Lews Castle College UHI’s graduation ceremony at Martin’s Memorial Church tomorrow (Friday August 23rd) will offer students an opportunity to celebrate both what they have achieved and who they have become, according to the keynote speaker.

Professor Alasdair Smith is returning home to Lewis to deliver the graduation address. One of an accomplished and well-respected family, he grew up in Ness and Sandwick, where his Breasclete-born father was headteacher first of Lionel School and later of Sandwick School. His mother was from Newvalley.

His uncle, Donald ‘Safety’ Smith, was an artist whose works were recently celebrated in a major retrospective at An Lanntair arts centre.

Prof Smith studied maths and economics at the University of Glasgow and became a prominent educationalist and economist. Since retiring from his last position in education, as Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sussex, he’s contributed to Scotland’s economic future as a member of the Scottish Fiscal Commission, which provides independent economic and tax revenue forecasts to the Scottish Government.

But he has never forgotten the impact of receiving a good grounding in education in his island home, which he says still has a huge impact on the world because of the importance attached to education.

Professor Smith told welovestornoway.com: “Education has always been an important part of life in Lewis and Harris. A lot of people born and brought up in the Western Isles have made fantastic contributions to the world and to the strength of the system.

“I come from Lewis and higher education has been my life, so it’s great to see education in Lewis and Harris making such progress through the development of the University of the Highlands and Islands. Educational institutions have a big effect on their communities, and communities with universities based within them tend to do better.”

A particular part of Prof Smith’s motivation to accept the invitation to speak was to be with Lewis and Harris students as they take a moment to reflect on all the possible ways they can develop as individuals.

He said: “The occasion on Friday is not just about celebrating what students have done. Higher education opens up opportunities for the development both of their careers and of their whole lives. Of course, it has economic effects on their future, but it also hugely enriches them as individuals in other ways.

“I urge them to take full advantage of the opportunities offered to them. Education is not an end in itself, but an opening of all sorts of opportunities. I imagine the graduates include a fair number of mature students who already know this, but there are opportunities in education at all stages of their lives.”

Professor Smith arrives in Stornoway on this afternoon’s ferry (Thursday) and will spend time with his family over the weekend.

Lews Castle College UHI graduation ceremony is at Martin’s Memorial Church at 2pm tomorrow (Friday), when UHI fellowship awards will be presented to Annie Macsween of Ness (Deputy Lord Lieutenant of the Western Isles) and to Malcolm Macdonald of Stornoway, principal authority on the Iolaire tragedy. Ann Lundon of BBC Scotland is also to be presented with an alumnus of the year award.