THE co-founder of the Irish Guide Dogs was awarded an honorary doctorate from UCC.
Jim Dennehy, who founded the charity in 1976 after losing his sight eight years previously, has transformed the lives of thousands of people in the decades since.
Mr Dennehy was awarded an honourary doctorate of law at UCC, joining an illustrious group of other recipients over the years. The doctorate was awarded in recognition of the hugely positive impact the charity he co-founded in Ireland, with Cork woman Mary Dunlop, has had on service users.
“When I was young blind people were hidden out of sight. Irish society didn’t understand that someone with blindness could achieve so much, and often times more, than someone with vision,” Mr Dennehy said.
“Now so many young blind people attend UCC and contribute so much to life here. I’m just so very proud to be amongst them and this Doctorate means so much to me and my family. Also, I’m delighted to join a prestigious group of people to have attained this honour before me including Dr Tom Cavanagh and Dr Dermot O’Mahony.”
Each year the Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind train between 30 and 40 dogs and Mr Dennehy hopes that in the future this figure can be doubled.
“It’s so important that we continue to grow. Since day one we’ve kept building. Of course, there have been some very difficult years but the generosity of people has always allowed us to kick on. And the support of our ambassador Roy Keane has been crucial. He’s proud to help us out and we’re so thrilled to have him on board. My hope now would be that we could get to a stage where we are training 80 dogs-a-year so that more people will have access to one,” said Mr Dennehy.
Over the years he has had four different guide dogs, Vanessa, Ivan, Granby and Bruno.
“They all taught me so much and enabled me to do things that would have been almost impossible otherwise. And in their own way they helped change the perception of blindness in wider Irish society. That’s something I’m very proud of and something I’m delighted to celebrate today.”
Professor John O’ Halloran, Deputy President and Registrar of University College Cork described Mr Dennehy’s success as ‘a triumph in the face of adversity.’
“It is a great example to our students of the importance of developing resilience in the face of serious life challenges which we will all encounter at some stage in our lives. It is fitting, also, that UCC should honour Jim in this way as we are proud of the supports the University gives to blind and visually impaired students which are designed to help them achieve their academic potential.” Patrick Burke, Chairman of Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind said: “Jim, as our co-founder and President of our charity, has made a profound and lasting contribution to Irish society. His commitment to our clients and his humanity in recognising his achievements is an inspiration to us all and we are delighted for Jim, his wife Pat and his family that this is being formally honoured by UCC.”
University College Cork currently works with 39 visually impaired students, some of whom use guide dogs and long canes. Mobility training is given to these students so they can travel across campus safely and with ease while the University is constantly working to improve accessibility to buildings for all students.