Two of Northern Ireland’s most prominent sporting figures graduated with flying colours on Monday when they received honorary degrees from the University of Ulster.
Liverpool FC manager Brendan Rodgers and champion jockey AP McCoy were both awarded the honorary degree of Doctor of Science (DSc) for their outstanding contribution to sport.
Addressing graduates at the university’s Coleraine campus, McCoy said receiving the award was a “genuine pleasure and privilege”.
He added: “Ulster is a university renowned for its focus on shaping and nurturing talent, particularly in the area of professional and elite sports, so I am proud to accept this honour and be part of what is a special day for all graduates and their families.
“I have been blessed with a successful career in a sport but it has taken hard work, constant training and dedication, attributes that are as relevant to those graduating in engineering, nursing or business, as they are to professional sportspeople like me.
“I wish all 2014 graduates every success, wherever your knowledge, talent and ambition may take you in the future.”
University of Ulster vice chancellor Professor Richard Barnett said: “AP McCoy is one of the sporting world’s most respected and genuinely talented elite. He has, through over 20 years of championship race wins, become an ambassador for the sport and for Northern Ireland.
“He joins 12 other professionals who, in their own sectors, have become leaders and role models around the world.
“From AP McCoy and Brendan Rodgers to Roma Downey and Lord Brian Kerr, all of our honorary graduates have demonstrated a lifetime of passion and commitment to excellence, which can only be an inspiration to the latest generation of Ulster graduates.”
Thirteen ceremonies will take place until July 8 at Belfast, Coleraine and Londonderry campuses.
Other honorary graduates include Gary Anderson, motorsport commentator; Tommy Bowe, Ulster and Irish rugby international; Frank Cottrell Boyce, screenwriter and novelist; Evelyn Collins, chief executive of Equality Commission; Nick Hewer, business analyst and media commentator; Lord Justice Brian Kerr; and Fergal Keane, BBC foreign correspondent.
Meanwhile, singer Katie Melua and actor Ciaran Hinds are among 10 high-flyers who will be given honorary degrees by Queen’s University Belfast from July 3-8.
A university spokesman said it is making the awards to individuals “who have achieved high distinction or given significant service in one or more fields of public or professional life”.