Another first for adventurer Mark Pollock
A Holywood man who became the first blind person to cross the South Pole has made history again by becoming the first ever recipient of an Honorary Fellowship Award from Belfast Metropolitan College – the highest honour the college can bestow.
Mark Pollock received the award at the College's higher education Graduation ceremony in recognition of his outstanding personal achievements.
Mark lost his sight at the age of 22 but defied his blindness by competing in ultra-endurance races across deserts, mountains and the polar ice caps, becoming the first blind man to compete in a race to the South Pole.
He won silver and bronze medals for rowing at the Commonwealth Games before a fall from a second storey window in 2010 left him paralysed.
Mark is now exploring the frontiers of spinal injury recovery by using aggressive physical therapy, robotic legs and connecting those working in science and medicine through global collaboration.
He said he was honoured to receive the award. "I have faced many challenges in my personal and professional life and I am pleased that I can share my experience to help others navigate through crossroads, obstacles or turning points in their lives. As these graduates further their education, careers and personal journeys, I hope each of them will take some inspiration from my story and rise to the challenges they may be faced with in future."
The college welcomed 2,000 guests to Titanic Belfast and its Titanic Quarter Campus as graduates from the Faculty of Technologies and Academic Studies, the Faculty of Health, Care, Sport and Leisure and the Faculty of Leadership, Science and Service Industries were conferred.
Joining Mark in receiving the inaugural Honorary Fellowship Award were Alan Clarke, Chief Executive of Northern Ireland Tourist Board, and Ann McGregor MBE, Chief Executive of the NI Chamber of Commerce.
Graduates and their guests also heard from local entrepreneurs Simon Cole, of Automated Intelligence, Mary McCall, of TreatTicket.com and Eleanor McEvoy, of Budget Energy.
Marie-Thérèse McGivern, Chief Executive of BMC, congratulated each of the graduates on "their dedication and passion for learning" and added: "We hope that each of the Honorary Fellows' innovation and transformation of the world around them inspires our learners as they move into the next stage of their personal and professional lives."