Ian Thorpe OAM receives honorary doctorate

1 October 2014

Australian swimmer Ian Thorpe has received an honorary doctorate from Macquarie University, recognising his outstanding contributions to sport and philanthropy.

“This extraordinary swimmer has a special connection to our University,” says Vice-Chancellor, Professor S. Bruce Dowton. “He was often seen across campus while he studied towards a Bachelor of Arts degree, and trained for the Olympics in our sports centre.”

Thorpe received the award in a morning graduation ceremony for the Faculty of Business and Economics, and was joined by family and friends.

Thorpe started swimming when he was eight, and hit the international headlines at 15 when he won the world 400-metre freestyle title in Perth in 1998. He was the youngest-ever world swimming champion. From then on he dominated middle-distance swimming, winning a slew of world titles.

Among the dozens of awards Thorpe received was the IAAF’s 2001 American International Athlete Trophy as the World’s Most Outstanding Athlete.

Known fondly as the “Thorpedo”, he broke 22 world records and won five gold, three silver and one bronze Olympic medals. He has also amassed 11 World Championship titles, 10 Commonwealth Games gold medals and nine Pan-Pacific titles.

Beyond his swimming career, 31-year old Thorpe is a deeply committed philanthropist. In 2000 he established the Ian Thorpe’s Fountain for Youth charity, which has raised millions to fund health, education and literacy empowerment programs for impoverished Aboriginal children and their families in remote communities in the Northern Territory.

Thorpe is also an ambassador for the Indigenous education program AIME, and co-patron of the Close the Gap Campaign. Thorpe’s “fight for better services for Indigenous children” was recognised when he was awarded the 2012 Human Rights Medal by the Australian Human Rights Commission.

In 2012 this sporting celebrity published his autobiography This is Me, admitting for the first time his battle against depression. By then he had already served as an ambassador for Lifeline. His attempted Olympic comeback featured in a documentary series Ian Thorpe: The Swimmer.

“It is a great privilege to be awarded such an honour from one of Australia’s top educational institutions and one that I am very humbled by,” Thorpe said.  “I have a lot of fond memories from Macquarie University and look forward to returning to the campus for the ceremony.“

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