A STUDENT from East Lothian who was the first from his school to secure a place at St John’s College, Cambridge, has gone on to achieve almost unprecedented academic success.
Gregor McMillan, from Haddington, graduated on Wednesday with an award for all-round excellence from his college. His dissertations were published in international academic journals, described as “an astonishing feat for an undergraduate”.
Gregor, who studied Asian and Middle Eastern studies, specialising in Chinese, now has international recognition of his expertise on the history of Chinese shipping in the 20th century.
His interest in shipping and boats also extends to his non-academic pursuits and throughout his degree he has been heavily involved in the Lady Margaret Boat Club at St John’s, becoming captain of the club in 2014.
This June, in highly competitive rowing races between the Cambridge Colleges known as “The May Bumps”, he led a crew which achieved their “blades” by winning four races in a row.
In recognition of his remarkable accomplishments, Gregor is one of six students who have received Larmor Awards, a unique honour given to graduating students at St John’s on the recommendation of a committee comprising senior academics and their fellow students.
Named after 20th century physicist and mathematician, Sir Joseph Larmor, these are presented on the morning of graduation and mark outstanding achievements in “intellectual qualifications, moral conduct or practical activities”.
Gregor will now try his hand at business development after securing a contract with the Hut Group to work on a project in China. However, his research success means he won’t rule out a return to academia, perhaps at a university in the USA or China in a few years’ time.
Gregor said: “St John’s has been a good craic’. It’s an intense place that requires lots of hard work, but I have had incredible support and the opportunity to be taught by leading experts in my subject.
“During my time here I have felt an overwhelming sense of community, especially through my involvement in the boat club. It has always been my goal to leave something better than I found it and my proudest achievement is massively increasing participation in rowing at the college. In a system where you have such great resources, to share them among as many people as possible is quite a wonderful thing.”
Presenting Gregor with his award, the Master of St John’s College, Professor Chris Dobson, described his academic achievements as “amazing”, stating that he was “unbelievably impressed”. In his recommendation to the awarding committee, Gregor’s tutor added: “Beyond Gregor’s academic and social activities, his friendliness, personal drive and character is well known and highly regarded.”