Charles ‘Chuck’ Feeney was honoured by Universities across Ireland on Thursday.

It is the first time universities from North and South have jointly bestowed their highest honour on an individual.  

The honour comes as recognition of Mr Feeney’s immense contribution to Irish society. His Atlantic Philanthropies organisation has donated over €1.25bn to projects across Ireland.

Mr Feeney, who did not make his philantropic ventures public until 1997, identified universities as key to enabling Ireland to compete in an increasingly competitive knowledge economy.

 The 81 year-old Irish-American billionaire has donated nearly €800 million to Irish universities since 1989.

The money has been used to provide scholarships and fund the construction of state of the art campus facilities, including libraries and on-campus accommodation.

The ceremony, held at Dublin Castle, was attended by An Taoiseach Enda Kenny , Education Minister Ruairi Quinn, US Ambassador Dan Rooney , and the Chancellors of every Irish university, including former Irish President and Chancellor of the University of Dublin, Mary Robinson.

Speaking at the conferral, Dr Patrick Fortrell, Chair of the Science Foundation said, "This is our way of saying thank you for your enormous generosity to the people of Ireland".