Professor awarded international award for life-long achievements in children’s rights

Professor Pat Dolan, Cillian Murphy, John Gaffey and Ella Anderson at the launch of Empathy Education Initiative. Credit - Jason Clarke
Mar 11 2024 Posted: 10:11 GMT

UNESCO Chair in Child and Family Studies Professor Pat Dolan honoured with Maria Grzegorzewska University Medal


University of Galway Professor Pat Dolan is to be awarded the Medal of the Maria Grzegorzewska University in Warsaw for life-long achievements in the field of children’s rights.

The honour is being bestowed as part of celebrations to mark the 20th anniversary of the establishment of the UNESCO Janusz Korczak Chair at the university – named in memory of the Polish-Jewish paediatrician, educator, author and children’s rights advocate who is believed to have perished in a Nazi death camp with almost 200 children from his orphanage.

Professor Dolan was awarded the UNESCO Chair in Children, Youth and Civic Engagement in 2008. As co-founder, with Professor John Canavan, of the UNESCO Child and Family Research Centre in 2007, and former Director of the Institute for Lifecourse and Society, Professor Dolan’s extensive body of work is highly relevant to the lived lives of children, youth and families in particular those experiencing social exclusion, adversity and mental health challenges. He has pioneered youth research by placing young people at the heart of his work and also by promoting a fresh outlook on the importance of empathy in education. 

For more than 10 years, Professor Dolan has worked with Oscar-winning actor Cillian Murphy, who has won this year’s Academy Award for Best Actor for his portrayal of the eponymous father of the atomic bomb in the movie Oppenheimer.

Professor Dolan and Cillian Murphy work together thanks to a shared interest in the role of empathy and social and emotional learning in building young people’s capacity to foster social connectedness.

In 2022, Cillian Murphy and Professor Dolan co-edited IONBHÁ: The Empathy Book For Ireland in association with Gillian Browne of University of Galway and Mark Brennan, Pennsylvania State University in the US. The publication featured a range of well-known figures and people from all walks of life sharing their personal reflections on empathy.

University of Galway President, Professor Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh, said: “Professor Pat Dolan has made a strong and sustained contribution to children’s rights through his work as UNESCO Chair in Children, Youth and Civic Engagement and his associated work in teaching and research over a long career. He has pioneered new approaches to research, and new attitudes towards working with and for young people. He epitomises the spirit of our outlook at University of Galway, where we are committed to being here for our students and to serve the public good. The focus of Professor Dolan’s work and his track record of teaching, research and engagement, in addition to his support for other UNESCO Chairs around the world, is testament to a life-long commitment to the well-being of children and young people. I am delighted to see that he is being recognised with such a poignant honour from the Maria Grzegorzewska University.”

Cillian Murphy, Patron of the UNESCO Child and Family Research Centre at University of Galway, said: “I have spoken about the role empathy can play and it being the most important tool an actor can have. It is thanks to my association with the UNESCO centre at University of Galway that I can see the fundamental value of affording all young people the opportunity to learn the place and value of empathy.” 

Professor Anna Odrowaz-Coates, Chairholder of the UNESCO Janusz Korczak Chair and Vice-rector at the Maria Grzegorzewska University, said: “Professor Pat Dolan has an impressive track record of researching and promoting empathy in education. His work has a significant impact on promoting human rights in practice and on the well-being of children, youths and entire communities. We are delighted to be able to recognise his work as we mark the 20th anniversary of our own University’s UNESCO Chair which is named after the inspirational Janusz Korczak.”

Professor Dolan will be formally honoured with the Medal of the Maria Grzegorzewska University at a special ceremony in June. The event will take place alongside the UNESCO Child and Family Research Centre’s international conference, Promoting Equality through Family Support, on June 13th and 14th.     


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