Belfast Telegraph

UU graduations: Adrian Dunbar and Fr Brian D’Arcy receive honours

By Kathryn Torney

Graduations will continue at the University of Ulster’s Coleraine campus today when students from the Faculty of Life and Health Sciences and the Faculty of Computing and Engineering receive their degrees and certificates.

Around 500 students are due to be honoured today.

Built in the 1960s as the headquarters of the New University of Ulster, the University of Ulster’s Coleraine campus is the home campus to over 5,500 students.

This is almost double the number in 1984, when the New University of Ulster merged with the Ulster Polytechnic to form the present University of Ulster.

The campus is home to the Centre for Molecular Biosciences, a world leading biomedical research institute.

The university has over 24,000 students in total, and has an annual turnover of over £170m. With over 3,700 employees across its four campuses, it is one of Northern Ireland’s largest employers.

The morning ceremony will see the honorary degree of Doctor of Letters (DLitt) awarded to priest, broadcaster, columnist and novelist Fr Brian D’Arcy, in recognition of his services to the promotion of religious understanding.

Originally from Co Fermanagh, he was ordained in 1969 and became the unofficial chaplain to the entertainment community.

And at the afternoon ceremony actor Adrian Dunbar is to receive the honorary degree of Doctor of Letters (DLitt), in recognition of his services to acting. Among the graduates today is computing student Alistair Hagist from Ballymena who made the most of his summer holidays during his time at university.

Alistair was the winner of the 2008 ERG Oriental Sahara Rally — a gruelling two-week trek over some of the world’s harshest terrain in scorching temperatures.

Along with his brother Gareth and dad Peter, Alistair completed the 3,000km race in record time to clinch victory.

Not only were they the fastest team home — they were the youngest competitors in the rally.

“This is the second time that we have taken part in the rally,” said Ally, who came second in the same competition in 2006.

“We race in a modified Jeep Wrangler, and my dad drives the service truck, bringing all the spare parts and tools which are essential as there are always a lot of repairs needed after each stage.

“The sand dune stage of the race was particularly interesting as it crossed restricted areas in the south of Tunisia during which we were followed by military guard for the duration of our time there.

“It was a wonderful experience — but it wasn’t all fun and games, there were lots of stressful moments, early starts and late nights. There was a real mixture of emotions throughout the rally but when we won my brother and I felt very proud, as did my dad — none of it would have happened without his support.”

After graduation Alistair, who is half-Swiss, plans to travel to Basel to work and save enough money to compete in the rally again in 2010.

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