Commendations of the University

Alumnus of the Year

December 2014

Sarah Hacker

Councillor Sarah Hacker is a Labour councillor for Sarah Hacker CMSBattle ward and Deputy Mayor of Reading. She is Chair of the Town's Arts Forum; Labour Group; and Housing, Neighbourhoods and Leisure Committees.

She moved to Reading aged three and joined the University of Reading in 1997 where she studied for a BSc (Hons) in Rural Environmental Science. Sarah cites the numerous field trips and wide curriculum covered by her degree as being key factors in driving her passion for the subject.

After graduating in 2000, Sarah joined Waitrose as a Graduate trainee before moving to Prudential in 2002. In the same year she became union rep for Unite at Prudential. In 2008 her role was transferred to Capita where she continues to work as a Senior Pension Administrator. Alongside this role Sarah is also responsible for social media for TotsBots, the UK's leading reusable nappies brand.

Sarah became a member of the Labour Party at 16. In May 2010 she was first elected as a councillor for Battle ward, Reading. After being re-elected in May 2014, she was chosen as the Labour candidate for Deputy Mayor of Reading, and a month later was officially elected to the post.

Sarah has always had a significant drive to support, represent and progress the situation of those around her at work and in her local community. Since being appointed she has successfully campaigned for more school places and a new primary school in West Reading and has helped to secure £1.65 million of funding to benefit residents. Sarah now has her sights set on becoming Mayor of Reading in 2015 enabling her to serve Reading as its first citizen and raise money for her selected charities.

Sarah Hacker was presented for the Alumnus of the Year Award 2015 by Professor Julian Park, at the 12.00noon ceremony on Thursday 11 December 2014. Read the presentation speech for Sarah Hacker in full here. (PDF - 10KB)

July 2014

Andrew Mackay

Andy Mackay, best known for his membership ofAndy Mackay Roxy Music, graduated with a BA in Music and English Literature from the University of Reading in 1968.

Born in Cornwall and raised in London, Andy Mackay immersed himself fully in university life at Reading, developing his interests not only in music and literature but also in fine art. Amongst his circle, he counted Stephen Buckley, later Professor of Fine Art in the University and Simon Puxley, publicist for Roxy Music following the formation of the band in 1971.

Working as a teacher during the day and performing with Roxy Music by night, Andy Mackay recorded a solo instrumental album, In Search of Eddie Riff, in 1974; wrote and produced the music for Rock Follies, a British TV series about a fictional female rock group; and continued to work with Roxy Music while releasing a prolific output from other solo projects.

Andy Mackay’s varied career in the music industry has involved collaborating with artists such as Duran Duran, Paul McCartney and Arcadia and is largely credited with bringing the saxophone into modern music. Perhaps his most recognisable saxophone solo features on Roxy Musics’s haunting cover version of John Lennon's Jealous Guy, itself an international No.1.

Andy Mackay was presented for the Alumnus of the Year Award 2014 by Professor Matthew Worley at the 12 noon ceremony on Wednesday 9 July 2014. Read the presentation speech for Andy Mackay in full here. (PDF - 67KB)

July 2013

Rhianna Dhillon

Rhianna Dhillon graduated from the University of Rhianna DhillonReading in 2011 with a BA in English and Film & Theatre. She started working for Radio 1 as a film critic in her final year at Reading and her reviews are now heard by over 5 million people.

Rhianna has been working for Radio 1 and 1xtra for nearly two years, and was discovered after attending a Radio 1 Movies Team visit to the University of Reading and immediately impressed with her knowledge of film and her bright personality. She later took part in a rigorous piloting process alongside nine other young hopefuls, before securing the job. Film critic for Radio 1 and 1xtra is Rhianna's first ever job in radio. She replaced James King who left Radio 1 after thirteen years with the station.

Rhianna says she had a fantastic time studying in the Film, Theatre & Television department:

“All the tutors are passionate about their subjects and I have had a lot of fun learning from them. A particularly great aspect of the seminars is the amount we were encouraged to contribute- who doesn't like talking about film?! The depth of analysis that is expected from both the English and Film, Theatre and Television departments has helped me enormously as the film critic for Radio 1”

Rhianna Dhillon was presented with the Alumnus of the Year Award 2013 by Professor Lib Taylor at the 12 noon ceremony on Thursday 4 July 2013.

December 2010

Beth Morgan

Beth Morgan graduated from the University of Reading in 2005 with a BSc in Psychology.

Due to shoulder injury she retired from cricket on 15 January 2013 but prior to this, she played in seven Tests, 72 ODI and 28 Twenty20's. She represented the Middlesex Women cricket team(where she was made captain in 2010) and was in the England women's cricket team.

She was a member of the team which retained the Ashes in Australia in 2008 and who won the Women's World Cup in 2009, playing in all the games including the final and also competed in the 2009 World Twenty/20 competition, and scored a vital unbeaten 46 from 34 balls in the defeat of Australia in the semi-final.

Her uncle is the former test cricketer Eddie Hemmings who played for England 16 times, who Morgan has said is great to have on the end of the phone for support. She has also spoken about making the most of her time a Reading, saying:

''My experience at Reading gave me the confidence to chase my dream of playing international cricket and to realise it. It is a huge honour and privilege to even be considered for this prestigious award. I feel very lucky to have been given such great opportunities, both throughout my sporting career and also in gaining a superb education.''

Beth Morgan was presented with the Alumnus of the Year Award 2010 by Dr Graham Schafer at the 12 noon ceremony on Friday 17 December 2010. Read the presentation speech for Beth Morgan in full here. (PDF - 51KB)

July 2009

Nicky Kinnaird

Nicky Kinnaird graduated from the University of Reading in 1985 with a BSc in Land Management.

Now an MBE, she is known as the Belfast-born founder and president of British cosmetic retailer Space NK, which she founded in 1993.

Kinnaird's first Space NK store was in Covent Garden, before the brand expanded across Britain and into America. Space NK is credited with turning brands like Eve Lom, By Terry and Laura Mercier into household names, with Kinnaird's eye for a cult product and her close edit of the best in beauty ensuring that it is a go-to for beauty fanatics and newcomers alike.

“I don't believe one brand offers the top-to-toe solution,” says Kinnaird. “It's not in a sales associate on a monobrand counter's interest to refer you to another counter, so you're never getting the best solution there.”

Nicky Kinnaird was presented with the Alumnus of the Year Award 2009 by Professor Christine Williams, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Enterprise), at the 12 noon ceremony on Thursday 2 July 2009. Read the presentation speech for Nicky Kinnaird in full here. (PDF - 43KB)

June 2008

Debby Reynolds

Professor Reynolds was born and educated inDebby Reynolds Reading and, after studying for her first degree in Veterinary Science at the University of Bristol, Debby undertook postgraduate studies at Reading, studying viral enteric disease in calves, (a major industry concern).

Reynolds was the Chief Veterinary Officer of the United Kingdom and for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) from March 2004 to 9 November 2007.

As Chief Veterinary Officer, Reynolds was the British government's main spokesperson on animal health, and was in the British nationwide news repeatedly to explain policy and answer questions about outbreaks or control of serious animal infections, such as foot-and-mouth disease, H5N1 bird flu, bovine TB, rabies and bluetongue virus.

She retired in November 2007 was made a Companion of the Order of Bath (CB) in the New Year Honours 2008.

Debby Reynolds was presented with the Alumnus of the Year Award 2008 by Professor Ian Jones, Professor of Biomedical Sciences, at the 12 noon ceremony on Thursday 26 September 2008. Read the presentation speech for Debby Reynolds in full here. (PDF - 54KB)

 Distinguished Fellows

March 2014

At the Yearly Meeting of the University Court 2014, four Distinguished Fellowships of the University were conferred upon members of the University in recognition of outstanding achievements in their respective fields.

Two of these were upon former members of the University Council in recognition of their invaluable service. The Council , which meets four times each academic year, is the Executive Governing Body of the University, with responsibility for the government of the University, managing the University's resources (including finance, land, property, investments, contracts and other business affairs), approving changes to the Charter, Statutes and Ordinances, appointing Officers of the University, reviewing and promoting teaching and research in the University, and acting as the ultimate body to deal with grievances by staff or students.

These two were:

  • Ms Judith Scott, former Vice-President of Council.
  • Dr Geoffrey Botting, former Vice-President of Council.

Following on from December 2012, when twelve of Reading's Olympians who competed at London 2012 were honoured, two other Distinguished fellowships were also conferred on key figures of London 2012:.Hugh Robertson

These two were:

  • The Rt Hon Hugh Robertson MP, Reading graduate and Minister for Sport and the Olympics from 2010 to 2012.
  • Sir John Armitt, Chairman of the Olympic Delivery Authority who received an Honorary Degree from Reading in 2008.

Further information about the awards can be viewed here.

December 2012

Following on from the tremendous success of Team GB at the London 2012 Olympics and Paralympics, the University honoured all of Reading’s Olympians by making them Distinguished Fellows of the University of Reading. These included rowers, a hockey player, and even the man behind the design of the London 2012 medals.

Distinguished Fellows

These were:


  • Alex Gregory (BSc Geography 2006) who won gold in the men's coxless four.
  • Anna Watkins (PhD in Maths) who won gold in women's double scull.
  • Bill Lucas (BA Politics and International Relations 2009) who came 5th in the men's double scull.
  • Charles Cousins (BSc Psychology 2010) who came 5th in the men's quadruple scull.
  • Natasha Page (BA Art 2007) who came 5th in the women's eight.
  • Ric Egington (BSc Zoology 2001) who won bronze in the men's eight.
  • Sam Townsend (BSc Rural Environmental Sciences 2010) who came 5th in the men's double scull.
  • Debbie Flood (BSc Physiology and Biochemistry 2005) who came 6th in the women's quadruple scull
  • Alex Partridge (Henley Business School MBA programme) who won bronze in the men's eight.
  • Adam Freeman-Pask (PhD in Biological Science) who was a men's lightweight reserve.


  • Jonty Clarke (BA Economics 2002) was part of the GB hockey team that finished 4th in the Olympics. Jonty was invited to open the new Childs Hall on 4th September 2012 as he was a resident of the old halls when he was a student. He played for both the University and Reading Hockey club and was part of our University team that reached the BUCS final in 2001.

Olympic medal design:

  • David Watkins (BA Fine Art 1963), who designed the London 2012 medals, was also a recipient of a Distinguished Fellowship.

Further information about the awards can be viewed here.

College of Benefactors

July 2014

The College of Benefactors is a select new body, the members of which are recognised for their exceptional philanthropic generosity to the University.

During the 5.00pm ceremony on Thursday 10 July 2014, several new members were inducted into the College of Benefactors. They were:College of Benefactors CMS

  • Sir John Madejski OBE DL
  • The late Professor Wallace Hirst, and Mrs Muriel Hirst MBE
  • John Nike OBE DL
  • The Wolfson Foundation
  • The International Capital Market Association (ICMA)
  • Segro Plc
  • CBRE
  • The British Land Company Plc

You can read more about those inducted into the College of Benefactors during July 2014 here.



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