Star Trek star Patrick Stewart receives Honorary Doctorate from the UEA

Legendary actor Patrick Stewart received an Honorary Doctorate of Letters at the UEA graduations 2011 ceremony yesterday – and left graduating UEA students with one simple message: 'Be brave and always listen to your instincts'.

The actor, best known for his film roles as Captain Jean-Luc Picard in Star Trek: The Next Generation and Professor Charles Xavier in the X-Men film series, looked delighted to receive the honour, and posed for photographs outside on Founders Meadow.

He said: 'It means a lot to a secondary modern pupil whose formal education ended at the age of 15 and two days.

'I never was ambitious. We weren't encouraged to be ambitious at secondary modern school, as we were the failures. Luckily, I had a couple of people who were ambitious for me. They made sure that things happened for me.'

Later, in a speech to students, he told them: 'There is a need in life to be brave, in the way we approach our work. Timidity is a killer. Some people have [bravery] and some have to find it. If courage is needed, then I try to summon it up.

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'My message is also about trusting your instincts. Often people second guess too much. When your instincts tell you something's not right, trust them and act on your instincts.

'As an actor, when I started, far too often I tried to second guess everything when I should have listened to my instincts.'

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Mr Stewart said he loved Norwich and Norfolk.

'I like the area very much. I'm a sucker for churches and Norwich is the place to come to for that. I'm also a bit of a collector so I have just spent hours at the Sainsbury Centre at the UEA.

He said when he first heard about the role that changed his life in Star Trek he thought it was a joke.

He said: 'It was only when it came down to me and another actor for the role, that I had to think about what I would do should I be offered the role. It had a dramatic impact on my life.'

As well as his leading film roles, he has had a distinguished career in theatre and television for around half a century.

See pages 26-27 for more UEA graduations

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