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Alumni news

Leeds has 270,000 alumni around the world.

This is what some of you are up to.

  • Give a little back

    Panut Hadisiswoyo protects orangutans in Sumatra

    Give a little back

    There’s something about Leeds that brings out the best in people, as demonstrated by these altruistic alumni.

    Orangutans in Sumatra have an effective ally in Panut Hadisiswoyo (MA Communication Studies 2004) who is Founding Director of the Orangutan Information Center, an NGO that conserves and protects both the animals and their forest homes.

    Through Campaign Bootcamp, Johnny Chatterton (Economics and Geography 2007) trains people from marginalised groups to run campaigns that challenge injustice and inequality. The Obama Foundation awarded him a fellowship and is helping him to grow the charity significantly.

    At the age of 25, Joseph Walsh (Social Work 2016) gave a kidney to a stranger through the kidney-sharing scheme. When he donated his kidney to one patient, their friend or family member gave their kidney to another patient. Joseph now raises awareness about altruistic kidney donation.

    Agnes Frimston (English 2008) heard a woman sobbing in a public toilet stall beside her. She soothed the woman, who had recently lost her mother, by reading aloud the poem “To the Woman Crying Uncontrollably in the Next Stall” by Kim Addonizio. When Agnes tweeted about the incident, she prompted hundreds of others to describe how strangers had supported them in tough times.

    Agnes Frimston

  • Make friends, influence people

    Maltese Diplomat Marisa Farrugia

    Make friends, influence people

    “My Leeds experience served to polish my negotiating skills,” says Maltese diplomat Marisa Farrugia (PhD Arabic and Middle Eastern Studies 2002). She brings these skills to her new role as Deputy Secretary-General for Social and Civil Affairs at the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM). “Often, winning a person over is more pivotal than winning an argument to maintain long-term, honest relationships.” The UfM is an intergovernmental organisation that brings together countries of the European Union and 15 countries of the southern and eastern Mediterranean.

  • Netball star

    Top netball player Natalie Haythornthwaite

    Netball star

    Natalie Haythornthwaite (Linguistics and Phonetics 2014) is a netball globetrotter. Not only did she win Commonwealth gold in 2018 with the England Roses, but in 2019 she won the Suncorp Super Netball title with the NSW Swifts in Australia and a bronze medal with England at the Netball World Cup in Liverpool. Natalie recently captained England’s Vitality Roses in the Netball Nations Cup.

  • Cutting edge tech

    Vet-AI founder Trevor Hardcastle

    Cutting edge tech

    Enterprising alumni have developed some well-known and useful technologies for consumers.

    The popular money-saving website vouchercodes.co.uk was founded by Duncan Jennings (Management Studies), Max Jennings (German and Philosophy 2001) and Richard Foister (Economics 2003). In 2016, they went on to found Hoop, an app that has already had a million downloads. Families with children under 12 use Hoop to plan child-friendly activities.

    Meanwhile, Trevor Hardcastle (PhD Process, Environmental and Materials Engineering 2014) and Paul Hallett (PGCert Business 2014) are modernising pet healthcare with their start-up Vet-AI. They are developing new technologies that aim to prevent and predict conditions developing in animals. Their app Joii provides symptom checkers, video consultations with vets and free nurse clinics and will provide AI in the near future.

    And finally, JustPark Founder Anthony Eskinazi (Mathematics 2005) together with Lisa Eskinazi (Human Resource Management 2004) and Thomas Welton (Cert HE Mathematics 2009) have made it easier for people to park their cars. Described as an AirBnB for drivers, JustPark allows people with empty driveways to connect with motorists needing a parking space.

  • Civil president

    This year Rachel Skinner (MSc Transport Planning and Engineering 2001) is set to become the youngest ever president of the Institution of Civil Engineers. She is currently Executive Director and UK Head of Transport at the global engineering firm WSP. Rachel also finds time to be patron of the Women in Transport network and to encourage girls to study STEM subjects.

  • Top of the shop

    Martin Scicluna welcomes the Queen to Sainsbury's

    Top of the shop

    Seen here with the Queen celebrating Sainsbury’s 150th anniversary, the Chairman of Sainsbury’s and RSA Insurance, Martin Scicluna (Accounting 1973, Hon LLD 2008) has come a long way since his student days at Leeds. Martin, recalls how, as a graduating student, Leeds gave him a career boost. “It was clear then that my firm held Leeds in very high regard and that obviously helped my employment prospects!”

  • The hammer falls

    Working for renowned London auctioneers Bonhams puts Peter Rees (English and Religious Studies 1994) in close proximity to some of the world’s finest works of art. As Director of the 227-year-old auction house, he’s been involved in particular with Victorian and 19th century European art. Bonhams has achieved a number of world auction records for artists including Archibald Thorburn, Dorothea Sharp and Stanhope Forbes.

  • Training for life

    Leeds students with a train engine in Middleton, Leeds
    Credit: Yorkshire Post

    Training for life

    The oldest working railway in the world, the Middleton Railway in south Leeds, has a long association with the University. Back in 1969, Charles Milner (Chemical Engineering 1971) and Malcolm Phillips (Chemical Engineering 1973) were among the members of the Leeds University Railway and Transport Society who helped club together to buy a diesel engine for the railway. “The loco cost £75,” remembers Charles, whose involvement with the railway continues to this day. As Chairman of the Middleton Railway Trust, he is overseeing celebrations to mark its Diamond Jubilee. During the weekend of 20 and 21 June, historic rolling stock will hit the tracks to mark the 60th anniversary of the Trust’s first day of operation. If you have memories of the Railway Society, or any student club or society, please share them at alumni.leeds.ac.uk/society

    To find out more about the celebration weekend, visit: https://www.middletonrailway.org.uk/index.php/special-events

  • Family matters

    Shazia Mustafa founded Third Door

    Family matters

    As a new mum, Shazia Mustafa (Mathematics 1997) wanted to return to work. She found it difficult to brainstorm ideas whilst meeting the needs of her daughter. “I wished for a place I could work, whilst she was cared for nearby,” she says. That’s when the idea for Third Door, the UK’s first co-working and flexible business hybrid, was born. Third Door allows members to work upstairs whilst their children are downstairs in an Ofsted nursery.

  • Moving along

    Tony Mannix at Clipper Logistics

    Moving along

    Tony Mannix (Architectural Engineering 1984) was awarded the UK Warehousing Association’s 2019 Chairman’s Award for his lasting contribution to the logistics industry. As Chief Executive Officer of Clipper Logistics, he has seen the company build partnerships with key retail companies. “In retail, the speed of change can be daunting,” says Tony, “and retailers need an agile, multi-channel logistics partner who can help keep them ahead of the retail curve.” Also driving the Sheffield-based company’s success is Deputy Chief Financial Officer Richard Crofton (Mathematics 2000).

    Through Tony’s lead, Clipper provides career opportunities to ex-offenders, people from minority groups and those living with physical and mental health challenges.

  • Testing times

    As an expert in food safety, Emma Bradley (Chemistry 1992, PhD Bio-organic Chemistry 1996) helps protect the UK’s food chain. Emma leads a team of 100 scientists who research food safety and food fraud. They test for biological and chemical contaminants in food before it reaches our plates. She is Head of Food Quality and Safety at Fera Science, a large organisation that aims to support and develop a sustainable food chain and protect the global community from biological and chemical risks. Along with her expertise in analytical chemistry, Emma’s job calls for a detailed knowledge of national and international food regulations.

  • Keeping cool

    A thirsty moment in a Leeds lecture theatre sparked the idea of a reusable bottle for people who like their water cold. With support from the Leeds enterprise scheme, James Butterfield (Management 2011) developed a water bottle that keeps its contents cold. After graduating, James launched Chilly’s reusable bottles from a market stall in London. Now his company is one of Britain’s fastest-growing private companies, according to The Sunday Times.

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Screen success

  • Princess, queen, Shelby

    Kate Phillips as Linda Shelby

    Princess, queen, Shelby

    Kate Phillips (Theatre and Performance 2010) joined the cast of Downton Abbey as Princess Mary in the hit show’s big-screen outing. Since her first TV role as Jane Seymour in Wolf Hall, Kate has become a regular face on screen. She has appeared in War and Peace, The Crown – written by Peter Morgan – and Peaky Blinders, in which her character stirred things up by marrying Arthur Shelby.

  • The write stuff

    Neil Cross on set with Idris Elba

    The write stuff

    Idris Elba may be Luther on screen but, behind the scenes, the character is the brainchild of series creator Neil Cross (English and Theology 1994, MA English 1995). Neil’s also making Mosquito Coast with Apple and a new four-part thriller, Because the Night, for ITV. He describes the latter as “a tale of psychological suspense, of guilt and ghosts and murder.”

  • Producing laughs

    Ish Kalia with his Bafta

    Producing laughs

    TV producer Ish Kalia (International Studies 1996) picked up a 2019 Bafta when his Sky One show A League of Their Own won Best Comedy Entertainment Programme at a ceremony held at London’s Royal Festival Hall. Ish also series produces A League of Their Own: European Road Trip and recently produced panel show There’s Something About Movies, hosted by Alan Carr.

  • Award winner

    Tom Watt-Smith at work

    Award winner

    Drowning in Plastic, an environmental film by documentary maker Tom Watt-Smith (Geography 2001), beat David Attenborough’s Blue Planet II to a Royal Television Society gong. In November, the BBC aired Tom’s documentary Meat: A Threat to Our Planet? “My ability to make films about our planet and its people has come, in large part, from studying at Leeds,” he says. “I suppose I turned all those qualitative research techniques into a job!”

  • Barely left Leeds

    Sex Education actress Emma Mackey

    Barely left Leeds

    Emma Mackey (English 2016) has seen the drama Sex Education draw 40 million viewers on Netflix since she landed the lead role of sharp-tongued Maeve. Whilst starring opposite Asa Butterfield in this English language production, bilingual Emma has also recently acted opposite French cinema icon Romain Duris in the film Eiffel. Her work has made such an impression that Screen International named her a Star of Tomorrow.

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Media briefs

  • TV producer Jane Featherstone (German and History 1991, Hon DLitt 2019) reaped more critical success last year when her show Chernobyl picked up 10 gongs at the Emmy Awards.

  • The eagerly awaited third series of The Crown by creator Peter Morgan (History of Art 1985, Hon DLitt 2016) arrived on Netflix to great acclaim, with Olivia Coleman taking over the role of Queen Elizabeth.

  • Doctor Foster creator Mike Bartlett (English and Theatre Studies 2002) penned the psychological thriller series for ITV called Sticks and Stones as well as the upcoming LIFE – a six-part BBC drama.

  • Actor Deborah Findlay (English 1969) will be back as tough divorce lawyer Ruth alongside Nicola Walker when The Split returns to TV screens in 2020.

  • Fans of Carpool Karaoke and Drop the Mic have seen the work of Ben Winston (Broadcasting Studies 2004), who produces James Corden’s The Late Late Show. Ben also shared executive producer duties on the hit Gavin and Stacey Christmas special.

  • Ugandan journalist Nancy Kacungira (MA Communications Studies 2009) presents BBC World News, following in the news-anchor footsteps of other Leeds graduates including Martine Croxall (Geography 1990), Naga Munchetty (English 1997) and James Mates (International History and Politics 1983).

  • Peter Bowker (English and Philosophy 1981) and Chris Clough (English 1974) worked together on the World War II drama series World on Fire as, respectively, writer and series producer.

  • Jack Fox (Theology and Religious Studies 2008) played a major role in last year’s television drama Sanditon and has an ongoing role in the series Riviera.

  • Danny Kirrane (Physics 2006) proved his versatility by appearing in both Mike Leigh’s big-screen epic Peterloo and heartwarming small-screen comedy drama Don’t Forget the Driver.

  • Since making a name for himself in Made in Chelsea, Jamie Laing (Theatre and Performance 2011) has become a television personality and actor.