Inspirational public figures to be recognised at University of Stirling summer graduation

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The University of Stirling will bestow honorary degrees on four inspirational public figures who are making a positive difference in their respective fields, it has been announced.

Endurance swimmer and environmental diplomat Lewis Pugh, women and children’s rights campaigner Lydia Okroj, Paralympic gold medallist David Smith MBE, and the Chief Executive of the Royal Scottish Geographical Society Mike Robinson will be recognised at next week’s graduations.

The honorary graduands will become Doctors of the University, alongside 1,925 students graduating from the University’s five faculties on Wednesday and Thursday (June 29 and 30).

The ceremonies will mark the climax of an extended summer graduation period – which has already seen around 2,000 graduates, who received their degrees in 2020 and 2021, return to campus this week to celebrate their achievements, having missed out on a ceremony due to the pandemic.

Professor Sir Gerry McCormac
Principal and Vice-Chancellor, University of Stirling
We’re looking forward to welcoming our 2022 graduands to campus next week and delighted that they will be joined by four outstanding individuals who are making a real difference to the world in their respective fields and are excellent, inspirational role models for our students and graduates.

Professor Sir Gerry McCormac, Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Stirling, said: “Summer graduation is always a highlight in the university calendar – but this fortnight of events has been incredibly special, as we’ve been able to celebrate three cohorts of students – including graduates from 2020 and 2021.

“We’re looking forward to welcoming our 2022 graduands to campus next week and delighted that they will be joined by four outstanding individuals who are making a real difference to the world in their respective fields and are excellent, inspirational role models for our students and graduates.

“Congratulations to all of those graduating over this two-week period.”

The University hosts three annual graduations – in spring, summer, and winter. For more information, please visit the University’s graduation webpages.

Mike Robinson

Mike Robinson

Mike Robinson, a graduate of the University of Stirling, has dedicated his life to protecting the forest and the environment after being left shocked by the impact of humans on nature during a trip to Borneo.

He has been Chief Executive of the Royal Scottish Geographical Society since 2008, having previously worked for the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and the Royal Botanical Gardens of Edinburgh. Among his many roles and achievements, he was pivotal in bringing together 60 different organisations under the banner of Stop Climate Chaos Scotland – which has played a key role in driving and influencing decisions on Scotland’s climate targets and activity.

He will be recognised for his outstanding commitment to delivering and embedding climate solutions to protect the world.

Lewis Pugh

Lewis Pugh

Endurance swimmer and diplomat Lewis Pugh has dedicated his career to protecting the environment. He draws attention to the plight of the world’s vulnerable ecosystems by taking on mammoth swim challenges; he was the first person to complete a long-distance swim in every ocean across the world and has been instrumental in protecting more than two million square kilometres of vulnerable ocean.

In a career spanning 35 years, he has pioneered more swims around famous landmarks than any other swimmer in history with his feats including the North Pole, a glacial lake on Mount Everest and the English Channel. He is the United Nations Patron of the Oceans; and his dream is to protect 30% of the world’s oceans by 2030.

He will be recognised for his outstanding contribution to sport and international environmental issues.

Lydia Okroj

Lydia Okroj

Lydia Okroj has worked in the Women’s Aid movement in Scotland for more than 40 years. She has dedicated her life to championing and defending the rights of women who experience domestic abuse and has been pivotal in improving the quality and accessibility of refuge accommodation across the UK.

In a leadership role, she developed a new model to better process and meet the needs of women and children in registration and regulation with the Care Commission / Inspectorate. She now manages Scotland’s Domestic Abuse and Forced Marriage Helpline and single-handedly transformed the helpline to respond to domestic abuse during the pandemic.

She will receive an honorary doctorate for her outstanding contribution to women’s and children’s rights.

David Smith MBE

David Smith MBE

A decorated international athlete, David Smith MBE has faced serious health issues during his journey to the top of sport. He was born with two club feet but, undaunted by the physical challenges, went on to compete in shinty, karate, athletics and even bobsleigh, before taking up rowing – where he has realised his greatest successes, winning the World Championships twice (2009, 2011) and Paralympics once (2012). However, between his two world titles, he was diagnosed with a tumour in his back and underwent life-threatening surgery – which led to a blood clot and resulted in him being left temporarily completely paralysed.

Following his remarkable comeback in 2011, he received an MBE for services to rowing and, soon after, decided to take up cycling – but the tumour returned and ended his dream of competing at the Rio Paralympics in 2016. Despite being told he would not cycle again, he again defied doctors and recovered. Soon after, he conquered Mont Ventoux, the hardest climb in the Tour de France – not once but three times.

He will be recognised for his outstanding achievements in Paralympic sport.

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