Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson served as President of the Republic of Iceland from 1996 to 2016. President Grímsson earned his BA degree in economics and political science at the University of Manchester, England, in 1965 where he also completed his PhD thesis in political science five years later. He subsequently became the first professor of political science at the University of Iceland. He took a seat in Althingi, the legislative assembly, in 1978 and served as Iceland’s Minister of Finance from 1988 to 1991.
During his Presidency he emphasized sustainable management of natural resources to control climate change, advocating the use of geothermal energy as a renewable, economically viable, and reliable resource. Since the end of his presidential mandate, he has continued serving as Chairman of the Arctic Circle.
President Grimsson has been active as a spokesman for clean energy solutions, and in 2014 Cornell University in the United States awarded him a special recognition for his contributions in this field.
President Grímsson has actively promoted desertification control, which is also an important issue with respect to climate changes, and in 2009 he was honoured by The Ohio State University for his efforts in this area
President Grimsson has been a spokesman of increased, peaceful, international cooperation both in the Arctic and the Himalayas. With this in mind he initiated, together with others, the Arctic Circle which held its first Assembly in Iceland in 2013 with over 1,200 participants from more than 40 countries. The Arctic Circle Assembly convened a second and third time in 2014 and 2015 with even more participants.
President Grímsson has lectured at universities in many different countries, including Beijing University and Fudan University in China, and Harvard, Columbia, Cornell, Brown, and The Ohio State University in the US. Among the topics he has presented is the interaction of democracy and financial markets, which was a highly current issue for Iceland after the breakdown of the three leading private banks in Iceland in 2008.
President Grimsson has for a long time had good connections with countries in Asia, including India and China, and Presidents of both these countries have visited Iceland. Among many international awards he has received is the 2007 Jawaharlal Nehru Award for International Understanding.
President Grimsson is married to Dorrit Moussaieff. He has two daughters from his marriage to Gudrun Katrin Thorbergsdottir who passed away in 1998.