield.  At that stage UCD was a spread out university, literally all over the place.  I had seen the architect Weichart’s plan for the layout of a future university campus at Belfield.  I was immensely impressed and enraptured by this design and refused to sign it.

Hugh Brady’s career has been stellar.  Having graduated from UCD with a medical degree and PhD he spent nine years in Harvard, it goes without saying that they don’t let dunces into Harvard and Hugh was an associate Professor of Medicine there.

Hugh was appointed Professor of Medicine in UCD in 1996.  He had met his wife Yvonne from Scariff in Boston and they arrived in Ireland with young triplets.

He was appointed President of UCD at the start of 2004.

He had five years of absolute plenty during the heady years of the Celtic Tiger after which Hugh had five years of want.

However, great men tend not to be defined by the era in which they lived but rather they finish up creating a new era, no matter what the external circumstances and so this is the case with Hugh as President of UCD.

Hugh is a change agent and when he sought to change the curriculum he experienced what all change agents find.  Everyone is happy for the guy next door to them to change but when it comes to adjusting their own way of doing things a heartfelt sometimes violent reaction set in.  It can be summed up with the question why is this person interfering with my perfectly run life?

But Hugh ploughed on and brought about some of the most important changes that ever happened in UCD which included:

  • Comprehensive curriculum reform at undergraduate and graduate levels;
  • Major restructuring and growth in masters and PhD training;
  • A re-organisation of UCD’s academic structures and student support services;
  • A new focus on multidisciplinary research with a significant increase in UCD’s research income, outputs and international ranking.  The ranking of the college went up by 100 points during Hugh’s tenure,   It’s position in the top 1% of world universities was reinforced.

He has overseen a significant expansion of UCD’s international student body and overseas programmes including the establishment of the Beijing Dublin International College and the UCD Shenzhen Health Sciences Institute in China.  It is very significant that Hugh recognised that China was already the world’s largest economy in p.p.p. terms should be the subject off a special relationship with UCD.  Doing this Hugh reinforced the already strong cultural links between the Irish and Chinese people.

During his presidency, UCD’s non-Exchequer income has grown to almost 50% of UCD’ annual turnover and a major capital campaign has been completed which included:

  • UCD Science Centre;
  • UCD Sutherland School of Law;
  • Systems Biology Ireland;
  • The Charles Institute for Dermatology Research and Training;
  • UCD Student Centre;
  • A new high performance sport precinct that includes the training base for Leinster Rugby;
  • New and refurbished student residences;
  • Refurbishment of many of UCD’s period houses;
  • The adoption of the new Gateway Campus Master plan with ‘Belt walk’ landscaping, woodland walkways and sculptor trail;
  • The master planning of UCD’s Newman-Library humanities complex.

The nation should be celebrating your tenure, Hugh.   In its stead I want to honour you in however a small way it is, by this celebratory dinner tonight.

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