Honorary degree recipient McCormack urges UU students: 'Endeavour to make a difference'

Feargal McCormack has received an honorary degree of Doctor of Science (DSc) from Ulster University for his civic contributions. Photo: Nigel McDowell
Gary McDonald Business Editor

DESCRIBED as "a leading contributor and shining ambassador for Ulster University", an honorary degree of Doctor of Science has been bestowed on Newry businessman Feargal McCormack for his commitment to civic society through business, economic, social and community development in Ireland over 20 years, following in the footsteps of the likes of Dr Martin Naughton and former Irish President Mary McAleese.

And in an impassioned response, he challenged the young graduates to"utilise your skills, accept greater social responsibility, endeavour to make a difference each and every day, and make a contribution that nurtures and sustains both you and society".

Mr McCormack, founder of leading mid-tier private professional accountancy practice PKF-FPM and who this year holds the presidency of Chartered Accountants Ireland, has been a Visiting Professor associated with Ulster University Business School for 10 years, where has made a hugely significant contribution in fostering links with leading business figures.

In his encomium in introducing the honorary degree recipient, Professor Mark Durkin, Executive Dean at the Ulster University Business School, said that as higher education goes through unprecedented change, especially with respect to funding challenges and the need for new business models, Mr McCormack's natural predisposition to ‘action over thought' had brought real value into the Business School's strategic approach.

"At national level, Feargal is already a very influential figure in the development of the professional services sector in general, and in his role as president of Chartered Accountants Ireland, he is uniquely placed to build on the already strong links that exist between Ulster University and CAI.

"Through his wide range of experience, expertise and achievements, and through his involvement and influence with a variety of organisations, he is uniquely positioned to enhance the civic role of Ulster University. As noted above, he has very strong links with the business community, and with major sporting and charity organisations. He has already used these to great effect, and will continue to do so in order to enhance the University's civic role."

In his response, Mr McCormack said he was both honoured and humbled by the accolade, and he acknowledged the quality and breath of education provided at Ulster University and the pivotal role it has played in the education of young women and men, many of whom have progressed to make significant civic contributions to local, national and international communities.

He said: "It over 27 years ago, since I was asked to give my first presentation or speech. It was to the Ulster Society of Student Accountants, and I was allowed to choose my own theme, which for me was: 'I don't care how much you know, until I know how much you care'.

"Twenty seven years on, I am more convinced than ever that this is the key to life, and a successful business career. I believe that our motivation in life, and indeed in business, should be to serve and help others, since life is all about people and relationships.

"We are currently in challenging global political and uncertain economic times and the world is changing. We are experiencing a landscape where digitalisation and globalisation have become partners in a race for corporate differentiation, a landscape where technology can make time zones irrelevant and borders invisible. However, our present circumstances, do not determine, where we can go, they merely determine where we start.

"The future of this island depends on the quality of our young people. Leadership starts with a vision for the self, but it ends with a vision for community, and for country. No matter what your circumstances in life, no matter what the distractions or temptations, seek the best in yourself, be brave and curious about what you can make of your life, build on your strengths and confront your weaknesses, don't be afraid of pressures or challenges, but have the courage to walk away from the things that demean and damage self and others. For each of you, the sky is the limit, the possibilities for successes are endless, and the world is a place waiting to be explored and discovered."

He added: "Those successes will depend on many different things, but mainly they will depend on you, and how prepared each of you are, to welcome all the opportunities and challenges that life offers. This means, not being content to make do with the first possibility that comes along, or with the easiest option. Persistence beats resistance, we must stay the course, keep the passion and endeavour to make every moment count.

The future is yours. Relish the challenges that lie ahead. You must believe in yourself, and never be satisfied, unless you are giving of your very best.You should set the bar high and aspire for excellence in everything you do."

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