Dublin City University (DCU) Engineering graduate, Gerard McDonnell was the first Irish person to reach the summit of K2 on Friday August 1st 2008. After this great achievement the selfless explorer died tragically while attempting to save the lives of fellow climbers on his descent.
Following Gerard's sudden death, his close college friends wanted to honour his name in a way that would thoroughly represent his generosity towards others.
Niall McCarthy who studied engineering with Gerard told The Epoch Times that he and his college friends had a number of ideas, one of which was to erect a plaque on the climbing wall in DCU. Finally they all decided on a scholarship because Gerard was the kind of fellow who always had time for others and helped people whenever possible.
“It's just the type of bloke he was, he'd do anything to help anybody … The fact that he died while trying to help rescue three other climbers, it just seemed fitting that any memorial in his name should be done to help others in some way,” said Niall McCarthy.
Niall remembered Gerard as a very kind hearted fellow who was also very dedicated, “I don't know anybody who didn't like the guy, everyone warmed to him, just a huge personality. He also had great ambitions and constantly drove himself.”
Gerard conquered Everest in 2003 and climbed practically every other major peak in the world. If Niall had to pick out a weakness of Gerards it was that he was an equally bad laboratory partner as Niall when they studied engineering in university, “We jointly did not set the academic world alight.”
In a bid to raise funds for the Gerard McDonnell Memorial Access Scholarship, Niall and five other classmates of Gerard, Gerard's brother JJ and others are to re-enact a bicycle journey Gerard made years ago. Gerard being the explorer and free spirited person he was, one day decided he would like to go to the pub for a pint of beer and a sandwich, but not in his local. Gerard cycled 112 km to Doolin from his home town of Kilcornan in County Limerick, had his pint and sandwich and then cycled home. It must be noted that the re-enactment will only cover the first leg of the cycle to Doolan.
A statement about the scolarship on the DCU website reads, “Remembered by all who knew him as warm, loving, brave and heroic, Gerard’s life will be celebrated through the creation of a permanently endowed Access scholarship fund at DCU. The scholarship fund will be created in Gerard’s memory, whose untimely death came so swiftly on foot of such joyous celebrations of his wonderful achievements.
“The scholarship in memory of Ger will be awarded each year to a student enrolled at DCU through the Access Programme, with preference given to students studying engineering. At least one Access Scholarship will be available every year at DCU in perpetuity for a deserving student by raising an endowment of €50,000.”
The DCU Access Scholarship Programme was introduced 20 years ago to provide talented students from disadvantaged backgrounds the opportunity to study at third level.
If you would like to find out more about the Gerard McDonnell Scholarship Programme then visit http://www.dcu.ie/trust/gift.shtml or phone DCU on 01 700 5000