North-east rowing star Dame Katherine Grainger was among those honoured during a graduation event at a city university.
Joining graduates at yesterday’s University of Aberdeen ceremony was Olympian Dame Katherine, who received the honorary award of DHC (Doctor Honoris Causa).
Great Britain’s most successful female athlete, she is the only female to have won medals at five consecutive Olympic Games, rounding off her career with a silver medal in Rio in the double sculls.
Although born in Glasgow, Dame Katherine has close ties with the North-east, training in the area as her family lived in Maryculter.
Dame Katherine, herself an academic with a PhD from University of London, said: “It’s fantastic, I’m very pleased. My mum graduated here 50 years ago, my big sister 21 years ago and I feel I get to add to the family graduations from Aberdeen University which I never thought I would, so it’s lovely.
“It’s a genuine honour, because it’s one you don’t expect, so it’s a big, big deal to be asked back. For me, one of the massive benefits of sport is being able to pass on the passion I have for it to other people.
“So getting to do it through charities, or doing it through schools, or through universities, that’s a big spin-off you don’t expect to get as an athlete.
“You don’t expect to see that side of it until you get asked to go and give something back.
“It’s a really big deal, I’m such a strong believer in education anyway, my parents are both teachers, my sister’s a teacher. It’s always lovely to come back to universities, especially one that means so much.
“To be able to speak to graduates at that time of their life is such a pleasure as well.”
Dame Katherine will be starting her new post as Chair of UK sport in July.
Also receiving an honorary degree yesterday was professional footballer Kim Little, who was born in Aberdeen and attended Mintlaw Academy.
A competitor in the 2012 Olympics, she has won numerous accolades, including the FA and PFA Women’s Player of the Year and, most recently, the BBC’s Women’s Footballer of the Year 2016.
Her success has played an important role in giving women’s football the recognition it deserves.
Passion for books led to degree for Thomas
Not all budding students know what they want to study straight away – and it was no different for one North-east lad.
English Literature student Thomas Cordiner, 24, from Peterhead, originally studied an HND in social sciences at North East Scotland College.
He said: “I’d never actually originally planned to go to university, and I thought should I do it? I’ll apply anyway and we’ll see where it takes us.
“I applied for social sciences, but also English, because I have a massive passion for books and I thought it’ll be great if I have a degree in something I’m passionate about.
“I realised that at some points, it was demanding but it was also rewarding at the same time. I felt that if I really applied myself I could get something good out of it.
“I never thought I’d see myself at this point. If someone said to me three plus years ago you’re going to go to university and have a degree, I’d laugh.”
The first male in his family to have a degree, he is proud of his achievement.
His plans for the future include yet another career change, as he hopes to join the police in January.
In the meantime, he will be spending his summer on a trip around Europe, celebrating his degree.
Valerie’s still aiming to hit even higher notes
Teachers can often have a strong impact on their pupils, which was especially true for one student.
Valerie Chapman, 22, from Inverurie, hopes to follow in the footsteps of those who have inspired her by one day becoming a teacher herself.
Graduating with a 2:1 BMus Honours degree, she has long had a keen interest in music.
Valerie said: “I’ve always enjoyed music.
“I had singing lessons from a young age and that got my interest. My first singing teacher, Helen Currie, was really monumental in that and Brian Smith was as well.
“They both encouraged my music performance.
“My school teacher at Inverurie Academy, Linda Moggach as well, she was very supportive and still is. I still see her regularly.”
Already planning for the future, Valerie will be coming back to the university in September for a masters degree in musicology, which is the history of music.
She said: “Musicology’s a field I enjoy, it’ll be interesting.”
After taking her masters, Valerie said she would ideally love to go into teaching.
She said: “I would quite like to have the same kind of influence that my teacher had over me, it would be quite rewarding.”