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Alumni news

  • In the field, Dr Alex Kumar
    Photo: Dr Alexander Bacon

    The flying doctor

    “I travel light,” says Dr Alex Kumar (International Health 2006), “with a camera, stethoscope and sense of humour.” As a global doctor, photographer and media presenter, Alex has worked in over 90 countries tackling the world’s serious health issues. From an Ebola centre in Sierra Leone, to investigating the Zika virus in South America, and HIV among the people of the Canadian Arctic, Alex has amassed a wealth of humanitarian experience. His research also goes beyond our planet. Alex worked with the European Space Agency in the extreme Antarctic investigating how far human physiology can be pushed towards a future manned mission to Mars. “My work’s shown me how wonderful the world is, but also just how much global health work there is to do,” he says.

  • Chatterbox founder Mursal Hedayat
    Photo: Phill Taylor

    A little more conversation

    Mursal Hedayat (Economics 2015) founded Chatterbox, an enterprise that trains refugees as foreign language tutors and connects them with learners. Mursal was inspired by her own experiences as a refugee. “My mum arrived from Afghanistan as a Civil Engineer with four languages. She just couldn’t get a job,” she says. “With Chatterbox I wanted to create career pathways for talented refugees.” To date, Chatterbox has trained more than 40 refugee tutors in 21 languages. Leeds students have also been benefitting from Chatterbox’s services, with several having learned Arabic since it was launched in 2016.

  • Anna aboard one of Zizoo's boats
    Photo: David Levene

    A life on the ocean wave

    Boat fanatic Anna Banicevic (Politics 2004) has turned her nautical nous into a fleet of more than 21,000 boats. Her company Zizoo – named after Jacques Cousteau’s sobriquet – offers boating holidays to 500 destinations worldwide. Anna started sailing at a young age. She founded Zizoo with several friends and has slowly grown the trips and vessels available. Last year Zizoo helped thousands of customers on to the ocean wave, with optional skipper for the uninitiated. As for Anna, she’s planning a trip to Mexico. By boat, of course.

  • Bob and Enid today

    The course of true love

    “It’s like a Shakespearean romance,” says Bob Bracegirdle (Colour Chemistry 1963) of his relationship with Enid (Colour Chemistry 1963). The pair, who tied the knot an exceptional 51 years after they met at Leeds, are living proof that whilst the course of true love never did run smooth, all’s well that ends well.

    The couple first met in 1966. Romance bloomed and they were engaged after graduation. However, the star-crossed lovers were thwarted by what Bob describes as “parental interference” and they separated. Enid eventually set up home in Manchester, married and raised her children. Bob, after a decade of bachelorhood, married the widow of his former Leeds roommate.

    As the decades rolled by, Bob’s spouse died, whilst Enid divorced hers. Neither one heard news of the other until 2013 when they were reunited through mutual contacts. “We didn’t intend to start anything romantically,” says Enid, but the pair found themselves falling in love again. With no parents to oppose their union this time, Enid gladly accepted the same ring that Bob had first proffered in 1966. “We got there in the end,” says Bob.

  • Leeds alumni on the green
    Photo: Justin Slee

    Celebrating the master

    Steve Ledger (Medicine 1974) told us about The Mackenzie Society after reading our email newsletter about esteemed golf course architect Alister MacKenzie (Medicine 1904). MacKenzie’s first two courses, The Alwoodley Golf Club and Moortown Golf Club, co-hosted golfers from across the globe for this summer’s MacKenzie Society Gathering. A photo caught the moment when Leeds alumni members, some sporting University ties, got together to celebrate their link to the man who designed such celebrated golf courses as Cypress Point, Royal Melbourne and Augusta National – home of The Masters.

  • Leeds alumni win Study UK awards

    The Leeds experience led to three alumni scooping top places in the prestigious 2018 Study UK Alumni Awards. The awards celebrate achievements of international alumni who have used their experience of studying at a UK university to make an impact on their communities. Congratulations go to Associate Professor Dr Agachai Sumalee (PhD Transport Studies 2004), winner of the Social Impact Award in Thailand, Professor Mahmoud Hafez (Medicine 2006) who took the Entrepreneurial Award in Egypt, and Manar Al Hinai (MA Diversity Management 2009), awarded the Entrepreneurial category in the Middle East and North Africa region.

  • Actress Verity Blyth

    Stages of success

    Two alumni feature in musical theatre productions about women embroiled in seismic historic events. Verity Blyth (Theatre and Performance 2014) played Adela Pankhurst, sister of the eponymous suffragette, in the hip-hop musical Sylvia during an initial run at London’s Old Vic Theatre. The West End’s Arts Theatre hosts Katy Richardson (Music 2014) as Musical Director for the concert musical SIX. In the show, the wives of Henry VIII fight for their views on history to be heard. When they were at Leeds, Verity and Katy worked together on student productions of Beauty and the Beast, Americana and High School Musical. 

    Musical director Katy Richardson

  • Elaine Bedell, Chief Executive of the South Bank Centre

    State of the art

    As the first female Chief Executive of the South Bank Centre, Elaine Bedell (English 1983) can be watching a Paul Weller gig one day and a Philharmonia Mahler the next; overseeing the renovations of iconic Brutalist buildings or planning the expansion of a skatepark for good measure. “No two days are the same,” she says. But managing Europe’s largest arts centre is no daunting prospect for Elaine who came to South Bank following a 25-year media career. Aged just 23, Elaine cut her teeth making documentaries for BBC Radio 4, before setting up her own production company in the mid-nineties. After a stint as Controller of Entertainment at the BBC, Elaine migrated to ITV where she spearheaded shows including I’m a Celebrity and Ant and Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway as Director of Entertainment and Comedy.

    Elaine still remembers with fondness her fledgling days on Leeds Student Radio and TV channel Network 4. “I have very fond memories of Leeds and long lunches spent on the rep floor of the Students’ Union in a room lined with egg boxes. Some of the friends I made in Leeds remain my closest friends to this day,” she says.

  • Renowned poet Tony Harrison
    Photo: James Drew Turner / The Guardian

    Celebrating Tony Harrison

    One of the most eminent poets and playwrights of our time, Tony Harrison (Classics 1958, Hon DLitt 2004), returned to campus for the 2018 Sheppard Lecture in June. For more than 50 years, Tony has been a prolific and celebrated poet, and has led major innovations in theatre, particularly the translation of classical drama to the vernacular.

    The event included readings from Tony, alongside special guests Barrie Rutter and Conrad Nelson of Northern Broadsides Theatre, and actor Sian Thomas. There was also an exhibition of material from Tony’s literary archive which Special Collections began to acquire in 2007. Visitors were treated to notebooks and drafts, tracking his progress from his participation in Leeds University Rag, to his later theatrical triumphs. This was Tony’s second visit within a year. A special event in honour of his 80th birthday took place in November 2017 which included a rare screening of one of his film poems The Gaze of the Gorgon (1992).

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In brief

  • Aparna Garg (MA Transport Economics 1995) is the Divisional Railway Manager in Mysuru, India.

  • High Court judge James Stewart QC (Law 1965) uses real life cases as inspiration for his sideline in crime novels.

  • Adanna Enwezor (MA Global Development 2011), organises the African Hair Summit in Abuja, Nigeria.


  • Professional boxer Josh Warrington (Dental Technology 2013) holds the IBF featherweight title.

  • The British Science Association Education section has appointed Dr Andrew Morris (PhD Biophysics 1975) as its new President.

  • The Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed named Thomas Love (Biochemistry 2016) as the young freelancer of the year in graphic design.

  • Squash international Saurav Ghosal (Economics 2008) won bronze for India at the 2018 Asian Games.

  • Ravelin, a business founded by Martin Sweeney (Physics 2010), uses cutting edge artificial intelligence to prevent online fraud.

  • Oliver Cushing (Politics 2005) fights modern slavery with his business RightDD, which assesses the risk of slavery in supply chains.

  • Glenn Miles (Agriculture 1981) is Director of the General Services Department at The World Bank.

  • Cumbria’s Chief Constable is Michelle Skeer (History 1990).

Changed career? Landed a new job? Been promoted?

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Sporting Hall of Fame

The images of seven alumni grace the walls of the University’s fitness centre…

  • Andrew Shovlin

    Dr Andrew Shovlin (Mechanical Engineering 1995, PhD Mechanical Engineering 1999) found his love of cars as a student. “For my final year project I didn’t just build a kit car, I also wrote a mathematical simulation of its suspension system,” he says. Andrew rose through the ranks and is now Trackside Engineering Director for the Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 team.

  • Rebecca Gallantree

    Rebecca Gallantree (Sports Science 2005) made her international debut as a student in the three metre springboard event, going on to win four consecutive British titles and a place in the London 2012 Olympic Games. Alongside partner Alicia Bragg, the duo claimed the Commonwealth title in Glasgow 2014. The following year, Rebecca rewrote the record books, when she became the first female British diver to be crowned world champion. She went on to win a gold and silver medal at the British Championships later that year and in 2016 represented Great Britain at the Olympic Games in Rio.

  • Johnny Mowlem

    Johnny Mowlem (Geography and Spanish 1988) is the most recent inductee to the Hall of Fame. He returned to campus in October, two years after retiring from professional motorsports. Johnny was one of the top sports car and GT drivers in the world. A two-time British champion, he also won class victories in both the Daytona 24 Hours and the Sebring 12 Hours, and earned podiums at virtually all of the world’s major races. Johnny’s not left the fast lane behind, however. His retirement will see him concentrate on training his team, Red River Sport.
    Johnny has pledged a gift to the University to fund a Sports Scholarship.

  • Simon Mason

    Field hockey goalkeeper Simon Mason (Economics 1994, Hon LLD 2009) has had an action-packed career. He played for England 120 times and a further 74 times for Great Britain, including appearances at three consecutive Olympic Games in Atlanta, Sydney and Athens. Simon was voted “best goalie in the world” in 2003 for performances at the European Cup and European Club Championships as well as the 2002 World Cup. Simon is now a member of the Executive Board for the European Hockey Federation and focuses on running the business that sponsored him as an athlete – the international hockey equipment firm Mercian.

  • Ray French

    It’s unusual to enjoy an international career in both codes of rugby but Ray French MBE (General Studies 1961) did just that. He won four caps for England in rugby union in 1961, playing in all four matches of the 1961 Five Nations Championship. After switching to rugby league as a second row, Ray played for his home town club St. Helens, and also enjoyed a successful spell at Widnes. As well as continuing to coach rugby, Ray became a well-known commentator on rugby league on both television and radio. He commentated for the BBC on every Challenge Cup Final between 1982 and 2011.

  • Giles Long

    Giles Long MBE (Geological Sciences 1997) has made waves both in and out of the pool. As an international para-swimmer his greatest achievement was winning gold in the S8 100m butterfly in a new world record time at the Sydney 2000 Paralympics. Giles moved into the commentary box after retiring from the sport in 2007. He presented for Channel 4 during the London 2012 Paralympics and worked on the sports desk at both Sky News and the BBC News Channel. Giles also developed LEXI, a graphical system which explains the classifications that govern Paralympic sport.

  • Carol Isherwood

    Carol Isherwood OBE (History 1982, PGCE Education 1984) is the first woman to be inducted into the World Rugby Hall of Fame in recognition of her contribution to the game. Carol set up the University’s women’s rugby team in 1981 as a student. From there, she became a founder member of the Rugby Football Union for Women, later captaining Great Britain against France in 1986, and Wales in 1987. After a decade as Performance Manager at the RFU, Carol has swapped sports and now works as Regional Manager for the Football Association.

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