Covid delay means extra special Graduation for O’Neill family
Published on 1 July 2022
Although Callum O’Neill’s family were understandably disappointed by the Covid-enforced cancellation of his graduation from the University of Dundee, a twist of fate means that this week's rearranged ceremony will hold even more poignancy for them
Callum is one of several thousand graduates from the past two years who have been invited back to Dundee to enjoy the in-person graduation experience at Caird Hall.
And while all graduates will be surrounded by loved ones for their big day, Callum will be closer to his family than any of his peers when his degree is officially conferred on him on Friday 1 July. His father, Professor Shane O’Neill, is Senior Vice-Principal at the University, and will be officiating at the ceremony in the role of Acting Principal.
The unusual situation has only arisen because of the delay in holding ceremonies for the classes of 2020 and 2021. Callum’s original graduation had been due to take place in June 2020, while Shane didn’t take up his post at the University until October of the following year. Although their times at Dundee didn’t overlap, both are delighted at how the stars have aligned to provide the family with a happy ending to the uncertainty of the last two years.
Callum, who obtained a Graphic Design degree from the University’s Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design, said, “I was obviously disappointed to miss the last few months of University, including my Degree Show, but it’s good that we’re now finally getting to graduate in person and it’s really funny how it’s worked out. To be honest, I was embarrassed to tell my friends when I heard my Dad would be doing my ceremony but they think it’s kind of cool, and I suppose it is quite sweet.
“I’ve hardly seen any of my friends for 2 ½ years, so I’m really excited about seeing everyone again and for my mum and dad to get to see me graduate.”
Shane will officially be Acting Principal for several ceremonies over this summer’s Graduation programme, and admits he is delighted at the way things have worked out.
He said, “Graduation is a day of great celebration for everyone, and it’s special that I will get to be so involved in Callum’s ceremony, even though me coming to work at Dundee wasn’t even on the horizon when he was finishing his course.
“I already had a positive view of the University as a parent. Having worked in academia for a long time, I knew about Dundee’s strengths, but you see a university in a completely different light when it comes to your family. Dropping your eldest child off at university is one of the things you always remember, so it is still quite a funny feeling to be walking across campus and see the spot where we left him and all the memories that evokes.
“Through what we saw and what Calum told us, we could see the University was doing a lot right and I really liked Dundee as a city, so all these things helped make up my mind to come here myself.”
Callum and Shane moved back to the family home in Belfast at the outset of Covid but it wasn’t long before the younger O’Neill was on the move again. He accepted an internship in Berlin that turned into a permanent design job and has been living in the German capital since September 2020.
“It was definitely weird moving to a new city in the middle of a pandemic,” he said. “The first year was tough trying to adapt under such strange circumstances but I love it there now.
“Dundee was great for me getting to where I am now. Aside from my course, what I loved was that the people of Dundee, and the people who come to Dundee, are so down to earth, friendly and easy going.”
Shane’s wife Grace will be travelling from Belfast to join him for their son’s graduation ceremony, the 13th to take place over the extended graduation season from Wednesday 22 June to Friday 1 July.
+44 (0)1382 384768G.Hill@dundee.ac.uk