NUI Galway graduates in the worlds of the arts, sport, public service, Irish language and academia are among the distinguished recipients of the university’s 2021 Alumni Awards, with Professor Mark Costello receiving the Alumni Award for engineering and science and technology.

Seven former students have been recognised in this year’s awards, in recognition of their individual excellence and achievements:

  • Alumni Award for Engineering and Science and Technology – Professor Mark Costello, Professor in Marine Ecology at Nord University, Norway
  • Alumni Award for Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences – Dr Colm Henry, chief clinical officer, Health Service Executive
  • Alumni Award for Arts, Literature and Celtic Studies – Actor Nicola Coughlan
  • Alumni Award for Business and Commerce – Áine Ní Chonghaile, director of Europus, Fulbright Scholar and Author
  • Alumni Award for Law, Public Policy and Government – Antoinette Cunningham, general secretary, Association of Garda Sergeants
  • Alumni Award for Contribution to Sport – John Prenty, Connacht GAA secretary
  • Gradam Alumni don Ghaeilge – Neansaí Ní Choisdealbha, music organiser and presenter, RTÉ Raidió na Gaeltachta

President of NUI Galway Professor Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh said: "At NUI Galway, we are a university for the public good, with a shared vision, shaped by our values. For 175 years our University has educated graduates of the highest calibre who have gone on to have significant impact in their field of endeavour in Ireland and internationally. I congratulate each of the award winners and look forward to welcoming them back to their alma mater in 2022."

Due to the pandemic, the awards have been presented to this year’s recipients. NUI Galway will invite them back to their alma mater to mark the award in 2022.

First introduced in 2001 the NUI Galway Alumni Awards recognise individual excellence and achievements among the University’s more than 120,000 graduates. They boast an impressive roll call of more than 100 outstanding alumni who have gone on to make an impact in their chosen field, and in so doing honour their alma mater.

Among the distinguished honorees are president of Ireland, Michael D Higgins; Olympian Olive Loughnane; Rugby great Ciarán FitzGerald; Tony Award-winning actor, Marie Mullen; former Attorney General Máire Whelan; Aedhmar Hynes, former CEO of Text 100; and Adrian Jones of Goldman Sachs.

NUI Galway is also announcing that the 2022 Alumni Awards are now open for nominations. These awards will recognise an alumnus or alumna who has made an outstanding contribution in their area of endeavour and is making a significant impact in their field.

To make a nomination visit or email

View short video of Alumni Award Winner, Nicola Coughlan here:

2021 Alumni Award Winners – engineering and health

Professor Mark Costello – Alumni Award for Engineering and Science and Technology

Professor Mark Costello, professor in marine ecology at Nord University, Norway

Prof Costello has led significant advances in understanding of marine biodiversity, including how it has responded to climate change at a global scale, gradients in diversity with latitude and depth, and improved estimated of how many species exist on Earth.

Currently professor in marine ecology at Nord University in Norway, he graduated from NUI Galway in BSc with a 1982. In 2021, he was awarded the Shorland Medal by the New Zealand Association of Scientists for leading development of field of ocean biodiversity informatics, including founding establishment of two open access world databases the World Register of Marine Species and Ocean Biodiversity Information System.

In 2017, Prof Costello received New Zealand Marine Sciences Society Annual Award for Continued Outstanding Contribution to Marine Science in New Zealand. He has over 460 publications, including over 200 in peer-reviewed international journals, and has supervised more than 60 graduates and students.

Dr Colm Henry – Alumni Award for Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences

Dr Colm Henry, chief clinical officer, Health Service Executive

Dr Colm Henry is chief clinical officer in the Health Service Executive, and has worked diligently in that role since taking it up in 2018. Since the onset of the Covid-19 crisis, he has been central in sharing information with the public and in advising us about how best to stay safe. As a fluent Irish speaker, he has carried out this important work in both Irish and English. He graduated with a BA sa Ghaeilge Fheidhmeach in 2017.