England’s World Cup-winning rugby union captain Katy Mclean MBE, and Team GB’s head coach for the Paratriathlon team Jonathon Riall, both Sunderland graduates, are being recognised at the University’s annual awards ceremonies, alongside Professor Peter Fidler CBE, Vice-Chancellor of Sunderland from 1999, who then became its President in 2014,.
The winter graduation ceremonies (November 25- 27), at the Stadium of Light in Sunderland are an opportunity for graduates to celebrate their success with friends, family and loved ones.
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.
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 her local club Westoe aged five; she admits, “rugby was a massive family passion, and 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. That was easily my proudest moment, we worked so hard for it and so many things had happened, it was a massive relief if anything but also I felt very proud of everything we had achieved as a team as well.
“I’ve met some of my best friends playing rugby, that’s the beauty of that sport – it’s really inclusive, it takes any shape, size and ability – you don’t have to fit a mould to play rugby. So if you’ve never fitted in anywhere rugby is a really good place to start.
“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. In 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 and, as a local man, the area in which he was brought up. 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.
“While being located in the UK, 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, working directly with the Performance Director, Brendan Purcell.
Professor Peter Fidler CBE will be awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Education (HonDEd) from Paul Callaghan CBE, Chair of the University’s Board of Governors.
Professor Peter Fidler was Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sunderland from 1999, then became its President in 2014.
Paul Callaghan 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.”
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.
“I am very pleased to receive this honorary Doctorate, memories of today will join many I have of meeting and working with the thousands of students, academics and partners in the North East and overseas over the years. I’m excited about the next chapter in my life and I know I leave the University of Sunderland ready to face the future.”
University Vice-Chancellor Shirley Atkinson commented: “We are proud to pay tribute to our honoraries at this winter’s Graduation Ceremonies. 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, before moving on in their careers or further study. 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 to celebrate their achievements.”