Alumni and supporters

Alumnus of the Year

The 'Alumnus of the Year' Award was established in 2008 to recognise the outstanding achievements of individuals who have graduated from the University of Reading. Here, we celebrate those who have won the Award to date.


Sarah-Jayne Hacker (BSc Rural Environmental Science 2000) Mayor of Reading

Councillor Sarah Hacker is a Labour councillor for Battle ward and Mayor of Reading. She is Chair of the Town’s Arts Forum; Labour Group; and Housing, Neighbourhoods and Leisure Committees. Since being appointed she has successfully campaigned for more school places and a new primary school in West Reading and has helped to secure £1.65 million of funding to benefit residents.
She joined the University of Reading in 1997 where she studied for a BSc (Hons) in Rural Environmental Science. Sarah cites the numerous field trips and wide curriculum covered by her degree as being key factors in driving her passion for the subject. 

“I recently visited the Whiteknights campus and was given a tour of the Agriculture Department. There are some beautiful new buildings, coffee shops and the library has undergone an impressive refurbishment. I am very proud the University has chosen me as its ‘Alumna of the Year 2015’ and I will fulfil the role to the best of my ability.”


Andy Mackay (BA English and Music 1968) member of Roxy Music

In January 1971, Andy joined Roxy Music after answering a Melody Maker advertisement placed by singer Brian Ferry. Whilst in Roxy Music, he performed on a series of hit albums, co-writing many of the band's classic songs, including 'A Song for Europe', 'Love is a Drug' and 'Sentimental Fool'. Andy Mackay recorded a solo instrumental album, In Search of Eddie Riff, in 1974 and has collaborated with artists such as Duran Duran, Paul McCartney and Arcadia. He is largely credited with bringing the saxophone into modern music with perhaps his most recognisable saxophone solo featuring on Roxy Music's haunting cover version of John Lennon's Jealous Guy, an international No.1. 


Rhianna Dhillon (BA English and Film & Theatre 2011) Radio 1 Film Critic

Rhianna DhillonRhianna works at BBC Radio 1 as their in-house film critic. Rhianna landed the prestigious role while in her third year studying at the University of Reading. She was discovered after attending a Radio 1 Movies Team visit to the University and immediately impressed with her knowledge of film and her bright personality. Rhianna's film reviews are now heard every week by over five million people, but she still finds time to mentor current students studying Film, Theatre and Television at the University of Reading.


University of Reading Olympians

During the 2012 winter graduation season, the University honoured all of Reading's 2012 Olympians, making them Distinguished Fellows of the University of Reading in recognition of their extraordinary contributions to the London 2012 Games. Pictured here are gold medalist Anna Watkins - who won the women double sculls rowing event with her crew mate, Katherine Grainger - and Professor David Watkins, the designer of the 2012 Olympic medals. Read the official press release here >>


Beth Morgan (BSc Psychology 2005) International cricketer.

Beth Morgan, Alumnus of the Year 2010Beth is an established member of the English Women's Cricket Team. A talented all round cricketer, she made her one-day international debut aged 17 against Holland and played in her first test match against the Australians in 2005. Beth graduated with a first-class Psychology degree from the University of Reading in 2005. She says: ''I feel very lucky to have been given such great opportunities, both throughout my sporting career and also in gaining a superb education.''



Nicky Kinnaird MBE (BSc Land Management 1985) Founder of Space NK Cosmetics.

Nicky Kinnaird is an exceptional entrepreneur and businesswoman. Following graduation Nicky Kinnaird spent a number of years in property investment and then retail consultancy. In 1993 she came up with a concept for her own shop - a very personal space filled with an eclectic mix of unique brands inspired by and sourced during her travels.  Located in a former banana warehouse in Covent Garden, she called it Space NK. Today Space NK is one of the worlds’ most innovative sources of beauty products, with stores across the UK, US and an online beauty boutique.



Professor Debby Reynolds CB (PhD Microbiology 1983) Former Chief Veterinary Officer, Defra.

Debby Reynolds receives the University Alumnus of the Year award 2008Debby Reynolds served as the Chief Veterinary Officer of the United Kingdom from March 2004 until she retired in November 2007. Professor Reynolds was born and educated in Reading and, after studying for her first degree in Veterinary Science at the University of Bristol, Debby undertook postgraduate studies at Reading, studying viral enteric disease in calves, (a major industry concern). After completing her PhD at Reading, Professor Reynolds joined the Institute of Animal Health as a veterinary research officer. In successive appointments she became Senior Veterinary Officer, Head of Bacteriology and eventually Head of Animal Disease and Zoonoses in the veterinary service at the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, (now Defra). This increasing role as advisor to government led her to a change of Government department at the turn of the century when she became Veterinary Director of the Food Standards Authority. However, she was to return to Defra four years later to the hot seat of Chief Veterinary Officer.