Dr James Nesbitt

Coleraine actor honoured at the University of Ulster

The curtain rose on a new role for actor James Nesbitt this week when he was formally installed as the fourth Chancellor of the University of Ulster (UU).

Over 250 eminent academics and figures from public life - including former Taoiseach Dr Garret FitzGerald - crowded into a packed Riverside Theatre in Coleraine to see Nesbitt (a former native of the town) assume the duties of Chancellor Officiating.

At the installation was Professor Richard Barnett, Vice-Chancellor of the UU, who said: 'When it came for us to identify a new Chancellor, James Nesbitt was the obvious and unanimous choice.  He is from Northern Ireland, he has excelled in his chosen career, and he has never forgotten his roots.

'Also, his work as a UK Ambassador for UNICEF and the charities with which he chooses to become involved demonstrate his clear commitment to helping the least advantaged members of our society, something that through our widening access and international development initiatives this university values most highly. What better ambassador could there be for the University of Ulster? And what better role model could there be for our students?'

Addressing his audience, the new Chancellor said he was thrilled about taking on this exciting new role, and looked forward to engaging with both staff and students in assisting and celebrating the work of the university in all its facets.

'I believe the University of Ulster is dedicated to helping our young people achieve their aspirations - and that is something that I can identify with,' remarked Nesbitt, who added that he was determined to act as an ambassador to promote the importance of the university sector in helping ensure government realises the value of higher education. He described the UU as ‘a modern and outward-looking university with a proven track record of preparing students for professional life'.

Praising the UU's north-west and Belfast development plans, Dr Nesbitt spoke of their potential for stimulating the economies of both Northern Ireland’s leading cities, and applauded the university's unwavering commitment to its home town of Coleraine.

He spoke of his long connection with the university’s Riverside Theatre, where his acting career began at the tender age of 13, and paid special tribute to the support and encouragement he had received from his family, and in particular from his father James, who was in the audience.

The ceremony also saw an honorary degree awarded to distinguished Tony award-winning actor Conleth Hill, who received the honorary degree of Doctor of Letters (DLitt) for services to the arts.