Business legend Arthur Ryan conferred at DIT

19 November 2011: Dublin Institute of Technology today conferred an Honorary Doctorate on Arthur Ryan – founder and Chairman of the Penneys Primark retail company – at its final graduation ceremony of 2011. Dr. Ryan was accompanied at the ceremony in St. Patrick’s Cathedral by his wife Alma Carroll Ryan, members of his family and company colleagues. Some three hundred graduates of the College of Business at DIT also received their parchments at the ceremony, including graduates of Human Resource Management, Public Procurement, Fashion Buying Management, Logistics and Supply Chain, and Retail and Services Management.


Dr. Ryan was honoured for his outstanding contribution to business and employment in Ireland and globally. In a citation introducing Arthur Ryan to the Assembly, Mr. Paul O’Sullivan – Director and Dean of the College of Business – said “Arthur Ryan has succeeded in becoming a business legend in his own lifetime. He has established a highly successful retail business that has withstood periods of recession and remained relevant during an economic boom. His leadership demonstrates that Ireland can produce local brands that not only can compete against international giants coming in to Ireland, but can compete with them on their terms in their home markets, becoming a household name far from home. Moving from direct management into his current role as Chairman, he has built a strong 21st century company by managing to ‘stay the same by continually adapting’. “

The first Penneys store was opened in Dublin’s Mary Street in 1969. More branches quickly followed, establishing the first retail chain in Ireland, and the company expanded to open branches in Britain under the brand name Primark. Over the last four decades, Arthur Ryan has grown Penneys Primark into a major international retail brand, with 225 branches in seven countries. He is renowned for his hands-on management style and for his frequent but unannounced visits to his stores, inspecting stock and merchandising for himself. He is credited with having an unrivalled understanding of the customer’s needs and desires, and has always ensured that Penneys Primark is at the cutting edge of fashion trends. Although a tough task master, he commands great loyalty among his management and staff – with many DIT graduates among them. The scope and scale of the company network facilitates a wide range of opportunities for staff, including setting up new branches as the company expands in Spain, Germany, the Netherlands and the UK.

In his address to the graduates and guests in the Cathedral, Professor Brian Norton, President of DIT, said “In DIT, the award of Honorary Doctorate is conferred on a small number of individuals who have made an exceptional contribution to society, and whom we recognise as standard bearers for our graduates who are embarking on their own journeys. As we heard earlier, Arthur Ryan has made a most significant contribution to business and employment, not only in Ireland but also around the globe. From a base in Ireland, over the last four decades he has built an international brand that employs 40,000 people directly and is a major customer for many manufacturers worldwide. We are delighted that Arthur has joined us here today to accept this Award, and to be conferred in the company of our graduates of business and management disciplines.

Following the ceremony, Dr. Ryan and his guests returned to Aungier Street for an informal reception where they met and chatted with academic staff, new graduates and their families.

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