Ollscoil na hEireann - National University of Ireland
February 19, 2004

Ollscoil na hÉireann




[Contact Person: The Registrar (Tel: 4392421; Fax: 4392466; e-mail: registrar@nui.ie)]

The Senate of the National University of Ireland has decided to award honorary degrees to the following persons during 2004. The honorary degrees will be conferred by the Chancellor of the University, Dr Garret FitzGerald, at the venue indicated below:

Professor Roy Foster DLitt
Lex Frieden LLD
Judge Phillip Kirsch LLD
John Mannion DLitt
Cyril Ramaphosa LLD

NUI logo 3 (doorway-description)

Lex Frieden, Chairperson of US National Disability Council

Lex Frieden is Senior Vice-President at the Institute for Rehabilitation and Research (TIRR) at Houston Texas. He is also Director of TIRR’s Independent Living Research Program and Professor of Physical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine. In 2002, he was appointed Chairperson of the National Council on Disability in Washington, DC, an independent federal agency which makes recommendations on disability policy issues to the President and Congress of the United States.

excerpted from NUI press release

TEXT OF THE INTRODUCTORY ADDRESS DELIVERED BY Dr. Angela Savage, National University of Ireland, Galway, on 25 June 2004, on the occasion of the conferring of the Degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa, on Lex Frieden

“A Sheánsailéir, a mhuintir na hOllscoile agus a dhaoOine uaisle.”

Lex and others hear citations Lex Frieden is a native of Oklahoma but is now fiercely loyal to his adopted State of Texas.  While in his late teens he was involved in a head-on car collision that left his body paralyzed.  This did not, however, daunt his spirit. Nor did it blunt his formidable intellect and renowned political skills. Rather it gave him a mission in life – to play his part in breaking down barriers that unfairly exclude people with disabilities from mainstream activities.

Despite an impeccable academic record, one undergraduate College in the US initially refused him entry simply because he uses a wheelchair.  Undeterred, he subsequently qualified at Tulsa and Houston Universities and is now a professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation at the Baylor College of Medicine and Senior Vice President at TIRR (The Institute for Rehabilitation and Research) in Houston, Texas.  In all, he has held six different professorships mostly in the fields of community medicine and rehabilitation. So much for the limits of disability!

His many research accomplishments in the fields of medicine and rehabilitation are impressive enough on their own, but Lex Frieden is more widely known throughout the world for his work in advancing the rights of persons with disabilities.  His goal has always been to unlock the human potential behind the disability and to create a genuinely open and equal society for all.  He has done more than most to make this dream a reality.

Lex Frieden served as Executive Director of the US National Council for the Handicapped throughout the 1980s at a crucial moment for disability law and policy in the United States. In this capacity he was instrumental in advocating for a blueprint for what was to become the Americans with Disabilities Act, or ADA, of 1990.  His entrepreneurship and persistence in pursuing the policy process was the decisive factor in ensuring that the blueprint was taken seriously both in Congress and by the White House. 

His proudest achievement – the Americans with Disabilities Act – is a unique civil rights law.  It is of a piece with the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Kennedy–Johnson dream of a just society for all.  It outlaws all forms of discrimination against persons with disabilities.  It has been copied in various forms in over 45 countries throughout the world. Its symbolism resonates in all corners of the globe.  Without Lex Frieden’s political skills and commitment it might never have made it on to the statute books.

Lex Frieden has always been conscious of the fact that 500 million of the estimated 600 million persons with disabilities in the world live in developing countries.  Not content with a domestic role, he became President of Rehabilitation International in 2000.  In this capacity he continued the work of Irishman and former President of Rehabilitation International – Dr Arthur O’Reilly - of lobbying Governments worldwide to become more engaged in the drafting of a new United Nations treaty on the rights of persons with disabilities.  When the treaty is finalised it will be due in no small part to the inspired leadership Lex has provided while President of Rehabilitation International.

Lex, Joyce and Trey (grandson) with NUI Galway PresidentHe has delivered over 400 keynote and other addresses to bodies such as the US Civil Rights Commission, the President’s Committee on the Employment of Persons with Disabilities, the White House Domestic Policy Council and the World Assembly of Rehabilitation International.  He has served on dozens of boards either as member, co-chair or chair, including the American Association of People with Disabilities and is a leader in the Independent Living Movement in the US.

In his career to date, Lex has earned no fewer than two Presidential citations.  He was appointed to the Chair of the US National Council on Disability (NCD) in 2002 by President Bush.  This is the premier body in the US charged with making recommendations to Congress and the President on disability issues.   

Lex married Joyce in 1976.  Not unusual for the 1970s - they met while attending a demonstration he had organised to highlight the rights of persons with disabilities.  They were married in front of the, Jefferson memorial.  This was indeed fitting.  As author of the Declaration of Independence Jefferson asserted that ‘all men are created equal’.  As one of the chief architects of the Americans with Disabilities Act, Lex has helped to make that moral assertion a reality in the lives of so many citizens with disabilities in America and has inspired countless millions more throughout the world to achieve the same.  Truly, Lex Frieden’s life is lived in the Jeffersonian tradition of service.

Today we confer upon Lex Frieden the Degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa, and we honour his life’s work.

“PRAEHONORABILIS CANCELLARIE, TOTAQUE UNIVERSITAS: Praesento vobis hunc meum filium quem scio tam moribus quam doctrin habilem et idoneum esse qui admittatur, honoris causa, ad gradum Doctoratus in utroque Jure, tam Civili quam Canonico, idque tibi fide mea testor ac spondeo totique Academiae. ”

Lex Frieden Awarded Honorary Doctorate

Lex Frieden, Chairperson of the US National Council on Disability and senior vice-president at The Institute for Rehabilitation and Research (TIRR) in Houston, Texas, was awarded an honorary doctorate in laws (LL.D.) by the National University of Ireland (NUI) at a conferring ceremony in Galway, Ireland on June 25th 2004. Degrees were also conferred upon Professors Roy Foster, Philippe Kirsch and John Mannion.

Lex signing Doctoral Registry Frieden was recognized for his instrumental role in conceiving and drafting the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act and for his leadership now at the forefront of the new United Nations treaty on the rights of persons with disabilities.

NUI Galway is renowned for its research centers of excellence in the areas of human rights and humanities. The honorees were carefully considered and selected for conferring because of their significant contributions to society in the area of human rights or through their scholarly contributions to the area of humanities.

In recognizing the accomplishments and contributions that each individual has made to society during their lifetime, The President of NUI Galway, Dr Iognáid Ó Muircheartaigh said:

“Each of these individuals in their own way, has made a significant contribution to society and to altering and enhancing the lives of many. This has been achieved through their work, views, beliefs and unfaltering commitment which has enabled them to achieve personal objectives which have been for the benefit of others. NUI Galway is a university which has long supported ideals which promote research excellence, both in the areas of Human Rights and Historical studies and for this reason, we are proud today to honor the work of all of these individuals.”

Judge Philippe Kirsch is the first president of the International Criminal Court. Established in 2003, the creation of the International Criminal Court is perhaps the most important new international organization to be established since the United Nations. Roy Foster is Carroll Professor of Irish history at Oxford University and has a highly distinguished record in historical scholarship. John Mannion, St. John’s Memorial University, Newfoundland, has made it his life’s work to document and study all aspects of the Irish migration to Newfoundland.