Liam Neeson accepts honorary degree from Queen's University Belfast
Actor Liam Neeson, OBE has been awarded an honorary degree in New York from Queen’s University Belfast - 38 years after first enrolling at the institution.
Vice-chancellor of Queen’s, professor Peter Gregson awarded the actor with a Doctorate of the University (DUniv) for his outstanding contribution and service to the arts at an event at the residence of Her Majesty’s Consul-General.
The star of blockbuster films including Schindler’s List and Michael Collins enrolled at Queen’s in 1971 as a physics and computer science student, before leaving to work for Guinness.
Accepting his honorary degree, Neeson joked that at last he would be able to tell his mother he had graduated from Queen’s.
'My home will always be Northern Ireland,' he continued. 'I have often found that no matter where I meet people in the world, there is a path that leads back to Queen’s. Queen’s University flies the flag for the arts in Northern Ireland and beyond. It is to be commended on its commitment to the arts sector and in nurturing new talent through its broad range of undergraduate and postgraduate courses.'
Professor Gregson surprised guests at the ceremony by revealing details from Neeson’s original university application form from 1970. The vice-chancellor revealed how Neeson’s academic referee from Ballymena Technical College said Neeson was confidently expected to obtain high grades in maths, physics and geometrical drawing.
As well as commenting on his pleasant personality and hard-working approach, his teacher hinted at what was to come for Queen’s newest graduate when he wrote: ‘Liam’s chief interest would appear to be amateur dramatics, in which he has played the leading role in the last two productions of the college play.’
Professor Gregson also said: 'From an acting career which first began at the age of 11, Liam Neeson has gone on to become one of the leading, international motion-picture figures of our time.
'Liam’s outstanding drive and resolute belief that the arts can contribute much to society has seen his star remain in the ascendency. He is to be commended for his continuing contribution to the sector both on the big screen and at his home in Northern Ireland, where he continues to provide vital support for local theatre.
The staff and students of Queen’s, particularly those on our arts and literature-based courses, are delighted Liam has accepted this honour.'
Dr Neeson - whose wife, the actress Natasha Richardson, died tragically earlier this year after a skiing accident - has starred in over 50 television and film productions.
This is not the first time he has received such an award from a university. In 2003 he was awarded an honorary doctorate from Fordham University in New York, at a ceremony which saw the likes of ABC news anchor Ted Coppell receive similar doctorates.
Neeson is also a patron of the Lyric Theatre in Belfast and has been an ambassador for UNICEF Ireland, raising over €1.25 million with a charity auction entitled Movie Action for Children.