IU alumnus Michael D. Higgins was elected to become the ninth president of Ireland on Saturday. The left-wing politician won the election with nearly 57 percent of the vote.
In the coming months, Higgins faces a number of challenges as leader of Ireland, where ballooning national debt and a 15 percent unemployment rate have hindered the nation's economy.
In light of his new role, Higgins announced his resignation as president of Ireland's Labour Party on Saturday. When inaugurated on Nov. 11, Higgins will be appointed Head of State, a role that carries only limited legislative power in Ireland, save for the ability to submit unconstitutional legislature to the Irish Supreme Court.
This won't likely stop Higgins from becoming a prominent global representative for the Irish nation. A veteran politician, Higgins has served as a Teachta Dala member of Parliament and was mayor of the town of Galway. Higgins also served as the country's first minister of arts, culture and the Gaeltacht from 1993 to 1997.
As cultural minister, Higgins has spearheaded the revitilization of the Irish film industry, established the country's first Irish language television channel TG4 and invested in new public museums and repairing local waterways.
Higgins was the first member of his family to pursue higher education, attending several universities. Among them was IU Bloomington, where he received a master's in sociology in 1967.
"Over the course of four decades, President-elect Higgins has dedicated himself to championing Irish culture and passionately defending human rights causes in many parts of the world," IU President Michael A. McRobbie said. "He is also renowned for the many intellectual contributions he has made to modern political, philosophical and literary discourse."
As well as IU, Higgins attended various schools in Ireland and the U.K., including Ballycar National School, St. Flannan's College, University College Galway and Manchester University.