Friends, family and political leaders gathered in NYU on Tuesday evening to witness Irish-born hotelier John Fitzpatrick and lobbyist and attorney Brian O’Dwyer receive honorary doctorate degrees from Dublin City University.
DCU President Brian MacCraith and Chancellor Dr. Martin McAleese officiated at the ceremony at the Eisner and Lubin Auditorium in NYU, which attracted a crowd of almost 200 people, including former New York City Mayor David Dinkins and Speaker of the New York City Council, Christine Quinn.
Accepting his honorary degree Irish born hotelier John Fitzpatrick dedicated the award to his late parents, Eithne and Paddy Fitzpatrick.
“They both influenced me in different ways. My father was all about the business, about getting on, getting things done and moving forward. My mother taught me to remember that being successful brings it's own deal of social responsibility.”
He added: “It’s extra special to receive this honor as the university is only a stone’s throw from where my Mother was born.”
The CEO of the Fitzpatrick Hotel Group, he oversees the running of two hotels in Manhattan and has celebrated 21 years in business in the city.
He paid special tribute to his friends, family and colleagues who have helped him achieve success.
“This is not about me tonight; it’s about the team and the family I have around me in New York.
“I could not do it without their help and as they say, you’re only as good as the people you have around you.”
Taking to the podium, Brian O’Dwyer, the second honoree of the evening, spoke about the ongoing efforts in Washington to pass comprehensive immigration reform.
O’Dwyer, a celebrated Irish American lawyer and lobbyist for immigration rights, is a senior partner with the New York law firm O'Dwyer and Bernstien.
“I am convinced that we are in the cusp of a new day in immigration reform,” he told the crowd.
O’Dwyer, who also serves as the chairman of the Emerald Isle Immigration Center in New York, said the work of the center has never been more necessary or important.
“I look forward to the increased workload of processing the papers that will take our people out of the shadow of illegality and usher in a new day of Irish immigration, that will greatly benefit this city and the island of Ireland.”
The New York attorney dedicated his honorary degree in philosophy to his grandmother Mary Agnes, who left Ireland as a teenager.
“Her story is not known outside of our family. My grandmother was the oldest of four children and was forced to leave the grinding abject poverty in Galway at the age of 16. When alone, by herself, she travelled to this city in steerage class to take up a job as maid on the mansion of Fifth Avenue.
“Her story is like the millions of others, whose story has never been told, but who created a life for subsequent generations that made this night possible.
“By honoring me, you surely honor her and her life.”
DCU President Brian MacCraith read out a special message from Taoiseach Enda Kenny congratulating the two men on the achievement.
“Brian and John represent all that is best about the Irish people and Irish America,” the Fine Gael leader said in a statement.
“Each of them has consistently showed a readiness to support the cause of Ireland, ranging from their work with the American Ireland Fund, on immigration reform, on welfare for seniors in our community, or on giving their time and resources to charitable causes in Ireland.
“We are truly blessed to count them among the foremost leaders of the Irish community in New York.”
Other recipients of DCU honorary degrees include former U.S. ambassador to Ireland Jean Kennedy Smith Irish, Derry-born politician John Hume and poet Seamus Heaney.