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DCU honours leading airline executive Willie Walsh

Dublin City University has paid tribute to leading airline executive, Mr. Willie Walsh, conferring him with an honorary doctorate at the university’s autumn graduation ceremony.

Willie Walsh, Chief Executive of International Airlines Group, was recognised for his entrepreneurial ambition and significant contribution to the aviation industry to date. Delivering his citation, Dr Cathal Guiomard, a lecturer in Aviation Management at DCU’s Business School, said,

“Today, we are recognizing a local man who has led and continues to lead an extraordinary career in aviation… As {Aer Lingus} CEO, he seized the opportunity of an airline industry that was near collapse following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and turned the fortunes of the loss-making Aer Lingus around. In retrospect, many successes look inevitable that at the time seemed impossible. At the time when Willie Walsh took over as its CEO, Aer Lingus was losing millions of euro a day and was facing rapid oblivion. Several significant European airlines at that time did collapse. However, by 2003, under Willie’s leadership, Aer Lingus had become a budget airline and was back in profit…

Profitability and viability, and cost reductions, where necessary, have also been themes of his stewardship of IAG. But added to these challenges he also faces the more recent challenges associated with Brexit, the arrival of the long-haul, low-cost sector, the rise of global carriers based in the Middle East, and, in the near future, China, as well as the need to curb harmful aviation emissions. These are challenges that, even singly, most CEOs would find daunting.”

In accepting his award, Mr. Walsh said:

“It is a great honour for me to be with you today. This is particularly significant for me because I grew up in this area, in fact I knew this area very well even before this fantastic facility was ever built and I have had the pleasure of visiting DCU on many occasions over the years.”

Addressing DCU’s graduates, Mr Walsh offered some advice,

“There is a very fine line between being cocky and being confident. Confidence in any business is clearly very important. Arrogance and cockiness is something that is not very well respected.

A healthy disrespect is something that does set us Irish apart. We’re not afraid to ask questions, we’re not afraid to challenge, we’re not afraid to make sure that we’re doing things in the right way and I think that is absolutely critical in today’s environment.

So as you leave today’s establishment and take with you the experience that you have had here and the experience that will stand to you in life, work and future careers, don’t be afraid to challenge, and don’t be afraid to ask that awkward question. Education gives you the ability to challenge, the ability to discern difference from right or wrong, and the confidence to ask questions.”

In closing the ceremony, Professor Brian MacCraith, President of DCU, congratulated Willie Walsh and welcomed him to the DCU family:

“The award of an honorary doctorate by DCU is not only recognition of outstanding achievement in a particular field, but it’s a public statement of the principals and priorities of the university. The outstanding achievements by Willie Walsh are plain to see and are strongly aligned with DCU’s own strategic focus on the aviation sector. Three years ago we were delighted to partner with Dublin’s Airport Authority to establish the Dublin Aviation Institute to take a proactive role in addressing the critical issues facing this industry in terms of skilled personnel, career progression, succession planning and the demand for educational training.

Through your outstanding work you have provided an exemplary role model for everyone here today and we were particularly delighted to be able to coincide your award with today’s ceremony to inspire our graduates by showing them that what you have done can be achieved on a global scale, by an Irish person, with passion and ambition and exceptional ability.”


6th November, 2017
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