The Holocaust was not intended to have witnesses, but concentration camp survivor Tomi Reichental has turned his childhood horror into something positive — reliving his own experiences in the hope of helping others.
Yesterday, the 79-year-old was one of five recipients awarded honorary doctorates by Maynooth University for his tireless work and dedication to combating xenophobia and racism.
Mr Reichental, who moved to Ireland after losing 35 members of his family in the Holocaust, has developed a close association with the Edward Kennedy Institute for Conflict Intervention in Maynooth University and travels all over the country educating students about his experiences in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp.
Mr Reichental will add his latest award to the German Nation’s Order of Merit he received in 2012.
Former Mountjoy Prison governor John Lonergan was also honoured for his lifelong advocacy in highlighting the links between economic and social disadvantage and crime.
A native of Tipperary, Mr Lonergan regularly makes himself available to students, schools, and communities to share his insights and wisdom gleaned from his 42 years working in the Irish prison system.
Other recipients honoured by the university were Irish ambassador to France, Geraldine Byrne Nason; businessman and founder of Strokestown House Jim Callery; and An Táisce’s Patricia Oliver.
Ms Byrne Nason was commended for her outstanding contribution to Maynooth University where she is a member of Maynooth alumni advisory board and where she founded the France Chapter of the Maynooth Alumni Association.
Successful businessman Jim Callery was celebrated for his role in establishing and enabling the Centre for the Study of Historic Irish Houses and Estates at Maynooth University.
Dubliner Patricia Oliver was also recognised by NUI Maynooth for her work in environment education. As the Irish representative of the International Foundation for Environment Education (FEE) Ms Oliver led the establishment of the Green Schools programme at pre-school, primary, and secondary level and later expanded to the Green Campus Awards scheme for third- level institutions.
Speaking at the conferring ceremony. Maynooth University president Professor Philip Nolan said the recipients each had made a significant contribution to both Maynooth University and Irish society in their own individual ways.
“Our honorary degree recipients all were chosen for their resonance with the core values of Maynooth University: John Lonergan and Tomi Reichental for their efforts to achieve justice, equality, and reconciliation; Geraldine Byrne Nason for her public service and extraordinary skills in global diplomacy; Patricia Oliver for her leadership in environmental conservation and education; and Jim Callery for his devotion to historical preservation and community.
“Their work on issues of importance to Ireland and the world reflect Maynooth University’s ethos as an institution and we’re proud to recognise their efforts.”