Illness forces UL president to step down


The President of the University of Limerick stepped down from his post today after an eight-year tenure due to a serious illness.

Professor Roger Downer, who was also Vice-Chancellor of the University, will continue with his academic work at the education facility until August, 2008.

Sean Donlon, Chancellor of the University of Limerick (UL), said Prof Downer had made an exemplary contribution to the growth and development of the facility.

"He has led the university to its current very high standing in national and international educational circles and has, in particular, made an enormous contribution in the areas of research, learning and teaching," Mr Donlon said.

The university praised the former president for the way he battled serious illness with courage and dignity over the past 18 months.

The university confirmed John O'Connor, who has been the Vice President Administration and Secretary of UL, had been appointed to the position of Acting President.

UL has already begun searching for a new president — the post will be advertised nationally and internationally.

During his tenure, Prof Downer, who has been awarded the lifetime title of President Emeritus, initiated the development of new programmes in Architecture, Physiotherapy, Speech and Language Therapy and Occupational Therapy as well as leading the campaign to bring a graduate medical school to UL.

He was credited with achieving major increases in research income, research output, post-graduate student numbers, patent applications and spin-off companies.

Professor Downer developed and nurtured relationships with the local and regional communities and was also a champion of access programmes in socially disadvantaged areas of Limerick, and arranged the building of the first crèche on a University campus in Ireland.

He spearheaded a major physical expansion of the campus with 12 major building projects completed during his tenure.