Mary McAleese was inaugurated as the new chancellor of Trinity ahead of her first honorary degree ceremony this afternoon.
At a ceremony in the provost’s house, Provost Patrick Prendergast said that Trinity is “honoured and very lucky” to appoint McAleese as chancellor. Referencing the Trinity strategic plan’s mission, he said “pluralism, justice and fearlessness are exactly the adjectives that come to mind in connection to her”.
McAleese said the declaration of her commencement in Latin, a Trinity tradition, and put on the chancellor robes before addressing the audience of Trinity staff.
The new chancellor said that her appointment was “a very proud moment for me”. It is a “great pride to Irish people that we have this jewel in the academic crown in the heart of the capital city,” she said. “I walked through the door for the first time in 1975 to attend an interview for the Reid professorship…I remember coming through that door feeling a sense of awe and wonder”.
McAleese takes over the role from another former president of Ireland, Mary Robinson, whom the provost said “served with distinction” for 21 years. Both Robinson and McAleese were once Reid professors of criminal law, criminology and penology at Trinity.
As Chancellor, McAleese will chair meetings of the University Senate and oversee ceremonial events such as commencement ceremonies when the University of Dublin is awarding degrees, including honorary degrees.
McAleese will undertake her first commencement ceremony as chancellor this afternoon. Honorary degrees will be awarded to Irish Times columnist Fintan O’Toole, former Tánaiste Mary Harney, mental health activist Joan Freeman, marine scientist Professor Terry Hughes and neuroscientist Professor Michael Gazzaniga.
Additionally, the Chancellor hears appeals against decisions made by the College Board and interprets the College Statutes. McAleese will be one of two Visitors with this responsibility along with Justice Maureen Harding Clark, a former member of the High Court
McAleese was nominated to her position as chancellor by 29 members of the University Senate. There were no other candidates at the close of nominations and McAleese was therefore elected unopposed.
McAleese graduated in Law from Queen’s University Belfast after which she became the first female pro-vice-chancellor of the university in 1994. She has had an extensive career in multiple fields, also working as a barrister and a journalist.
McAleese’s husband, Dr Martin McAleese, is currently serving as the chancellor of Dublin City University (DCU)