University honour for polar explorer

University chancellor Lord Cullen confers an Honorary Doctorate in Education on Craig Mathieson.
University chancellor Lord Cullen confers an Honorary Doctorate in Education on Craig Mathieson.

Polar explorer Craig Mathieson has been honoured for outstanding achievement in his field by Dundee’s Abertay University.

Mr Mathieson, widely regarded as Scotland’s greatest living expert in the field and founder of the charity The Polar Academy, received an Honorary Doctorate from the university in recognition of his contribution to education.

The Polar Academy helps to transform the life-chances of ‘invisible’ youths in schools and was established in 2013 with the aim of using exploration to positively transform the lives of youths affected by crushed self-confidence, low self-esteem and anxiety.

Mr Mathieson, who lives in Bo’ness, left school at 16 to join the military with minimal qualifications, and went on to lead the first wholly Scottish expedition to the North and South Poles.

He pulled his own sledge 730 miles across the Antarctic tundra and has worked with the V&A museum in Dundee as well as becoming Explorer in Residence with the Royal Scottish Geographical Society.

Addressing the graduates, he said: “I was 12 years old when, inspired by the exploits of Captain Scott, I decided to become a polar explorer.

“Unfortunately, being a polar explorer is not part of any career choice at high school or university. I had to work extremely hard for many years to eventually succeed.

“Along the way, I met many people who told me what I couldn’t do, or who said that what I wanted to do was just too difficult. You will also regularly meet these people in life. I’ve always found it best to deal with these people by thanking them for their ‘terrific’ advice, look them straight in the eye, smile, shake their hand and then disregard everything they’ve told you and stick to your original plan!”

Mr Mathieson, who as part of his work with The Polar Academy has spoken on RRS Discovery and to students at the Dundee Academy of Sport, added: “I’m extremely proud to receive this Honorary Doctorate from Abertay University and hopefully it reflects the tremendous ongoing work of The Polar Academy.

“I firmly believe that with perseverance and resilience, you can achieve anything in life. Over 30 years ago I was being told by a guidance teacher to forget my dream of being an explorer. Yet I’ve never given up. Three decades later and with the help of many supporters and charitable donors, including Tiso Group and Cornhill Building Services, I am able to help transform the lives of young people, nurture the self-confidence to safely explore in the Arctic and ensure they return to inspire their peers.”