Sonia O’Sullivan awarded honorary doctorate at DCU

‘The enormity of the individual ambition became inextricably intertwined with that of the nation’

She won every major honour on the track and now Sonia O'Sullivan has received another honorary degree - Dublin City University awarding her a Doctor of Philosophy (Honoris Causa) - the highest honour the university can bestow on an individual.

Also receiving their honorary degrees at the DCU campus were Professor John Coolahan, one of Ireland's foremost educationalist, and Labhrás Ó Murchú, Ardstiúrthóir of Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann since 1968.

DCU president Professor Brian MacCraith praised the three recipients for their outstanding contributions to sport, education, culture and music.

Professor Niall Moyna, head of the school of health and human performance at DCU, read O'Sullivan's citation.


“At a young age, running is free-form and fun, and it was running from lamp-post to lamp-post on the way home from school, racing friends through the gardens of Wilmore Park and running up and down the hills of Cobh that Sonia O’Sullivan, the eldest child of John and Mary O’Sullivan, first developed her passion for running,” he said.

"James Joyce spoke of 'the uncreated conscience of our people'. To that end we must be vigilant for the purely Irish moments in time and the people who gave them to us. The times when our nation stood still and when an individual embodied all our hopes and aspirations – where the enormity of the individual ambition became inextricably intertwined with that of the nation. Sonia O'Sullivan gave Ireland these unique moments in time and her achievements are unequalled in the history of Irish sport."

O'Sullivan is already an honorary graduate of University College Cork, which bestowed a Degree of Doctor of Arts on her in 2009.

She described the DCU award as "a great honour" and also joins an elite list of sporting names previously honoured by the university with a Doctor of Philosophy: Kilkenny hurling manager Brian Cody, former Irish rugby captain Brian O'Driscoll, former world number one cyclist Sean Kelly and 2012 Olympic boxing champion Katie Taylor.

O’Sullivan, who graduated from Villanova in the US in 1992, went on to win 14 major championship medals, including three European Championship gold medals, and two silvers; one World Championship gold, one silver; two World Cross Country gold medals; and the Olympic silver won over 5,000 metres in Sydney 2000.

Professor Coolahan is long recognised as one of Ireland’s foremost educationalist, and has been instrumental in transforming the educational landscape in Ireland over the past four decades.

Ó Murchú is recognised nationally and internationally as a social innovator and cultural activist, and has served as the Ardstiúrthóir of Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann since 1968.

Ian O'Riordan

Ian O'Riordan

Ian O'Riordan is an Irish Times sports journalist writing on athletics