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Celebrating Excellence in our Alumni Community: Alumni Awards 2022

Celebrating Excellence in our Alumni Community: Alumni Awards 2022

15 December 22
 | 20 MINS

The Alumni Awards recognise individual excellence and achievements among our graduates, celebrating those who have demonstrated impact in their fields on a local, national and international level. 

Celebrating Excellence in our Alumni Community: Alumni Awards 2022

Aifric Keogh began her rowing career in 2006. She developed her skill and talent for rowing as an undergraduate in University of Galway, where she won many National Championships as a member of the University of Galway Boat Club. She was awarded the Tom Tuohy Memorial Award for her contribution to Rowing in 2014.  

In 2020, Aifric won Bronze at the European Rowing Championships in Poznan, competing in the Women’s Four and went on to win Silver at the 2021 European Rowing Championships in Varese. Aifric was then part of the crew that qualified the W4- at the Final Olympic Qualification Regatta in Lucerne and a Bronze Medal in the Women’s Four at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and made history in winning Irish rowing’s first women’s Olympic Medal. Her success continues as last weekend, she received a silver medal in the 2022 European Championships. 

Celebrating Excellence in our Alumni Community: Alumni Awards 2022

Tom Kenny has made a huge impact on the Arts community in Galway. He is a director of Kennys Bookshop and Art Gallery in Galway, which operates a retail and online bookshop, a book bindery, and a commercial art gallery.  

In 2020, Kennys celebrated 80 years in business with three members of the next generation who are now working there.  

Kennys Bookshop was established in High Street, Galway in 1940 by Des and Maureen Kenny, who were also both graduates of University of Galway. In 1994, Kennys Bookshop was the second bookshop in the world to go online.  

In 2021, Tom launched ‘The Old Galway Diary’, featuring a selection of the Old Galway columns from The Galway Advertiser, and which he co-wrote with Ronnie O’Gorman and later that month Kennys Bookshop won the An Post Irish Bookshop of the Year 2021 at the Irish Book Awards.  

In 2022, Kennys were listed as a finalist for the Independent ‘Bookshop of the Year’ in the region of Ireland, for the ‘2022 British Book Awards’ and Tom Kenny was shortlisted for ‘Individual Bookseller of the Year’ for the 2022 British Book Awards. 

Celebrating Excellence in our Alumni Community: Alumni Awards 2022

Dr Marie Healy spent several years in Dublin, training as an anaesthetist and specialist in intensive care after college. She moved to London in 1989 and continued her training in anaesthetics and intensive care in the Royal London Hospital, Whitechapel, in the East End. She was also involved with the air ambulance service at that time. Shortly afterwards she was appointed to a consultant post at the Royal London Hospital, where she has remained to this day. She is director of critical care and divisional director of the surgical directorate. 

Marie is known to her colleagues as a highly skilled doctor, who excels at teamwork and leadership, and is a compassionate and caring doctor to her patients and their families. She was closely involved with the casualties of the London bombings in July 2007 and had a role in briefing the government on their condition. 

The Covid 19 pandemic has been the biggest challenge of her career, and one, that with her decades of experience in hospital based acute medicine and intensive care, she has risen to admirably. She has excelled in all aspects of caring for her patients, her staff and the local community. From the early days of sourcing PPE in a hardware shop in 2020 to the devastating second wave of infection in early 2021, she has remained steadfast in her efforts to both treat her critically ill patients and care for their families, and to lead her staff by example. She is unfailingly kind, compassionate and good humoured, and is unassuming in her approach. 

In December 2020, Marie had a vision to showcase the spirit of the hospital and boost staff morale. The result was a video of staff from across the hospital playing instruments, singing, and dancing, bringing joy to both the performers and their virtual audience. The video was produced by one of her colleagues, an anaesthetist (Dr. Duncan Mitchell) and was made available for downloading on various streaming sites. All proceeds from the song have gone to wellbeing projects to benefit staff, patients and their relatives. 

The BBC’s Clive Myrie produced a series of videos about the pandemic for BBC News. In the second of these videos, he spent a day with medical staff at the Royal London Hospital, where 12 of 15 floors were occupied by Covid patients. He interviewed Marie Healy and showed footage of her and her colleagues in intensive care actively managing critically ill patients. The videos were aired on multiple BBC channels on multiple occasions in January and early February 2021 and were extensively commented on in both social and print media. As Clive Myrie commented, Marie stood out as a “commanding presence” and a “friend to all”. 

Celebrating Excellence in our Alumni Community: Alumni Awards 2022

Mary-Ellen McGroarty is the Representative Country Director for the World Food Program, Afghanistan. She has remained in Afghanistan to lead the WFP’s humanitarian response to the crisis in Afghanistan, throughout the recent conflict. She has remained in this role at great personal risk to herself, reflecting a deep personal commitment to her role as a humanitarian actor and leader in her field, and has displayed the highest levels of professional integrity and courage.  

She has been a highly effective advocate for humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan and has been interviewed on several major international broadcasters. She has liaised effectively with UN bodies, Governments, and international NGOs, and has played a key role in securing humanitarian exemptions to the sanction’s regime in Afghanistan, in the face of an impending crisis.  

Mary has held several leadership roles in conflict and humanitarian settings, including as WFP Representative and Country Director in Chad, and as Deputy Country Director in South Sudan and Burundi. She has actively engaged with the Irish Centre for Human Rights, presenting to students on careers opportunities in international organisations, in humanitarian and conflict settings, and has given generously of her time and expertise. She has also engaged with the student University of Galway Law Society and with the Irish Women’s Lawyers Association to highlight the situation in Afghanistan and the risks faced by women and girls and human rights defenders.

Celebrating Excellence in our Alumni Community: Alumni Awards 2022

Mark Butler is an accomplished executive leader with over 30 years’ experience in the Irish and international Medtech sector. He has an exceptional record of accomplishment, continually driving Operational Excellence, Delivery, Innovation and Growth, through the development of winning leadership teams and steering bold and targeted strategy. Mark is Executive VP – European Operations, R&D and Strategy for Merit Medical Systems Inc., a US based global medical device company.  

Working out of Merit’s European headquarters in Galway, he has responsibility for Merit’s pan-European operations, including device manufacturing and distribution facilities in the Netherlands and France, and a Pharma operation in the UK. This enterprise consists of 1,300 people and contributes 30% to Merit’s global revenue of circa One Billion USD. 

Merit Medical Galway is a recognised centre of excellence for Operations, R&D, Business Development and Shared Service support and was the recipient of the prestigious Irish Medtech Company of the Year award in 2018. Mark has operated in the lead role at Merit Ireland for the past 20 years, and previously spent 10 years with CR Bard/AVE/Medtronic in various management roles. 

He is the present chairperson of the west region for The American Chamber of Commerce and is a board member at both The American Chamber-Ireland and The External Strategic Advisory at University of Galway. 

Celebrating Excellence in our Alumni Community: Alumni Awards 2022

Ger Rabbette – CEO of Uniphar PLC, a diversified healthcare services organisation, that acts as a trusted partner for pharma and medtech manufacturers across the world, with the primary aim of improving patient access to medicines. Ger joined Uniphar in 2010, having graduated from University of Galway with a BComm in 1984. 

Having been selected as the Irish Times Businessperson of the Month in September 2021, and Uniphar recently winning Irish Times Company of the Year, Ger has nurtured and cultivated an incredible team around him, with Uniphar successfully over-delivering on its predicted financial targets in 2021. The company continues to grow and expand through Ireland and further afield, now employing a workforce of over 3,000 people. Throughout the pandemic, Ger spearheaded the transportation of PPE across Ireland and internationally, in conjunction with the Operational team. Uniphar PLC also did tremendous work through several charity initiatives. The Company raised €350,000 for various cancer charities in 2021, with Ger leading the West End Tour, a Dublin to Mayo cross country cycle in aid of the Mayo Roscommon Hospice. Uniphar also launched a Unity for Ukraine campaign, sending a truck of medicines directly to Ukraine, as well as sending two disinfection robots (worth €70,000) which can be used to quickly create a sterile environment outside operating room conditions.  

Celebrating Excellence in our Alumni Community: Alumni Awards 2022

Ré Ó Laighléis was born in 1953 and reared in Sallynoggin, Co. Dublin. He holds postgraduate degrees in Education from Coláiste Phádraig (1980) and Boston College (1983). He is known both nationally and internationally, for his short stories, novels, and plays. He writes in English and Irish alike, and many of his works have enjoyed translation into other languages.  

He is the recipient of myriad awards for his literary works, both here in Ireland and abroad. Works of his often feature on curricula at first, second and third levels. Currently, short stories, novels and plays of his are named material on the curricula of the Junior Cycle in Irish T1&T2. These include the short stories ‘Punk’, ‘Na Bradmharcaigh’ and ‘Claonfhéachaint’, the plays ‘Gan Choinne’ and ‘Coimhlint’ and the novels ‘Trumptaí Dumptaí agus An Falla Mór’ and ‘An Taistealaí’.   

In 1998, in recognition of his contribution to the corpus of Irish literature, Uachtarán na hÉireann, President Mary McAleese presented him with the ‘An Peann faoi Bhláth’ award. In 2014, Ó Laighléis was among the writers nominated for appointment as inaugural ‘Laureate for Irish Fiction 2015-2018’.  

His work ‘Out of the Cul-de-sac — Memoir of a Noggin Childhood’ was published in late 2016 and ‘GAFA’ is his highly acclaimed novel which tells the horrific and gruelling tale of teenager Eoin’s slide into the world of drug addiction and his involvement with its murky and danger-filled underworld.  

Ré Ó Laighléis is currently Director of An Scríobhlann, the purpose-built MÓINÍN training centre for aspiring writers in Irish and English. 

Celebrating Excellence in our Alumni Community: Alumni Awards 2022

Catherine Ludden is Director of Operations for the COVID-19 Genomics UK Consortium (COG-UK) and Head of Operations for the Pathogen Genomics COVID Programme at Public Health England. She was responsible for setting up and leading the end-to-end SARS CoV-2 sequencing service in the UK resulting in the acquisition of SARS CoV-2 samples from over 100 clinical diagnostic testing laboratories and sequencing of samples at 16 sequencing hubs. To date, COG-UK has sequenced more than 2 million SARS CoV-2 genomes which have informed public health and policy. 

Her exceptional analytical and decision-making skills allowed Catherine to quickly identify problems and implement novel solutions to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of SARS-CoV-2 sequencing for public health. Catherine also developed the “Women in COG” initiative which is a supportive network created to share experiences and knowledge and to promote science careers in women and girls. The Women in COG series promotes equality, diversity and inclusion and enables the interactive audience from various backgrounds and professions to ask questions on topics relating to women working in STEM. 


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