The honorary degree of Doctor of Laws was conferred upon Martin McIlrath by the Chancellor Sir Charles Bickerton Blackburn KCMG OBE at the ceremony of conferring of honorary degrees held on 29 August 1952 as part of the University of Sydney's Centenary celebrations.
Mr McIlrath was a businessman and a benefactor of the University.
Presented by the Vice-Chancellor, Emeritus Professor S H Roberts:
Mr Chancellor, in introducing Martin McIlrath I say with pride that a University depends upon its integration with the community at large. The specious old days when a tertiary educational institution could live within a pleasant but isolated ivory tower have gone for ever, and rightly so. Martin McIlrath represents the opportunities open to enterprising migrants within Australia. Born in 1874, at Banbridge, in County Down, in Ireland, he came to Australia and built up one of the most successful chains of business enterprises within the Commonwealth.
The University has always depended upon its benefactors, and I may quote in passing such names as Challis, McCaughey, Bosch, and scores of others. It is my pleasant task today to present Martin McIlrath as the personal embodiment of that long chain of businessmen, anonymous and otherwise, who have contributed so largely, in terms of millions of pounds, to the expansion of this institution. I say deliberately that Martin McIlrath is a symbol; in him we pay tribute as a University to our benefactors.
It is not given to all such migrants, having obtained the utmost degree of financial success in Australia, to pay back into the community the rewards of their labours; but Martin McIlrath has been one of that band and he joins the select list of great benefactors not only of this University but of charitable and public works in general.
Mr Chancellor, I have the honour to present to you Martin McIlrath, benefactor of the University and of the Australian community in general.
From "The University of Sydney Centenary Celebrations August 26 - August 31, 1952" compiled by the Office of Information and Public Relations. Allan Gamble, Information and Public Relations Officer.