8 MAY 2009

Nearly four decades after he became a Physics and Computer Science student at Belfast's Queen's University Liam Neeson received a qualififcation at a special ceremony in New York on Thursday.

The 56-year-old actor, who admitted he's delighted he can tell his mum Katherine he's 'finally' graduated, told those gathered in the British Consulate receiving the honorary award had been "a long haul and a rather crooked path". There to see their dad honoured were the actor's two boys with late wife Natasha Richardson, Michael, 13, and 12-year-old Daniel.

The Schindler's List star – who was a student in 1971 and 1972 before leaving to drive a lorry for the Guinness factory – received the doctorate for his 'outstanding contribution and service to the arts'.

Accepting the doctorate the actor referenced a poem by Armagh poet Paul Muldoon, which says art "builds from pain, from misery, from a deep-seated hurt, a monument to the human heart".

While he'd chosen to study science, it seems Liam's tutors may have had an inkling early on as to where his real interest lay. "Liam's chief interest would appear to be amateur dramatics, in which he has played the lead in the last two productions of the College play," said Vice Chancellor Professor Peter Gregson reading from an assessment written by a college referee.

The New York-based father-of-two said Northern Ireland would "always be home", adding: "I have often found that no matter where I meet people in the world, there is a path that leads back to Queen's."

Photo: PA
The actor (pictured with the Vice Chancellor of Queen's University) can tell his mum he's finally got some letters to his name after being awarded an honourary graduate degree from the Belfast uni. "It's been a long haul and a rather crooked path" he told the audience, which included his sons Michael and Daniel