Borders College students had their day in the limelight earlier today as they graduated in front of family, friends, college staff and local rugby legend Doddie Weir.
The annual ceremony at Kelso’s Springwood Park was bursting with academic talent as, one by one, the students picked up their scrolls as just rewards for their hard graft in their various courses.
Students from the business development unit, care and access, construction, engineering and land-based courses, creative industries, sport and business, and learning and teaching development dressed up for the occasion in their robes, were thoroughly inspired along the way.
Stories of the year’s most outstanding students were read out, and they were rewarded for their efforts with nine special awards.
They were as follows:
○ Exceptional Achievement award: Rory Darge (HND coaching and developing sport.
○ Best Higher Education Student: Sophie Gibson (HNC childhood practice).
○ Best Further Education Student: Joanne Renwick (SVQ3 parks, gardens and green space).
○ Superior performance in the workplace: Melissa Mullin (HNC care and administrative practice).
○ Creativity award: Morag Grant (NC art and design).
○ Best access student: Emma Lees (skills for learning and work 2).
○ Citizenship award: HNC Administration and IT.
○ Special recognition award: Joe Devlin (for services to the students’ association).
○ Wilkie Memorial Trophy and SMTA apprentice of the year: Robert Andrew Anderson (level3 diploma in light vehicle maintenance and repair principles).
Weir, former Melrose, Newcastle Falcons, Border Reivers, Scotland and British Lions forward, said he was delighted to be made an honorary fellow of the college.
He was diagnosed with MND 19 months ago, and the charity and foundation My Name’5 Doddie built around his name, has garnered over £900,000 for MND research.
In a typically inspiring speech, Weir congratulated the students on all their hard work and thanked the college for the honour, granted in recognition of his sport, business and charitable work.
He said: “This is and honour, and it is a massive surprise, I have to say, especially coming from Melrose, when so many people from Gala have won it before.
“I’m a wee bit out of my comfort zone as I have never won anything like this before.
“It’s the first time I’ve ever felt like a full-back, a winger or a scrum half ... they take all the glory and accolades for all the forwards’s hard work.
“And that’s a bit like myself because the team behind me have done amazing work, and thanks to that I’m taking the glory here today.”
He talked about his life, saying that he was only 13 stone when he first played for Scotland: “That just shows that you don’t have to be any great size ir great magnitude to play for your country.
He talked about his various jobs over the years, including professional rugby player, beer rep and farmer, and for the last 15 years, working in the waste water industry, as commercial director for Hutchison Environmental Solutions.
He joked: “One minute, I was playing in front of 85,000 at Twickenham, the next minute, I’m looking after your number twos.”
He also spoke of the outstanding success of his charitable foundation.
He said: “The generosity and support my family anf foundation have received has been toally unbelievable.
“Mu foundation has given me a bit of spirit. It’s run by Jill Douglas [former Southern Reporter journalist and now television broadcaster] who won this accolade in 2004. She has done an amazing and outstanding job ... there is a lot other people have done behind the scenes as well.
“Our goal is to donate £1,000,000 to research and care packages by November, when the foundation is a year old.
“So far, we are up to just over £900,000.”
He ended his speech by saying: “If I can offer you all one piece of advice, it’s that ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ go a long way, and a smile as well, to opening many doors.”
College principal Angela Cox told the graduates: “I hope it is with some pride that you graduate from Borders College today, and as an alumni, continue to be an ambassador for us, no matter where you end up in the world.
“Remember this is where it all began.
“I hope you don’t consider today to be the end of your learning journey, but rather the start of an exciting life, where you are curious and continue to learn.
“In too many countries, access to education, unfortunately, remains the right of the privilieged few, so I urge you not to waste the opportunity you have been given.
“Go on, and be the best you can be. Take every opportunity that comes your way.
“Be the future generation that changes our world for the better and make us proud.
“On behalf of everyone at Borders College, we wish you every future success.