Inspirational former students take the plaudits

Published: 8 December 2016 at 12:30

Dr Ben Garrod, Michelle Keaney and Professor Iain Martin

Anglia Ruskin University celebrates achievements of alumni during inaugural event

Inspirational former Anglia Ruskin University students from fields as diverse as health, business, and television have been celebrated by their alma mater at its inaugural alumni awards ceremony.

The Anglia Ruskin University Vice Chancellor’s Outstanding Alumni Awards were presented last night to six former students who have excelled in their respective industries since graduating.

The award winners were as follows:

  • Alumni Service to Society Award (joint): Jan Cassidy. A writer, environmental photographer and prison health researcher, Jan graduated as a mature student from Anglia Ruskin in 1993. Soon afterwards, she began her lifelong dedication to improving the health and human rights of prisoners. Appalled by the high levels of blood-borne viruses within the prison population in the 1990s, she completed a pilot study vaccinating against hepatitis B whenever a prisoner was moved. In 2000, she became a specialist commissioner for High and Medium Secure Psychiatric Hospitals, arguing for better, more appropriate care. She went on to advise the Home Office on prison health.
  • Alumni Service to Society Award (joint): Neil Clephan OBE. The headteacher at Roundhay School, Leeds, for more than 20 years, Neil has transformed the school in terms of its leadership and management. He was one of the first National Leaders in Education to be appointed by the National College, and has been seconded to work with a number of schools. He was awarded an OBE in the 2016 Queen’s New Year Honours List for services to education.
  • Alumni Lifetime Achievement Award: Stephanie Newell. A graduate of English and European Thought and Literature in 1991, Stephanie is now a tenured full Professor of English at Yale University, in her own words thanks to the inspiration of her teachers at Anglia Ruskin. Her latest book, The Power to Name, was shortlisted for the prestigious Herskovitz Prize for African Studies in 2014. Stephanie is regarded as a researcher leader by senior scholars of Africa in the UK and USA and holds fellowships from the University of Cambridge.
  • Alumni Entrepreneur of the Year Award: Lloyd Amsdon. After graduating from his History degree, Lloyd co-founded Watchfinder, which specialises in buying, selling and servicing pre-owned watches from 50 brands including Rolex, Omega and Cartier. The business is now the largest pre-owned retailer in Europe with sales forecast to reach £90million in 2016, and employing more than 160 staff. Lloyd also co-founded Hospitality Founder, which has a £10million turnover. Shareholders in the business are ex-England rugby stars Lawrence Dallaglio and Mike Tindal.
  • Alumni Contribution to Culture Award: Léo Reitzell. Léo joined MTV in 1996, just three months after graduating from her Fine Art degree at Anglia Ruskin, and launched in excess of 40 channels. She subsequently worked as the Creative Lead for all four UK Disney Channels, and then as Creative Director at Discovery Channel. She founded her own creative agency, brandAnonymous, in 2010.
  • Young Alumni of the Year Award: Michelle Keaney. Listed as one of the Observer’s Future 500, Michelle is acknowledged as one of the most talented leaders shaping industry. Her career is a mix of business and consumer sales and marketing which saw her leading a major retail drive for The Walt Disney Company, establishing the UK Marketing Capability function for Heineken and co-founding award-winning social enterprise Inventing Futures. In 2015, Michelle co-founded purposeful brand consultancy Three Point Zero. Michelle graduated from Anglia Ruskin in 2004 with a BA (Hons) in Business and Management.

On receiving the Alumni Lifetime Achievement Award, Stephanie Newell said:

“My teachers were so committed, so passionate, so encouraging. When I wrote my undergraduate dissertation, they encouraged me to publish it in an academic journal and that is what got me addicted. That one first publication really set me on my pathway.

“I’m very honoured to receive this award. Thank you Anglia Ruskin for helping to get me where I am today.”


The awards were presented by Vice Chancellor of Anglia Ruskin University, Professor Iain Martin, and compered by BBC television presenter, Anglia Ruskin Teaching Fellow and former student Dr Ben Garrod.

Professor Martin said:

“Anglia Ruskin has more than 98,000 alumni in 165 countries across the world and we are extremely proud of all our graduates. Membership of our Anglia Ruskin community does not end when a student crosses the stage to graduate and it is so pleasing for me to recognise that we have, in some way, laid the foundations for so many successful careers.

“We wanted to celebrate those alumni who have gone on to make outstanding contributions to our society, and to recognise their achievements. We hope these awards will also serve as an inspiration to our current students as they prepare to make their own contribution to the world.

“It was not easy to pick the winners of these categories and it has been a delight to hear so many success stories. Thanks to all who nominated our alumni for these awards.”