Three high-achievers will receive honorary academic awards from the University of Sunderland on Thursday 26 November, in recognition of their outstanding contribution to their chosen field.
England’s World Cup-winning rugby union captain Katy Mclean MBE, and Team GB’s head coach for the Paratriathlon team Jonathon Riall are both Sunderland graduates being recognised at the University’s annual awards ceremonies. Professor Peter Fidler CBE, Vice-Chancellor of Sunderland from 1999, who then became its President in 2014 is also being honoured.
Katy Mclean MBE will be awarded an Honorary Fellowship of the University, in recognition of her achievements and her services to rugby and women’s sport.
To captain England to a World Cup, to finally achieve that last year was very special – Katy Mclean
Katy Mclean, England Rugby’s fly half and captain of five years, led her team to World Cup victory in Canada in 2014. She became the first woman to play rugby for England professionally and has 78 caps for the national team. Fiercely determined in what is a brutal game, she is fighting fit and has her sights firmly set on Rio for the 2016 Olympic Games.
A graduate of the University of Sunderland, Katy completed a Sports Studies BSc in 2007. She then gained a PG Cert in Education in 2011 and began teaching at Bexhill Academy in Sunderland, all while playing top-flight Women’s Rugby.
Katy, who was born in South Shields, began playing rugby at the age of five; she said: “winning the World Cup was something that I dreamt about when I was little. To captain England to a World Cup, to finally achieve that last year was very special.
“It’s a massive honour for me to receive this award from the University of Sunderland. I had a brilliant time at Sunderland, I made a completely new set of friends and the support from the University academically was really helpful. I enjoyed my time there so much I came back to do my GTP (General Teaching Practice)!”
Jonathon Riall will be awarded Alumni Achiever of the Year
Within less than a decade of graduating with a Sports and Exercise Development degree from Sunderland, Jonathon Riall has risen to the top of his profession after being named Team GB’s head coach for its first ever Paratriathlon team to compete in the 2016 Rio Olympics.
One of the academics who nominated Jonathan for Alumi Achiever of the Year was Dr Ian Whyte, Principal Lecturer in the Department of Sports and Exercise Sciences. He said: “Jonathon has been a superb ambassador for the University. His work with British triathlon has not only seen necessary developments of that sport but in particular has led to fundamental changes in the way people with disabilities can now access triathlon through the Para-tri movement.
Jonathon has garnered respect from athletes and administrators alike throughout the world – Dr Ian Whyte
“His work has taken him to many countries and Jonathon has garnered respect from athletes and administrators alike throughout the world.”
Jonathon, based in Loughborough, joined the British Triathlon Federation (BTF) in 2005 soon after graduating, as the ‘Participation Administrator’, before progressing to being the ‘East Midlands Development Manager’. In October 2009 he took over the role of Paratriathlon Programme manager, progressing onto the Paratriathlon Performance Manager and subsequently Head Coach of the Paratriathlon team.
Professor Peter Fidler CBE will be awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Education (HonDEd)
Professor Peter Fidler was Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sunderland from 1999, and then became its President in 2014.
Paul Callaghan CBE, Chair of the University’s Board of Governers who will award Professor Peter Fidler CBE with the honour, commented: “It was Peter’s ambition that the University be recognised as ‘one of a new generation of great civic universities’ and under Peter’s leadership Sunderland has ‘re-engineered’ its campuses, academic structure and global reach to achieve that vision. Although Peter will retire in December 2015; thanks to his ambition and commitment, his legacy will undoubtedly remain for many years to come.”
Thanks to his ambition and commitment, his legacy will undoubtedly remain for many years to come – Paul Callaghan CBE
On receiving the award Professor Peter Fidler commented: “Being Vice-Chancellor of this great institution has been a huge and rewarding privilege. Today the University of Sunderland is a high-quality university that is stitched into the fabric of its city, its community and its economy – and I’m very proud to have been involved with great colleagues, partners and students in making that happen.”
University Vice-Chancellor Shirley Atkinson commented: “As leaders in their field each has achieved an incredible amount through their vision, ambition and tenacity. Their achievements will be inspirational to the graduates celebrating their own academic success at these awards. We are very proud of them all and I’m sure we will be welcoming some of them back as part of our alumni family.”