Thurston on Wednesday was presented with an Honorary Doctor of Letters at a graduation ceremony in Townsville from James Cook University (JCU).
The honorary doctorate recognises "outstanding service and exceptional contributions" to the north Queensland community.
The 32-year-old's deeds on the field need no embellishment, particularly this year after leading North Queensland to a maiden NRL crown and Queensland to a ninth State of Origin title in 10 years, netting a record fourth Dally M player of the year and winning a third Golden Boot award as best player in the world.
But JCU's gesture is for his tireless dedication to a broad range of community programs, groups and charities, as well as his undeniable status as role model and inspiration for thousands of Indigenous people, especially children, across the country.
"He is a mentor to so many in north Queensland and beyond," said James Cook University's Chancellor, Lt Gen John Grey AC.
"The qualities he displays - humility, sportsmanship, leadership, mateship, and loyalty to his community - are widely respected. Johnathan Thurston is an inspiration to youth and the broader community."
Thurston said he was extremely humbled by the honour.
"It has been an amazing year for me personally and professionally, and I am really excited to be finishing the year
with this honour," he said.
"I take pride in the work I do and the time I spend in the community. I am passionate about north Queensland and the north Queensland people.
Thurston stopped to give his autograph to a young Indigenous fan who attended the ceremony.
"I believe that the way forward for indigenous people is through education and I am committed to using my profile to assist that cause in any way possible," he said.
"Thank you to James Cook University for recognising the work I do away from the football field."
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