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Alumni Awards 2021 

Alumni Awards 2021 

26 April 22
 | 12 MINS

NUI Galway Alumni in the worlds of the Arts, Sport, Public Service, Irish Language and Academia were among the distinguished recipients of the NUI Galway Alumni Awards 2021. 

Image: Nicola Coughlan

2021 Alumni Award Winners 


Nicola Coughlan – Alumni Award for Arts, Literature and Celtic Studies

Alumni Awards 2021 





Actor Nicola Coughlan is best known for her roles as Clare Devlin in the Channel 4 sitcom Derry Girls, and Penelope Featherington in the Netflix period drama Bridgerton. She graduated from NUI Galway with a Bachelor of Arts in English and Classical Civilisation degree in 2008. Nicola grew up in Oranmore, Co Galway, and while studying at NUI Galway, she often featured with the university’s drama society, Dramsoc. She trained in England at the Oxford School of Drama and Birmingham School of Acting and currently lives in London.


Áine Ní Chonghaile – Alumni Award for Business and Commerce 

Alumni Awards 2021 




Gaeltacht businessperson, Áine Ní Chonghaile graduated from NUI Galway with a BA in 1973, MA in 1985, and a PhD in 2020. She is the founder of the Connemara-based translation company Europus and received her training in the Translation Section of the Houses of the Oireachtas, Leinster House, Dublin, and spent over ten years on the legal translation team in the section. She was named Entrepreneur of the Year at the ‘Business as Gaeilge’ Awards ceremony and received a Fulbright Irish FLTA Award in 2019. 

 Antoinette Cunningham – Alumni Award for Law, Public Policy and Government 

Alumni Awards 2021 


Antoinette Cunningham is General Secretary of the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (AGSI) and risen through to one of the top jobs in Garda trade unionism, having joined An Garda Síochána in 1991. She is the first woman in its 43-year history to lead a Garda staff association in the role of General Secretary. Through her role with the AGSI, Antoinette represents the interests of 2,500 sergeants and inspectors, and was the first woman to serve at every executive level of the union. While working full-time with An Garda Síochána, Antoinette became a part-time student with NUI Galway, and graduated with a BA in 2010, and an MA in 2018. 


Professor Mark Costello – Alumni Award for Engineering and Science and Technology 


Alumni Awards 2021 

Professor Costello has led significant advances in understanding of marine biodiversity, including how it has responded to climate change at a global scale, gradients in diversity with latitude and depth, and improved estimated of how many species exist on Earth. Currently Professor in Marine Ecology at Nord University in Norway, he graduated from NUI Galway in BSc with a 1982. In 2021, he was awarded the Shorland Medal by the New Zealand Association of Scientists for leading development of field of ocean biodiversity informatics, including founding establishment of two open access world databases the World Register of Marine Species and Ocean Biodiversity Information System. In 2017, Professor Costello received New Zealand Marine Sciences Society Annual Award for Continued Outstanding Contribution to Marine Science in New Zealand. He has over 460 publications, including over 200 in peer-reviewed international journals, and has supervised over 60 graduates and students. 


Dr Colm Henry – Alumni Award for Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences 

Alumni Awards 2021 


Dr Colm Henry is Chief Clinical Officer in the Health Service Executive and has worked diligently in that role since taking it up in 2018. Since the onset of the Covid-19 crisis, he has been central in sharing information with the public and in advising us about how best to stay safe. As a fluent Irish speaker, he has carried out this important work in both Irish and English. He graduated with a BA sa Ghaeilge Fheidhmeach in 2017. 


John Prenty – Alumni Award for Contribution to Sport 

Alumni Awards 2021 


A native of Ballyhaunis, Co Mayo, John Prenty graduated with a BA in 1974 and HDip in Education in 1975. In 1978 he became Chairman of local GAA club, Ballyhaunis, followed by Secretary of Mayo GAA Board and the first Full Time Secretary/CEO of Connacht GAA Council in 1995. 

His current role oversees all GAA activities in the five counties of Connacht and its complement of 210 constituent clubs. This month, the GAA President Larry McCarthy was at the Centre of Excellence in Bekan to officially cut the ribbon on the new NUI Galway Connacht GAA Airdome.  

Alumni Awards 2021 

Neansaí Ní Choisdealbha – Gradam Alumni don Ghaeilge 

Born and raised in Cor na Rón, Indreabhán, Co Galway, Neansaí graduated from NUI Galway with a BSc in 1983 and a HDip in Education in 1984. She joined Raidió na Gaeltachta in 1986, where she worked on audio for a number of years and then as technical supervisor on the project which digitised the entire station’s archive in association with NUI Galway, Áras Mháirtín Uí Chadhain, Údarás na Gaeltachta and FÁS. In 2009, she was appointed Program Director with Raidió na Gaeltachta, and Music Organiser in 2010. She has been interested in traditional music since a young and has presented a number of music series since 1989, including Ceol Binn ó na Beanna and Béal Maidine on Raidió na Gaeltachta. Neansaí is also a flute musician and has released two albums with Cló Iar-Chonnacht, Draíocht na Feadóige and An Tower. She was awarded a Pioneer award by Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann in 2014, and her programmes have been recognised by the Celtic Media Festival. 

About NUI Galway Alumni Awards  


First introduced in 2001, the NUI Galway Alumni Awards recognise individual excellence and achievements among the university’s more than 120,000 graduates. They boast an impressive roll call of more than 100 outstanding alumni who have gone on to make an impact in their chosen field, and in so doing honour their alma mater. Among the distinguished honorees are President of Ireland, Michael D Higgins; Olympian Olive Loughnane; Rugby great Ciarán FitzGerald; Tony Award-winning actor, Marie Mullen; former Attorney General Máire Whelan; Aedhmar Hynes, former CEO of Text 100; and Adrian Jones of Goldman Sachs. 

 “At NUI Galway, we are a university for the public good, with a shared vision, shaped by our values. For 175 years our university has educated graduates of the highest calibre who have gone on to have significant impact in their field of endeavour in Ireland and internationally. I congratulate each of the award winners and look forward to welcoming them back to their alma mater in 2022.” 

President of NUI Galway, Professor Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh

The 2022 Alumni Awards are now open for nominations. These awards will recognise an alumnus or alumna who has made an outstanding contribution in their area of endeavour and is making a significant impact in their field. 




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