University College Dublin

Michael Flatley at the Celtic Cafe

Michael Flatley receives honorary doctorate degree from UCD - November 3, 2004

From UCD press releases:

UCD celebrates its 150th birthday in style as it honours all walks of life at a special honorary degree ceremony

As a spectacular start to the UCD 150th Anniversary, University College Dublin set the tone of the year-long celebrations at a special honorary degree ceremony to give recognition to a wide range of people who have made exceptional contributions to Irish society and have had a significant impact on the world stage.

The graduates were chosen as their achievements reflect the theme of the UCD 150 celebrations - the unequalled influence that UCD has had on the economic, social, political, scientific, literary, academic and legal development of Ireland throughout the past 150 years, and the continuation of this influence into the future.

Being recognised for their exceptional contribution to Irish society and their impact on the world stage the following people received honorary degrees:

The Arts

Michael Flatley Dancer and entrepreneur
Imogen Stuart Sculptor
Eithne Healy Chair of the National Theatre - The Abbey and supporter of the Arts
Anne Madden Artist

Humanitarian action and philanthropy

Christina Noble Founder of Children's Foundation in Vietnam and Mongolia
Lochlann Quinn Industrialist and philanthropist

Academic and learning excellence

Sir Derek Morris Provost of Oriel College
Prof Garret FitzGerald University of Pennsylvania: world expert in pharmacology of cardiovascular disorders
Prof Dr Wolfgang Meid Universitaet Innsbruck: international expert in classical linguistics and Celtic languages
Fr John Dardis SJ Principal of the Jesuit Order in Ireland: advocate for refugees in Europe and Joycean scholar

Socio-economic and political impact

David Byrne European Commissioner
Bruce Morrison Former US congressman, responsible for US Immigration Act 1990
Dr Pearse Lyons President of Alltech: scientist, innovator and entrepreneur.
Charlie Bird RTE journalist
Niall O'Dowd Editor, Irish Voice, Irish America Magazine, and role in peace process


Mick O'Dwyer Former Kerry footballer
Kevin Heffernan Former Dublin footballer
Willie John McBride Former Irish and Lions rugby international
Kevin Moran International soccer and Manchester United player, former Dublin footballer.

The honorary graduation ceremony reflected the ethos of the University placing a strong value, not just on academic achievement, but also on the creation of the holistic.

Click here for the UCD webpage with further information for each graduate.

• • •

Michael Flatley's bio from the UCD press office:

Michael Flatley learned his first dance steps from his grandmother Hannah Ryan at the early age of four: and the empty front seat at his shows was a memorial to this revered but departed figure. By the age of 17, he had become the first American to win the World Irish Dance Championship as well as being named All-Ireland Flute Champion and winning a Golden Gloves award for boxing.

It was during a period as the dance act with the traditional musical group the Chieftains that Michael Flatley vitalised Irish dance, unleashing arms that had once been rigid.

His defining moment came in the Point Theatre, Dublin in 1994, when he was commissioned to provide the interval performance - a passionate and shrewd blending of flamenco and the Hollywood musical. This marriage of the archaic and the avant-garde made him and his partner Jean Butler the first international stars of Irish dance. The full-length show called Riverdance won huge acclaim in Dublin and London in the next year.

Subsequently, Michael Flatley devised Lord of the Dance which broke all attendance records at Wembley arena and at Radio City Music Hall. In March 2000 he was named Irish-American of the year and his art was acclaimed by Nelson Mandela. By then Lord of the Dance had sold over $500 million worth of tickets worldwide. His more recent show Feet of Flames has been seen by millions in Europe from Budapest to Belfast. By the time of his retirement from the stage, he had achieved the feat of executing 35 foot-taps per second. His life is a parable of how in staying true to ethnic roots, Irish-Americans learned how to make an art form that was revived in the 1980's go global in the 1990's and in demonstrating the link between cultural self- belief and commercial success, Mr Flatley has not forgotten the less fortunate, investing in many charities both here and in the US. He is a dreamer who knows how to make wishes come true and in the fullest sense of the term an Irish revivalist.

Speaking after the ceremony which took place in the O’Reilly Hall on the UCD campus Mr. Flatley said; “It was something I was not expecting, which makes it an even greater honour. It’s fantastic. It’s just great that it is here at UCD because it’s an Irish university. I’m very proud to be here.”

• • •

The very first fan sites for Riverdance and Lord of the Dance were created by Joseph Meehan, who was attending UCD at the time. Hosted on the student pages on the UCD server, Joseph's sites were a source of information for the new fans of these dance shows, well before their official sites came online. Mr. Meehan has kindly allowed the Celtic Cafe to archive these sites for Irish dance posterity. Click on the following to see them.

How appropriate that Michael Flatley, thanks to his creative efforts and talents, would one day be honored in such a way on the very soil where his first Internet exposure began, and which would reach such a multitude of fans worldwide.

Feature: Bernadette Price

University College Dublin's 150th Birthday
Dr. Flatley by the UCD lake in his conferring robes
Michael with UCD President Hugh Brady
Michael receiving his Doctor of Laws from former Taoiseach and Dr. Garrett Fitzgerald
Very proud to be at UCD
Michael with his proud parents, Michael Sr. and Eilish Flatley
Michael with his parents, brother Patrick and sister Tomasina Flatley
Michael and Michael Sr.