Page last updated at 10:58 GMT, Thursday, 7 May 2009 11:58 UK

Liam Neeson graduates 40 years on

Liam Neeson and Professor Peter Gregson
Liam Neeson received his doctorate at a ceremony in New York

Nearly four decades after enrolling in Queen's University, Belfast, actor Liam Neeson has received a doctorate from the university.

The Ballymena-born star was an undergraduate at Queen's in 1971 as a Physics and Computer Science student, before leaving to work for Guinness.

He was awarded an honorary doctorate in New York by Vice-Chancellor Professor Peter Gregson.

The actor said he would "finally" be able to tell his mother he graduated.

The professor revealed details from the actor's original university application form from 1970.

He said his academic referee from Ballymena Technical College said Liam was confidently expected to obtain high grades in Maths, Physics and Geometrical Drawing.

As well as commenting on his pleasant personality and hard-working approach, his teacher hinted at what was to come for when he wrote: "Liam's chief interest would appear to be amateur dramatics, in which he has played the leading role in the last two productions of the College play."

Professor Gregson awarded the actor with a Doctorate of the University for his Outstanding Contribution and Service to the Arts.

"From an acting career which first began at the age of 11, Liam Neeson has gone on to become one of the leading, international motion-picture figures of our time," he said.

"Liam's outstanding drive and resolute belief that the arts can contribute much to society has seen his star remain in the ascendency. He is to be commended for his continuing contribution to the sector both on the big screen and at his home in Northern Ireland, where he continues to provide vital support for local theatre."

Dr Neeson said that Northern Ireland would "always be home".

"I have often found that no matter where I meet people in the world, there is a path that leads back to Queen's," he said.

"Queen's University flies the flag for the arts in Northern Ireland and beyond.

"It is to be commended on its commitment to the arts sector and in nurturing new talent through its broad range of undergraduate and postgraduate courses."

Liam Neeson has starred in more than 50 television and film productions and was nominated for an Oscar for his performance as Oskar Schindler in Schindler's List.

In March, his wife of 15 years, Natasha Richardson, died of head injuries after a fall at a ski resort in Quebec.

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