University of Ulster honors Rory McIlroy, Sir Alex Ferguson, Sir Ian McKellen, and Gary Lightbody


Leading figures in the world of education, science, business, the arts, and sport are among those who will be honored at University of Ulster graduation ceremonies this year.

US Open Golf Champion Rory McIlroy, Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson, actor Sir Ian McKellen, and Snow Patrol frontman Gary Lightbody head a distinguished line-up of peacemakers, musicians, media personalities, and other outstanding individuals who will receive honorary doctorates.

Sir Alex Ferguson, who has gained a reputation as one of the world’s most admired, respected, and successful football managers, is to receive the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Science (DSc) in recognition of his services to football.



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The former Dunfermline Athletic and Glasgow Rangers player has had a glittering managerial career, lifting just about every domestic and European honour with Manchester United as well as steering Aberdeen to the Scottish League title and the European Cup Winners Cup.

He also spent a brief spell as manager of the Scottish national football team during the 1986 World Cup in Mexico but will forever be associated with the ‘Red Devils’.

Northern Ireland golfer Rory McIlroy has quickly established himself as a major force in international golf as a Major winner and Ryder Cup hero. Last June, the Holywood golfer secured his first Major title at the 2011 US Open championship at the Congressional Golf Club with a record 16-under par score, beating the field by eight shots.

The youngest winner of the US Open for almost 90 years will be awarded the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Science (DSc) for his contribution to golf, following in the footsteps of his compatriots Graeme McDowell who received an honorary degree last year after capturing the 2010 US Open Championship and Darren Clarke who was honoured by the University in 2002
and won the Open Championship last year.

In March 2010, he officially opened the University’s Sports and Exercise Sciences Research Institute laboratories on the Jordanstown campus.

Snow Patrol founding member and lead vocalist, Gary Lightbody will be awarded the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Letters (DLitt) for services to the music industry. A native of Bangor in County Down, the musician-songwriter went to university in Scotland in 1994 to study English
literature and English language. While he was there, the seeds for Snow Patrol - which has gone on to become one of Northern Ireland’s most successful music exports - were sown. The band has enjoyed huge success across the world, especially with the songs ‘Chasing Cars’, ‘Run’ and ‘Just Say Yes’ which was used as the campaign theme tune during Derry-Londonderry’s successful bid to become 2013 UK Capital of Culture.

Actor Sir Ian McKellen, CBE, is to receive the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Letters for his services to acting. His work has spanned genres from Shakespearean and modern theatre to popular fantasy and science fiction and he has many television, film, and stage appearances to his credit. He is possibly best known outside the theatre for roles such as Gandalf in the ‘Lord of the Rings’ film trilogy, his role as Magneto in The X Men and a surprise appearance as a con artist in ITV’s soap ‘Coronation Street’. He has been filming Peter Jackson’s two-part film version of ‘The Hobbit’, whose cast includes University of Ulster Chancellor James Nesbitt.

Irish American businessman William ‘Bill’ Flynn, former chairman of Mutual of America, will receive the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Laws (LLD) for his services to Peace and Reconciliation. 

A first-generation Irish-American with roots in Mayo and Down, he is considered by many to have played a pivotal role in the Northern Ireland peace process. In 2009, he was awarded an honorary CBE in recognition of his exceptional contribution to peace and reconciliation in Northern Ireland.

Biotechnology entrepreneur Dr Susan Whoriskey from Boston will be awarded Doctor of Science for services to Biotech industry and entrepreneurship. Dr Whoriskey helped build two of Massachusetts most successful biotech companies, Cubist Pharmaceuticals and Momenta