600th Anniversary Campaign Dinner

Thursday 8 November 2012

Speech by Kristofer Drummond speech – third year Theoretical Physics and Mathematics, at the University of St Andrews 600th Anniversary Appeal Dinner at Middle Temple Hall, London.

Kristofer Drummond

Your Royal Highnesses, Chancellor, Principal, My Lords, Ladies and Gentlemen

My name is Kristofer Drummond and I am a third year student studying Theoretical Physics and Mathematics at the University of St Andrews.

Thank you for inviting me to this event. This is also my first time in London and I am very excited to be here!

I was brought up in a village in the west of Fife called Kelty. Growing up I never really took much thought about university. I would always tell everyone that I wanted to be a millionaire archeologist, only because my grandad showed me the Indiana Jones movies and I thought he was pretty cool.

It wasn’t until my third year of high school that I became interested in the idea of going to university, when I had developed a keen interest for physics and maths. At that stage I wasn’t entirely sure whether I would want to study at St Andrews. As well as having a reputation for the best physics and mathematics department in Scotland and being joint second in the UK, where I’m from the University also had a reputation where its students were very different from the likes of me. So the university wouldn’t accept me because of my background.

In my 5th year of high school, I was invited to participate in a summer school run by the Sutton Trust, an organization which helps students with backgrounds similar to mine to experience what life is really like at university. I had a chance to talk to some of the lecturers and students attending St Andrews. During my time at the Sutton trust I noticed something, there didn’t appear to be any students who looked down their nose at people. I soon realised the reputation that the University had back home was wrong. My time at the Sutton Trust was so good that, I decided St Andrews University was the uni for me!

When I went to university I never applied for a scholarship, the thought never occurred to me. So for my first 2 years I never had a scholarship, which was hard. My full Student Loan barely covered my living costs. I had little money left over for other things. The money situation got to the point where I would have to think carefully about what food I bought in case I didn’t have enough money to pay for my accommodation. And rather than doing something eventful over the summer holidays, instead I spent most of my time working 2 jobs to help me pay my accommodation fees. Fortunately, now the university has given me a scholarship, however I know better than most how important a scholarship can be for those who need it, how it can truly make a difference to a student’s life.

Without the help from people like you, we could see potentially brilliant students struggle with university life and even drop out of further education. The Nobel Prize winner Sir James Black earlier was a student at my high school and achieved a scholarship to St Andrews. He had a similar background to me, without which he would have never been able to afford to go to university. Now let’s imagine what could have happened if Sir James Black had never got that scholarship and never attended St Andrews. He would never have graduated with his bachelor’s degree and gone on to do a PhD, meaning he would have never gone on to develop Beta Blockers, the drug which he achieved the Nobel Prize for. I myself use a specific strand of beta blocker to help control a tremor I have which, without them gets very erratic under slightly stressful situations ,such as presenting a speech to an audience. This is how important a scholarship could be.

As for myself, my undeviating drive to be better than the best at what I do continues. I have been on the Dean’s list for academic excellence for the past two years. The scholarship I have received from the University helps my goal by enabling me to focus on my academic studies. Perhaps, one day with the degree I will receive from St Andrews, I too could make a difference, either in the world of mathematics and physics, or in some other fashion.

Thank you for taking the time to listen to my speech. It was indeed a great privilege to present it to all of you here tonight.

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