Former England rugby star Matt Hampson – who was left paralysed after a freak accident in training – has told De Montfort University’s first winter graduates the power of ‘getting busy living’.
The 32-year-old gave a powerful speech to the assembled graduands after being awarded an honorary degree for his fundraising efforts through the Matt Hampson Foundation, which he created after his accident in 2005.
After driving his motorised wheelchair on to the graduation stage and being given his degree by DMU’s Pro Chancellor Bill Dawson, Matt – who uses a ventilator – began his speech by acknowledging the difficulty of finding something to say to ‘such successful and motivated people’.
He said: “I’d like to offer you this advice: try and achieve something every day, no matter how small.
“Focus on what you can do rather than what you can’t. People take life too seriously so try and laugh at yourself. If you can’t laugh at yourself, who can you laugh at?”
Matt, who joined the Leicester Tigers academy at 16 and who was training for the England under-21 side when his accident took place, had said before the ceremony how honoured he was to be awarded the honorary Doctor of Arts.
He said: “I never went to university myself, I wasn’t very academic, went straight into rugby. So this is a graduation ceremony I didn’t have and my family are as proud as I am.
“I’m trying to make the most of my life and ultimately, I want to tell graduates to get busy living.”
Matt’s moving address came at the second of the two ceremonies which marked the first day of DMU’s winter graduations. Students from the Faculty of Business and Law became graduates in a spectacular event held at the Venue @ DMU.
See all of our Class of 2017: Winter Graduations stories here
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Leicester Tigers player 'proud' to be sporting an MA from DMU
Former DMU Men’s Rugby First team Captain and Business Management and Economics graduate Tim Gilbert had come to the graduations with his girlfriend Charlotte Turner, who was graduating from her Law and Criminal Justice LLB (Hons).
As a promising rugby player Tim said Matt’s story was inspiring: “It’s great to see Matt Hampson collaborating with DMU after our work with him over the previous seasons.
“I saw him tweet yesterday about the honorary degree and I’m thrilled to have been here for it.
“He has a fantastic message and it was inspirational to hear him speak once again, telling students to get busy living.”
Global Finance and Investment MSc graduate Georgina Nelson said she thought the ceremony was ‘amazing’.
The 24-year-old – who was joined by friends and family, including her one-year-old niece Olivia –said: “I did my undergraduate degree at DMU and had such a good time and made so many friends, I wanted to come back for my masters’.
“There’s such a good community here, such a diverse campus and the course is so well geared around getting a good job that it’s perfect for me. My little sister Shemela is now in her first year here at DMU, too."
Emma Leggott had graduated from a Housing Studies MSc. She had completed the course through distance learning, working around her job at South Tyneside Homes.
She said: “It was great to be able to come to campus and take part in the ceremony; it was a really good show. I completed my undergraduate course at a different university a few years back but this was something else; really good atmosphere.”
Posted on Tuesday 24th January 2017